'Vincente' by Javier Carillo.

Javier Carrillo @ Bakersfield Museum of Art

November 29, 2017

(Through January 14th, 2018)


While the Bakersfield Museum of Art is very small, it has ample space and the intrepidness to showcase to the small Central Valley community contemporary art contra what the general population presumes art to be. It’s understandable why the laymen have umbrage towards contemporary art. Their displeasure is woven with the same needle as mine. Though they may not appreciate the more cerebral beauty of a deeply abstract work, and therefore can’t fathom an ostensibly mediocre painting having any beauty, they certainly would protest against the ugly masquerading as artwork like I do. Fortunately, ugliness is not to be found here among several solo exhibitions assembled.


The most notable of the soloists is Javier Carillo in his ‘Nuestros Ojos’. Mr. Carillo cleverly paints an egalitarian homage to the simplicity of the Central American immigrant who finds a life doing menial labor. Uneducated and illiterate, the most these warm bodied males can do is move things and construct things affordably to their clients. They each find their niche; sometimes this involves selling fruit on a corner street previously not homesteaded.


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Mr. Carillo warmly calls into question if this is the manifestation of the American dream? Clearly not, as the promise from that dream is the possibility for achieving prosperity at levels not possible in the immigrant homelands. Maybe not in one generation’s time; as there are certainly many Mexican American families that have elevated their standing because of their re-location to these United States. And maybe this is even a higher level of wealth achieved; because wealth is as much what one can do with one’s freedom as it is a movement away from a life of harsh subsistence. In other words, living on par as they would in their home countries still provides them with more opportunities at pursuing happiness than they otherwise would have.


Take, for instance, Mr. Carillo’s crowning work Vincente. Painted with a luscious spectrum of blues and an ingenious tobacco-dark skinned flesh which feels as sun-dried as those leaves, we have a crude merchant. The fact that Vincente has been selling his balloons on the street for ages is in fact a wonderful testimony to the abundance of possibilities in this country compared to others. He has a proven business model. He has to be conscientious of the balloons to stock because his livelihood depends upon them. But the very fact there is a willingness in society to manufacture such products at such a price point which allows Vincente to procure them as a sole proprietor is magnanimous.


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The audience may view the man, who is rendered sitting on a stool for hours every day and threatened to be lift off from the amassed helium he holds onto, and pity him. As dialectically espoused, how can this be the land of opportunity? Because, very much in the same vein as the outrage at “sweatshop” textile factories, when the observer steps out of his own shoes and imagines what real poverty is, that of having to work for what one eats, having to weave what one wears, etc. this is a measurable step upward on the wealth ladder.


It was a wonderful treat to experience Mr. Carillo’s confrontation with the immigrant working class. It demonstrates microscopically the movements towards prosperity for their posterity.


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