Flourishing in the desert for over three decades, Lisa Sette Gallery represents the works of a diverse and expansive range of artists whose investigations in some way touch on the realities of the urban Sonoran desert. The experience of living at a cultural and geographical intersection is reflected in works from around the globe that are both conceptually fertile and thoughtfully crafted. This summer’s solo exhibit of the electrifying, philosophically-charged paintings of Claudio Dicochea: Forbidden Futures exemplifies the gallery’s intrepid commitment to challenging, compelling, and culturally pertinent artwork.
As a child in the border town of San Luis Río Colorado in Sonora, Mexico, Claudio Dicochea was fascinated by the comic books on sale at the local grocery, bound within a pulpy color cover and containing a “wonderful, crinkly sepia” collection of interior pages. A profound sensual appreciation for the imagery and philosophical appeal of popular culture is tangible in Dicochea’s work today--rollicking acrylic paintings that are influenced, and sometimes inspired, by science fiction, comic books, horror films, and popular music.
While Dicochea’s startling and irresistibly compelling works draw viewers into a riot of recognizable images culled from the top-grossing, top-40 hits of the recent past, these paintings are compositionally structured upon the disturbing history of Colonial appropriation. At the outset of his career, Dicochea encountered 18th century Colonial Casta paintings—faux-scientific ethnographic charts illustrating the results of genetic intermingling between the native people of the Americas and European settlers—and the imagery encapsulated his sense of the profound aesthetic implications of intermixing human icons and cultural symbols. In many of Dicochea’s works, the painter joins together hybrid families of various “casts,” existing in a protean sea of class signifiers and pop imagery.
“Each painting takes an original casta as a template to be distorted, in which original characters are replaced by archetypes from popular media, comics, and world history…these works lift and sample from original paintings in order to understand the processes and effects of re-appropriation. In this manner, we can better understand how such re-appropriation functions as both language and method.”
In the process of creating these painterly visions of the contemporary cultural and ideological morass, Dicochea literally affixes printouts of imagery culled from the Internet and uses them as both philosophical and compositional guides in the process of transforming his canvases into teeming portraits of the fecund cultural collisions engendered by both our Enlightenment-era conceptions of reality, and our present moment of media saturation.
Of particular influence in Dicochea’s recent works is the realm of science fiction, as it intersects with the scientific-sounding fictions, which have been used in the past to explain or justify social constructs.
“I’ve always found looking at culture through the lens of sci-fi really alluring. Social constructs having to do with inherited status are often loosely based on scientific research or so-called scientific logic, but at the same time they’re just utilizing whatever knowledge might have been arrived at in order to create or implicate a social fiction...the idea of “race” is kind of a blatant example of scientific fiction, or a narrative unfolded based on loose scientific facts, but really meant to legitimize exploitation. That’s the big connector, the big social fiction.”
Dicochea’s paintings resemble fever dreams of cultural and historical mashups, as played out in a collective arena that is both universal and specific to the many narratives of Latin America enacted upon a global stage. And while critical and philosophical underpinnings are integral to Dicochea’s work, these days the painter is concerned with the forward-thinking aspects of his project:
“Everyone is born somewhere. I’m not so interested in the idea of a shared origin, I’m interested in the idea of a shared destination. It’s a concern of mine to invert the cone of media influence and not so much point it toward the past but point it openly toward the unwritten future. When we’re talking about sci-fi, when we’re talking about the future, we’re talking about our destination.”
The opening reception will be held on Saturday, July 9, 2016 from 7:00 - 9:00pm