Alida Cervantes journeys between Tijuana and San Diego, and her life and upbringing have inspired a series of works questioning the power-politics of sex, gender and fidelity.
The “Casta” system of Latin America created a hierarchy of races, and with this came the distasteful distinctions between the supposed value and status of people of different races. While there is no lone element that leads Alida Cervantes’ exhibition, race is perhaps the only feature that would separate these humans, as the gender and sexuality of the subjects is shared universally and so it is these differences that form the basis of the power-relationships in Cervantes’ work.
Obediencia features the lady of a house(white), summoning the butler (black). The clear racial divide is complicated however by a sexual element-the lady of the house is has exposed her breasts and is summoning the butler to clean up some wine the lady has deliberately spilled. Challenging the often-made assumption that the leading partner would be the man, this also highlights the racial and status divide between people in this period.
The dominance of men over the sexual landscape is provoked in Mamá, a work featuring a family of three. The lady, presumably of Latina heritage, a white man, and a baby. The man, tall and muscular is however less distinctive than the baby, who is black. This can only call into question the fidelity of the woman, due to the natural assumptions surrounding the sexual tendencies of humans and this is further inflamed by the chasm between the assumed status of white and black people in Mexico during this period. Not only has this man’s sexual prowess been destroyed by another man, it has been done so by a black man, who can be found behind the white man’s back.
These works are an affront to the supposedly “right-minded” people we are, once we understand the situations we are presented with and the uncomfortable truths that they represent. We see a naked white man in El Pretendiente , brandishing himself to a fully clothed woman of colour, alone. We understand the unpleasant back-story to this situation and the status of these characters through the clear juxtaposition of the “weak” and “strong” characters.
Alida Cervantes exhibit is a deeply fascinating collage of questions, from sexuality to race and power. While this exhibit asks deep and potent questions of the viewer, it remains lighthearted due to the natural, Fresco-like style of Alida Cervantes.
“Known Unknowns” will be on display at the Saatchi gallery until June 24, 2018.”
By Danny Holden