Critics’ Picks

Guillermo Gómez-Peńa, El Border Brujo, 1990, video, color, sound, 173 minutes.

Mexico City

Guillermo Gómez-Peña

Museo de Arte Moderno Mexico
Paseo de la Reforma y Gandhi Bosque de Chapultepec
November 30 - April 22

Viewers are welcomed into this exhibition by La Loca, 2010, an enlarged tarot card featuring a nude and saintly Guillermo Gómez-Peña, the performance artist, writer, activist, and educator whose experiences on both sides of the Mexico–United States border have fueled what he calls an “aesthetics of juxtaposition,” an art practice that points furiously at the contradictions of identity.

The retrospective spans two large galleries and a video room, comprising photographs, books, pamphlets, mementos, and costumes in which pastiche is process and false opposites are confronted: documented and undocumented, queer and macho, Mexican and Chicano. Gómez-Peña possesses a clinical accuracy in naming the exact spots where the colonial wounds hurt the most. This is evident in the video El Border Brujo, 1989, an enthralling and multitudinous three-hour monologue in which Gómez-Peña embodies a series of characters, accents and grievances, all while drenched in Mexican tourist trinkets: mariachi hats, Mayan pyramids, and Aztec calendars.

Gómez-Peña’s aesthetic lies somewhere between Juan Caloca and leather daddy Lady Gaga—Mercado del Chopo realness is what RuPaul would call it if he were familiar with Mexico City’s decades-old punk markets. It’s Gómez-Peña’s enunciation and defiance of long-existing racism and injustice that pull everything together, especially in the current political mood, with NAFTA optimism dead and buried. This exhibition feels timely and urgent for this reason, but also long delayed. That Gómez-Peña has been active for more than three decades and this is his first solo show in the country brings to mind his plea in El Border Brujo: “Can someone document me, please? For the archives of border culture? For the history of performance art?”