Inspired by the Xin Dynasty terra cotta warriors and motivated by the threat of presidential nominee Donald Trump’s proposed wall, Lara constructed a life-size army of ceramic mariachi warriors bearing the likeness of immigrants who have crossed the border by foot. Installed facing north within the gallery and on its outdoor patio, each warrior exhibits two faces in order to look forward to a new life and back towards Mexico. The installed army, accompanied by xoloitzcuintli, sacred dogs of the Aztec, who protected homes from evil spirits in life and guided their owners’ souls into the underworld after death, silently ponder the complexities of exodus and identity while simultaneously anticipating further fracture within an already fragmented reality. Like the creators of terra cotta warriors Lara’s army is modeled after, Lara considers the experience of unacknowledged labor and liminal civic status. The terra cotta warriors, produced by nameless serfs for the Emperor’s tomb, are reincarnated as both mariachi warriors and also undocumented workers, who will sweat illegally and be obscured out of necessity and for the comfort of others.
Also on view are three pieces from Lara’s Cachirules series. Cachirules, meaning all things of questionable quality, origin, or reputation, are large plywood IDs featuring an immigrant’s homeland ID on one side and “appropriate” US documentation ID on the other. Drawn in graphite, each ID is reproduced with slight irregularities and supplemented with two-faced porcelain busts that consider appearance as opposing ethnic and American looks. Cachirules uses a double-sided object to explore rupture and duplication. Using documentation intended to bestow legitimacy, Lara allows the language and standards of bureaucracy to undermine itself. Small typos reveal second meanings in translation and photo requirements become an opportunity to examine the subtleties of presentation.
Rodrigo Lara (b. 1981, Toluca, Mexico) graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Guanajuato in 2003 and received his MFA at at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 2013, where he graduated with the Raymond James Nelson Fellowship. He has exhibited extensively in the United States, Mexico, Canada, Europe and China including solo exhibitions at the Hyde Park Art Center (2016), the National Museum of Mexican Art (2015), and the Museum of Modern Art in the State of Mexico (2011). His many awards and grants include the “John W. Krtich Travel Scholarship” (Berlin and Kassel, Germany) and first place in sculpture for the 2010 “National Prize of Visual Arts” in Mexico. His work is part of several collections including the Virginia A Groot Foundation (Evanston, IL), National Museum of Art (Chicago, IL), Museo de Arte Moderno del Estado de Mexico, and the Fundacion DRT Queretarto (Qro. Mexico).