Untitled (5×5) (Sin Título [5x5]), 2006 by Alejandro Almanza Pereda at El Museo del Barrio. (Photo by C-M.)
Along with the rest of the world, I’ve spent the past week riveted by what’s happening in Egypt. Partially because both my parents come from countries where oppressive dictatorships have had their run of things. And partially because there is something exhilarating about watching people come together to say, Enough. Naturally, as today’s violent clashes showed, this will be no velvet revolution. Mubarak has run the country under an autocratic state-of-emergency fiat since he took office in 1981. Opposition members are routinely harassed, arrested and tortured. Mubarak, it appears, isn’t about to just slip quietly into the night.
All of these things were on my mind yesterday as I made my way around El Museo del Barrio‘s newly reorganized permanent collection galleries and came across the above piece by Alejandro Almanza Pereda: a row of light bulbs topped by a heavy concrete block. I’m not always a fan of his work (which can get grandiosely overwrought), but this piece seemed to speak to the protest zeitgeist.
Most interestingly, the museum has a program in which groups of local high school students develop the wall text that goes along with the works. Here is what Noel Vega, Rey Flores, Jordan Vega, Aaron Jones and Charmaine Sloan, from Emily N. Carey High, had to say about Pereda’s sculpture:
Alejandro described the light bulbs as the soul of the structure. Just like a building where columns hold up a structure, the bulbs are the columns and when lit it gives an allegory of stress and time. We feel that Alejandro’s pieces are very unique. They are interesting because of the way he sets up the heavy materials on top of lighter materials that anyone wouldn’t think would hold it up. The purpose of his work, we think, is to show that a single thing can’t hold up something heavy but if it’s in a group anything is possible.