Recap: Jonathan Hernandez at La Caja Negra, Madrid

By - Friday, October 5th, 2012

On the first leg of my “Euro-Trip” while I was in Marseille, I met a man who when I asked where he was from, responded by saying, “well, I’ll let you guess: my country is in deep shit”. He was Spanish. Art oftentimes expresses some universal emotion or sentiment. It relies heavily on the idea that everyone experiences emotions which they can then personally relate to whatever artwork, literature, dance or other creative form they are consuming and analyzing. In Jonathan Hernández’s exhibit at the gallery La Caja Negra (The Black Box), the universal sentiment is that we are all in deep shit. In very post-modernist fashion, we reflect upon this universal problem by viewing people in varying circumstances experiencing the same emotion. Political leaders, pop-culture icons, and religious leaders are shown exhibiting the same mannerisms and facial expressions that saturate newspapers, website blogs, and magazines as the economic crisis continues to worsen, especially here in Spain. Hernández, an artist from Mexico City, recognizes the iconography used in the media and takes these ordinary press photographs, and the facial expressions which the subjects have in the images, out of context and creates a new message. His message conveys not only the universality of the emotion, but also the blatant symbolism used by the press to evoke fear, passion, or joy from the readers. The title “La Reforma Tiene Muchas Decenas de Periodicos pero ni un Solo Hombre” (which translates to: “Reform Keeps Many Scores of Newspapers in its Service, but Not One Man”), is a quote from Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience, a critique of modern government much of which is as applicable today as it was in 1849. In the introductory paragraph of Civil Disobedience (which you can read in full HERE), Thoreau says, “’That government is best which governs not at all’; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have”. He continues, in the second paragraph, “The American government… does not keep the country free. It does not settle the West. It does not educate. The character inherent in the American people has done all that has been accomplished”. By alluding to this text, which is not anarchy-supporting as Thorough elaborates, “I ask for, not at once no government, but at once a better government. Let every man make known what kind of government would command his respect, and that will be one step toward obtaining it,” Hernández implies that he is asking for his kind of government. He implies that perhaps, as Thoreau said over 100 years ago, people are best left to their own devices to interpret news and developments, instead of being subjugated to the severe over-simplification that the press and the present form of government provides them. Jonathan Hernández’s exhibit will be on display at La Caja Negra (Fernando VI, 17-2nd Floor, Madrid) until November 17th. So, while Spain may in fact be in “deep shit”, Hernández depicts that the concern is heightened by the media’s use of symbolism to provoke fear. Also, since people from varying cultures, countries, and economic backgrounds all display the same emotion in these selected photos, perhaps we are all in “deep shit” and can take some comfort from the fact that this too is universal.

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