Mexicali , Mexico

Dino Dinco and Julio Torres

Mexicali Rose Centro De Arte/Medios

“Todos Somos Putos” (We Are All Faggots), an exhibition created by Los Angeles–based Dino Dinco and Mexicali artist Julio Torres, was, as its title suggests, an argument for the persistence of nonassimilated queer culture on both sides of the border. As the artists wrote in their press release, “Shattering the construction of (a) ‘gay community’ allows for queerness to remain queer and not subsumed by the global plague of rainbow flags and middle class gay marriage.” Created for Mexicali Rose, an inspiring community-based media center and gallery in Mexicali’s Pueblo Nuevo barrio, next to the US border, which was founded by Marco Vera after he returned to his hometown from Los Angeles in 2006, the exhibition was also a celebration of the two artists’ ongoing artistic exchange and friendship.

Torres, an inventive photo-documentarian and recent graduate of the fine art program of the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California, met Dinco online a few years ago. Dinco had recently shot El Abeulo (The Grandfather), 2008, an intimate video portrait of Chicano poet and activist Joe Jimenez, and Torres was working on White Gold Youth, 2008, a poignant and glamorous study of Mexicali’s barrio youth subculture. A correspondence began, but it wasn’t until last June that the two artists met. When Torres proposed a show of Dinco’s work at the gallery, Dinco suggested they produce a joint exhibition instead.

The result, “Todos Somos Putos,” was, like all the shows I’ve seen at this gallery, both conceptually sophisticated and audience-friendly. Torres’s photographic work Resultados de la búsqueda: Borrachos besándose (Search Results: Drunks Kissing), 2010, displays video grabs from Mexican YouTube of straight drunk men kissing each other on dares. This, Torres explained to me, is a popular bar game. The twelve small C-prints reveal expressions ranging from tender abandon to anguished affront at a camera noticed too late. Two men playfully offer each other their tongues; a pair of wizened day laborers melt softly into each other’s kiss; caught in the act, a middle-aged man turns back to glare at the camera; a restaurant worker embraces a patron.

Both artists celebrate queer culture’s promise of fluid identity, but Torres’s work in this show responded directly to a spate of recent unprosecuted violent attacks on gay men in Mexico, while Dinco’s was more lyrical. Prior to planning the show, both artists produced series of photographs taken in public parks known for gay cruising. Shot in Guadalajara, Torres’s “Parque Morelos,” 2009, depicts ancient carousels and rusty collections of bumper cars in a park emptied of people. In Parque Morelos #6, a cracked asphalt pathway surrounded by trees evokes the shadows of intimate meetings between strangers that may have occurred the previous night and will no doubt be repeated. The sumptuous images in Dinco’s ongoing photographic series “sexgraffiti,” 2008–, capture furtive messages written on walls and carved into trees, some in Spanish. His large image Untitled (EP 03), 2005, from the series “Elysian Park,” 2005–2006, is at first glance a romantic depiction of a sunlight-drenched forest, but some of the trees have gang graffiti inscribed upon their trunks. Introduced by a passage from James Baldwin’s Another Country describing a men’s public toilet—“It smelled of thousands of travelers, oceans of piss, tons of bile and vomit and shit . . . Splashed furiously on the walls, telephone numbers . . .”—Dinco’s images are a powerful evocation of the persistence of secretive acts within sexual and other subcultures.

Chris Kraus