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Marcos Raya
Art Next Level / Zhou B Art Center, Chicago, Illinois
Recommendation by Robin Dluzen

Marcos Raya, "Emperor of Disorder," 2009, acrylic on canvas

Continuing through November 14, 2015

The pictorial world of renowned Mexican-born, Chicago-based artist Marcos Raya is full of absurdity and darkness, both collective and personal. A living legend of Chicago’s mural history of the 1970s and 80s, Raya retains his mastery of the symbolic realism of that tradition, though his practice today knows no aesthetic boundaries. In “A Sophisticated Razkuache” paintings and murals are intermingled amongst assemblages of found and altered objects. Here the artist, as he always has, poses challenges to taste, social apathy and racial politics. It’s clear that Raya has a predilection for agitation, and the works in this exhibition are the kinds that evoke a strong reaction in the viewer, whether that be to entice or repel.

Female nudes abound, most notably in the bandaged sculpture “Girl with a Broken Leg” and the mannequin “Wanida,” with her thigh-high stockings and cheap jewelry. These women are adorned only with accouterments that ensure that their sexual organs are exposed. They occupy roles in a gray area between metaphors for vulnerability and fetish objects for the male gaze. While Raya is fond of blatant visual language, over-the-top and on-the-nose symbolism (as in the fat white man in clown face and a Statue of Liberty crown in “Emperor of Disorder”), his works nevertheless resonate with truth and conviction. The socially conscious mural, “Cataclysm,” features Latino laborers, police violence and protesting citizens. A gas-masked statue of the Virgin and Child stands before a painting of a nuclear explosion in “Cyber Baby Jesus.” Raya provides us with a potent brew of satire, revolution and apocalypse.

Zhou B Art Center

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