Penticton Art Gallery showcases provocative Mexican political street art from Oaxaca

Art that sparks activism

Casey Richardson

A new exhibition at the Penticton Art Gallery brought by artist collectives from Oaxaca, Mexico hopes to inspire conversations of art and activism.

The large-scale graffiti murals tackle hard-hitting subjects and portray a reflection of society’s inhumanity, originating from the area as a part of a broader social movement that began in 2006.

“This is the window into Mexican society. But by looking into their things, I hope it's a mirror holding up to ourselves and realizing that we're not that different. The issues that are here are very much our own issues as well, we need to take stock of that,” Penticton Art Gallery curator Paul Crawford said.

“These works are impactful not just for the subject matter, but also a scale. They're not pretty works, they're technically brilliant works, but they're hard works to handle, and they're things that kick you in the gut.”

The Colectivo Subterráneo and Taller Artistic Communitario bring social problems that are often hidden into view through their collectives.

Crawford was inspired to share the powerful works after visiting Oaxaca in January and began plans to arrange an exhibition.

“I love the political nature of it, I love the scale of the work. And just the fact that people were doing it,” he said.

“I hope that we could engage our own citizens here to be more politically engaged, and engage your artists to think that there's more they can do with their art than just create another pretty picture. And there's nothing wrong with that. But I just would like to see us become just more active.”

The gallery brought up two of the artists from the leading artist collectives in Oaxaca for this exhibition and conducted workshops over the first five days with roughly 50 local artists.

Part of the exhibition is being taken out into the community, with three murals set up outside the gallery so far and more planned to be pasted on private buildings around town.

“I hope this will inspire people to wake up and to be more active and aware of what's going on around us and feel that they have a voice to say their piece.”

The art is done by collectives that have between 20 and 30 members per studio.

“I guess the most profound thing is how much more we have in common than we are different, looking at with all the issues that they're protesting down there, they may have other nuances of difference. But the general idea of what they're protesting is very much along the same things here.”

Crawford points to issues of environmentalism, poverty, political corruption, immigration and racism, that are highlighted in the exhibition that can also be seen here.

“We just need to be more aware of these issues, and we just need to work socially conscious, and hopefully this will help people look at ourselves hold a mirror up to ourselves, look at our own culture in our own society a little bit better.”

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