Art shows beating the heat around Austin 1: Rigoberto A. Gonzalez

They say summer is a sleepy (i.e. down-and-out) time for art shows here in blazing Austin, but there are some great shows up right now in appropriately air-conditioned settings.  My next couple of posts will feature shows I've been enjoying, here's the first: Rigoberto A. Gonzalez, Baroque on the Border @ the Mexican American Cultural Center, through Sept. 1

Levanton

Gonzalez is from a small town in Texas and made his appearance on the art radar by being featured in the 2011 Texas Biennial,  followed by reviews in Glasstire and shows in Houston and now Austin.  Well worth seeing in real life, Gonzalez's paintings are made with old techniques reminiscent of Caravaggio paintings to depict the current drug war in Mexico and along the border.  The stunningly beautiful chiaroscuro lighting combined with traditional Biblical-type scenes portray horrific events, from kidnappings to beheadings, as poignant as Fernando Botero's Abu Ghraib paintings.

I particularly liked the painting above, titled Levanton (The Kidnapping), because of the emotion on each of the individual's faces and the chaotic motion of the scene, but also because of the direct stare of one of the kidnapper's right out at the viewer, like a challenge: "What are you looking at?" It's chilling and evocative; what can/should we do about this violence? The scale of some of the paintings seems to reinforce the vastness of the problems and the helplessness of it's many victims.

After the heaviness of this show, you can lighten up by visiting the community gallery downstairs featuring Matthew (Rodriguez) Bonifacio's playful show,  Scruffy Kitten.