Critics’ Picks

Sergio Zevallos, Untitled, 2018, graphite pencil and tracing technique on paper, 59 1/2 x 59 1/2".


Sergio Zevallos

80m2 Livia Benavides
Malecón Pazos 252, Barranco
March 27–June 27, 2019

Sergio Zevallos’s art is entirely formulaic. Not as in predictable, but in the sense that each element complicates everything around it. On display here are pieces from three separate but related projects. One series, “Haití,” 2018–19, reworks a line from the 1805 Constitution of Hayti: “The Haytians shall hence forward be known only by the generic appellation of Blacks.” Zevallos runs with it in seven broadsheet pieces, developing a chain of reasoning across three phases: a sentence, an image, and a signatory entity. “Humanism shall hence forward be known only by the generic appellation of racism” is followed by a drawing of a donkey standing on his hind legs and signed “BID 2019”—the Spanish acronym for the Inter-American Development Bank, the overreaching financial organization concerned with growth rates over standards of living. Another version of the sentence, swapping “Haytians” and “Blacks” with “Europeans” and “colonists,” accompanies an antique illustration of a woman receiving treatment for hysteria—a fire hose to the inner thighs. It’s signed “Frontex,” the border agency in charge of sanitizing the European state body.

Quotation persists in the other series “HK-G3,” 2018, and “War Machines,” 2018. The former consists of small drawings arrayed in the shape of a room-size HK-G3, a German-made rifle brandished by armies, narcos, and terrorists around the globe. In it, Zevallos also overlays the floor plan of the Deutsche Bank with the male reproductive system and covers the orifice of a human posterior with the Iron Cross, the German military decoration last used by the Nazis. The likewise iconoclastic “War Machines” features a penciled Peruvian coat of arms flanked by two nonbinary figures naked from the waist down, superimposed with the sticky, begging lyrics of a cumbia ballad.

Like the lucubrations of a too-sane conspiracist, Zevallos’s drawings map oppressive agents and their subjects, making undeniable links between economic privilege and the ownership of violence. Their incendiary clarity strikes me as truly unusual.