We've heard it said that the same five insults are hurled at all recent immigrants to the U.S., regardless of the year or where the travelers came from. The accusations are instantly recognizable and so stupid they don't even have internal logic: Immigrants are dirty, their food smells weird, they live too many to a room, they're lazy, and they're taking our jobs. Name a group, and all these things have been lobbed their way: Italians (disgusting garlic stink!), Irish (drunk cabbage eaters), et cetera. At Victor Cartagena's new solo show "The Invisible Nation," the El Salvador-born artist explores historical realities of immigration via a phrase that brings shivers of anticipation to art fans: a large-scale installation. Using video, sculpture, recorded sound, and a mural on the outside of the gallery, longtime Bay Arean Cartagena also contemplates the current state of national immigration policy, which the gallery rather generously describes as "unresolved." He dunks passport-photo tea bags in hot water, fills corked bottles with sinister pills and labels them "Patrón" -- drinkers rarely notice that the popular tequila's name indicates the golden liquor is bossing them around. Cartagena's clever, but his aesthetic is just as strong, with its structural, vintage, iconic shapes and deep sandy colors. Think of his visual skill as the sugar that makes the exhibition's medicine (our own possible complicity in the injustices immigrants face) go down pretty damn easy.
The opening reception for "The Invisible Nation" starts at 7:30 p.m.
March 7-May 16, 2008