Quotidian January 19-February 18
OPENING January 19, 6-9 PM
Music encounters nature, policing, racial profiling, history and death, in the paintings of Jose Zuniga. Music is a departing point in his work, it inspires and lends compositional tactics that aim towards an articulation of the narrative. Delgado Zuniga’s knowledge of music emerges directly from his father’s experience as a singer of Corridos, which are ballads that outline politics, love, and daily experience. As such, the Corridos could be thought of as journals that carry the function of preserving and passing on oral history.
While visiting his studio last year, Jose mentioned Vanilla Ice. He showed me a drawing of the rapper and talked about the song “Ice Ice Baby” at a time when the crisis of babies and children separated from their parents exploded on the border and the news. The figure of an all-American performer, (Vanilla Ice, born in Texas) was treated as a synthesis of an empire which is perennially ready to take over whichever cultural elements it deems necessary: Territories, music, children, etc.
Appropriation (of people, of ideas, of land, of rhythms) is the everyday, today. But, beyond appropriation, there’s reclamation and re-interpretation, which are necessary operations in the actualization of the traumatic. Both mechanisms (reclamation and reinterpretation) concern the work of Jose Zuniga: By addressing the history of Mexican muralism, Zuniga updates its history when presenting scenes that define today’s clashes.
In some works, ICE and its actors are surrounded by musicians, in fights defined by color, textures and tension. In another painting, there’s a funeral where a self-portrait of Jose’s dead body is watched by a group of Mexican musicians, and the tone of his yellowish corpse, is no longer brown. In this death scene, or in the encounters present in Zuniga’s work, painting focuses not only on depictions, but also on painting’s performance, always directed towards the activation and analysis of its own constitutive elements.
Jose describes his approach to painting in relation to Mexican music as follows: ‘It’s important to use the Corrido as a strategy to construct a narrative in painting. “When painting to music I am the band conductor and image maker, I am the sound that expresses color, Color is the trace of my memory, the stream of my experience…”.
In ‘Quotidian’, Painting addresses political issues exploring music, portraiture, or the normalization of violence and hatred, treating them in a cartoonish way, as if a synthesis of the monstrous was possible through stylization. In these works, as in reality, the uncanny and history demand a second look: Moving beyond revisionism, one can access the poetic and the urgent, touching on its monstrosity and musicality, while reflecting on the possibility of self-assessment. The ‘Quotidian’, in the end, appears in these paintings as a timely performance determined by various openings and ultimatums.
Jose Zuniga was born in California in 1988. He lives and works in New York. He graduated from Columbia University in 2017 with an MFA in painting. He is an Adjunct Professor of Painting at the same University.
Zuniga won the Rema Hort Mann Emerging Artist Grant in 2018. He is a participant in a residency at the Bronx Museum (2018-2019) and has recently exhibited his work at ‘From Shape to Form, an Exhibiyomn of Latinx Artists’ at Yale Divinity School of Sacred Music, NH, CT. This is his first solo exhibition.