“2012: Super-Bato Saves the World”

Pub date June 16, 2009
WriterAri Messer
SectionArts & CultureSectionVisual Art

REVIEW Energy must not be conserved in Enrique Chagoya’s universe. From his earlier pieces on paper through his show-stopping work on linen at the turn of the century (Le Cannibale Moderniste, 1999; Aparición Sublime, 2000; Pocahontas Gets a New Passport (More Art Faster), 2000), the experimental printmaker’s mock-specificity and hidden sensitivity — both aspects of a brilliant pictorial stubbornness — leave the whole body buzzing. This is art that gathers energy from its viewers as much as its subjects. An edition of eight fully-functional, gaudy, lusty, but also mystically calm slot machines in the style of souped-up Camaros, "2012: Super-Bato Saves the World" lacks the intentionally confusing expansiveness of Chagoya’s accompanying work on paper, but maybe that’s the point.

Spread out in one area of Electric Works is Histoire Naturelle des Espécies: Illegal Aliens Manuscript I, a 2008 contribution to an ongoing series that explains our country and the world at large, especially the art world, to "others." In this panoramic piece, creationists are represented by an ape kneeling before a paper-like flame, conservatives by a man in monk’s clothing, and neocons by a happy couple between human and ape; all are setting fire to Aztec iconography. Elsewhere art historians lay siege to the museums and emerging media artists visit the world in a UFO. Around the corner, Super-Bato grins.

The date cited by Chagoya doesn’t just mark the next U.S. presidential election — it’s also the end-year of the ancient Mayan 5125 year calendar. In Chagoya’s eyes, the world might have already ended, collapsing in a mockery of a sham. In addition to an obvious affinity with Guillermo Gómez-Peña’s vision (the two have collaborated on some iconic books), Chagoya’s most affecting work here recalls Mildred Howard’s politically charged, lushly wrought assemblage sculptures and intricate installations. Both artists map aesthetic delights on top of the real world. What happens in politics no longer stays in politics.

2012: SUPER-BATO SAVES THE WORLD Through July 2. Electric Works, 130 Eighth St., SF

(415) 626-5496, www.sfelectricworks.com