When we were invited to an art opening last week at Other Criteria, Damien Hirst’s high-end gift shop / gallery on Broome Street in Soho, the first thing I thought of was, why have I not been to Other Criteria during its entire first year of existence? Seriously, WTF have I been up to? I wish could tell you.
Although one could spend a good amount of time browsing around and not touching every item displayed so seductively in the street level retail space, it turns out that Other Criteria has a basement gallery, and that’s where we found the provocative art of Mexican-American artist, Eduardo Sarabia. Let’s take a closer look.
Sarabia’s new exhibit is called Ballads and it consists of 3D paper dioramas inside wall-mounted glass vitrines, one large wall tapestry and several very large pieces of glazed pottery, all playing with themes related to Mexico’s dark underworld of drug trafficking and its related, widespread gang violence. Sex, drugs, guns and…parrots, yeah, it’s all there. Also there are some adorable little potted succulents included in the displays, which further enhance the feeling of authenticity. Because, Mexico!
This piece, which embraces the look and feel of traditional Mexican pottery, but with a little twist, is so great.
At the gallery, we ran into our friend, celebrity photographer and art expert Derek Storm, who is apparently friends with Sarabia, and he explained that the animals in these dioramas, whatever their Spanish name is, that is also a Mexican slang word for some kind of drug. So, imagine that Zebra, which is Cebra in Spanish, maybe that means Cocaine, or something. Or maybe he was joking around. Who knows, it’s a good story!
The tapestry seen in the background of the above photo, Amor Amor Amor is inspired by the “narcomantas,” which are crudely made coded messages hung on public areas in Mexico by gangs and drug cartels. Usually spray paint on a bed sheet type of thing. Sometimes the messages try to justify an event or even further explain an action of terror. Sometimes the cartels get blamed for something they didn’t do in the media and this is their platform to give their side of the story. Other times, they serve as simple warnings to rival gangs.
Emulating this style and aesthetic, Sarabia wanted to bring forward a positive message. Using the power of fascination with this phenomenon, the artist has been working with a tapestry studio to make these works. Each is made by hand and takes about 2 months to weave.
Eduardo Sarabia’s Ballads will be on Exhibit Through July 5th 2015 at Other Criteria, Located at 458 Broome Street, SoHo, New York, NY 10013. Hours are Monday – Saturday 11:00 AM -7:00 PM, and Sunday 12 Noon – 6:00 PM.