At first glance into the “Mexicanismo” exhibition at Goldmark Cultural Center’s Norman Brown Gallery, the bold colors are inescapable in Armando Sebastian’s work. At just shy of about 20 pieces, he makes bold statements in his art about gender, queer identiy, Mexican tropes and pop culture. He even gives a slight nod to Madonna.
“As a queer artist, there are still things that aren’t talked about in my culture,” he said to me during his reception on July 17.
Whether in self-portraits or paintings of ancient Mexican gods, there is a bit of queerness almost everywhere to be seen — if you know what you’re looking for.
Going into the exhibition, I only went with my interest in Latino art. Looking through the pieces, some spoke a quiet queer sensibility until he confirmed that in his artist’s talk. His “El Chico Charro” in pink says much more to a queer eye with its subtle gesture and gaze.
He discussed the impact of his Mexican culture and his American identity in his art which is clearly seen throughout his colorful works. He evokes images from his catholic childhood portraying his first communion with a red devil looking on. Then his Mexican gods are striking a pose or vogue in his next painting as a nod to Madonna — the singer, not the virgin.
His El Chico Charro in pink almost speaks in code but then his portrait of a friend who could be trans or non-binary is very direct in having the viewer ponder their identity.
From his artist statement:
Rooted in autobiographical details from my childhood and adolescence. I like to tell stories through my work and explore questions of identity and gender. You’ll find yourself in the atmosphere of human pain and vulnerability reminiscent of the ex-voto paintings. My work also includes paintings with reference to poets, music icons and symbols amid vibrant landscapes. Perhaps my Art can most closely identify with the genre of magical realism.
“Mexicanismo” is on display through Aug. 7 at the center’s gallery. goldmarkculturalcenter.org.
— Rich Lopez