EL MUSEO DEL GHETTO
Jefferson Pinder and José Ruiz at G Fine Art, Washigton, D.C.
Curated by Christopher K. Ho
September 26 – October 24, 2009
Opening Reception: September 26, 6:30 - 8:30pm
Gallery Hours Wednesday - Saturday, Noon - 6 pm
El Museo del Ghetto (aka G Fine Art) is pleased to present new, major collaborative and individual works by Jefferson Pinder and Jose Ruiz at its temporary location on 625-27 E Street, NW, Washington, DC. El Museo del Ghetto at once deepens and exceeds the constellation of issues—about history, narrative, and identity—explored with various intensity in Pinder’s 2006 solo show at G Fine Art, and subjects them to the sly, deadpan humor evident in Ruiz’s own previous solo shows, in 2005 and 2007.
Perhaps the signal piece is Roulette, a collaborative video projected in the main space, Pinder puts a gun to his head and pulls the trigger. Ruiz responds by taking a different kind of shot—of tequila. The initial set up—a simple alternation, registered by the camera’s back and forth movement—engenders radically divergent, even contradictory, narrative structures. The anxious anticipation of watching Pinder’s game of Russian roulette eventually softens into staccato rhythm, while Ruiz becomes increasingly incapacitated by alcohol. That Pinder is African American and Ruiz is Latin American adds yet another layer.
Other works evidence Roulette’s deceptive simplicity (one might even say formalism). Ruiz’s Picasso Wore Mascara remakes Picasso’s Desmoiselles d’Avignon with Mexican wrestling masks in place of African ones. Pinder’s Mercury Capsule is a version of the 1959-61 eponymous NASA spacecraft made with wood from President Obama’s inauguration platform. And in the spirit of cultural communion, Pinder’s Missionary Project explores the Mexican underground commuter scene by delving into music. Using Afro-American sounds as a representation of self; the multi-channeled video performance brings the viewer into these precious exchanges in the underbelly of Mexico City. Rhythms harmonize (and clash) as the artist hawks his culture for ten pesos on crowded trains.
In Ruiz’s One Liners, two vinyl sentences, from respective positive reviews of Pinder and Ruiz’s previous solo exhibitions at the gallery, grace the walls, testing their accuracy and longevity in this new context, as well as underscoring the irony of a critically supported gallery now looking for a new home. Such irony might be the gist of Pinder’s video Lazarus, in which volunteers help the artist push a stalled car, only to (metaphorically) circle back to the same place. But then again, it is perhaps the enthusiastic involvement of so many between the start and the finish, regardless of the distance traveled (or not), which is the central point.
Jefferson Pinder’s work has been in numerous group shows at venues including The Studio Museum in Harlem, the Wadsworth Athenaeum Museum of Art in Hartford, Connecticut, the Zacheta National Gallery in Warsaw, Poland, and the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery (RECOGNIZE! Hip Hop and Contemporary Portraiture). Currently, he is showing new work in After 1968, a traveling exhibition that originated at the High Museum in Atlanta. Pinder received his B.A. in theatre from the University of Maryland, and studied at the Asolo Theatre Conservatory in Sarasota, Florida before returning to received is MFA in mixed media (2003). Based in Washington, D.C., Pinder is now an assistant professor at the University of Maryland, where he teaches art theory and foundations.
José Ruiz is a New York City-based artist and curator, by way of Lima, Brasilia, Washington D.C., and San Francisco, who has shown his concept-based installations, videos, images, and objects nationally and internationally. His socio-political interests mirror his exhibition history through a preference in working with non-profit and alternative spaces. He is a member of several interdisciplinary collectives, such as Band Wagon (New York, NY), The Global Collective (UK, France, Netherlands, USA), and was a founding member of Decatur Blue, a D.C. art collective currently on sabbatical. He has served as a professor at Sarah Lawrence College, a guest speaker at the Rhode Island School of Design, The College of New Jersey, and the Transart Institute, and as an Alumni Representative for the San Francisco Art Institute. He has recently exhibited at the Incheon Biennial in Korea, Context Gallery in Ireland, Vox Populi in Philadelphia, and Moti Hasson Gallery, Cuchifritos, Longwood Arts Project, El Museo del Barrio, and the Queens Museum of Art, all in New York. Ruiz has recently participated in the Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation’s Grants & Commissions Program, Emerge10 Artist Fellowship at Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art, and the Jamaica Center for Arts & Learning’s Workspace Residency Program. Currently, he is working on projects for El Museo del Barrio (NY), Van Abbemuseum (Netherlands), and Momenta Art (NY).