Sunday, June 11, 2017

Beyond Borders

Neapolitan (Comic Book Diplomacy, Go Cup and Water Bottle Buoys)Christopher Saucedo's latest exhibition at Arthur Roger Gallery assembles varied works from the sculptor with an emphasis on his Comic Book Diplomacy series. Saucedo, previously Professor at the University of New Orleans, now divides his time between New Orleans and Rockaway, NY, and teaches sculpture at Adelphi University.
Superhombre, Űbermensch, Stålmannen, ..., Superman's name plastered on the front covers of comic books in Spanish, German, Swedish, Turkish, Arabic, ..., transports the visitor in a fantasy world. Bright colors, vivid graphics, short texts, send powerful messages and define superheroes (and villains). Born from his love for cartoons as a child, the artist's hobby, collecting international comic books of American superheroes, has brought him to consider their relevance and impact on multicultural audiences. To make his point he has created a series of collages. The process involves removing a large circle of a comic book's cover and replace it with the same superhero but from another country's publication, using a hot-brand technique. The juxtaposition of different languages can result in geo-politically or culturally provocative associations. The arrangements are visually pleasing with branded imprints of maps and sometimes embroidered compass roses, contributing to the conversation. Where is North? Off a few degrees, the image refers to the moral compass made of set of values instilled through education and culture. Could  Jewish and Palestinian teenagers get the same perception of the hero's character ? Could the hero foster a bond between them? The mythical figures can also be seen as propaganda material, perpetuating the symbol of an indomitable hero from the giant country. The characters have also been promoted for educational purposes. Superman, Superwoman , Batman, were staged in comics aimed at raising the awareness of children about landmines, deadly remnants of wars. Lined up along the walls of the front main gallery, the pieces created for the Comic Book Diplomacy series are spread toward the back and lead to the second part of the exhibition, a major work from the Water Bottle Buoys series: the artist's self-portrait. A buoy anchored to a heavy boulder by a rope represents Saucedo's volume of water when plunging into a vat filled with the liquid "element". With his life in tatters following hurricane Katrina, he moved to the North East and faced a second disaster during hurricane Sandy. With a tinge of humor, the conceptual artist refers to his mixed feelings about water, deadly and also sustaining life. Practical, he recycles the plastic pollutant to make floating sculptures. A homegrown feature in New Orleans, go cups branded or embroidered on hand made paper surround the sculpture. The poetic rendition of containers, cans and water bottles included, is also a reminder: let's not waste any precious liquid especially when fermented!
Saucedo who calls himself a "pretend sociologist" brings up serious subjects to make us reflect. The exhibition is a way to discover another side of the artist who in his interview for NPR  in 2015, stated that his usual media is "steel, wood, cast metals and big physical material". This time he is using the technique of branding, "pushing red-hot steel shapes onto the paper maps... a deliberate, irrevocable and violent way of marking and cutting shapes". He is also using embroidery, a soothing occupation, on light-hearted material. A sculptor, Saucedo turned his hobby into art.
A very timely and relevant exhibition which reminds us of the power of art, healing on a personal level and creating bridges between cultures.

An exhibition of the Water Bottle Buoys series took place at Good Children Gallery in December 2016.

photographs by the author:

"Comic Book Diplomacy: Supermen (CSAU0151)", 2017
"Superman Handcuffed (CSAU0152)", 2017
"Water Bottle Buoy", 2016