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Alex Rubio, Street Preacher, 2000.

"Con Safos"

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The Virgin of Guadalupe becomes a conquistador-punching superheroine in Albert Ramirez’s masterful fake comic books, which are among the best works in this strong and funny group show.

In the 1960s, Mexican-American artists placed the phrase “con safos” (“with respect”)—abbreviated to c/s—on their street art as an informal copyright sign. But there’s a disconnect between the title’s reference to the Chicano art movement and the young artists who really dominate this exhibition. Today, the political themes on the surface of Amado M. Peña’s 1971 print Revolutionary (a semipsychedelic portrait of Emiliano Zapata) are glimpsed more obliquely through the lenses of pop culture and individual experience, as in Ana de Portela’s Christina’s World (2000), which replaces Andrew Wyeth’s iconic painting with a photograph of a sassy Homie doll confined to her cramped plastic-bubble packaging.

“Con Safos” includes numerous witty conceptual pieces, such as the photographs in Chuck Ramirez’s Saints Series, which portray Catholicism’s holiest figures from the bottoms of their plaster statues. Yet it’s the show’s emphasis on photorealistic drawing and painting techniques that makes it distinctive. By capturing every detail of two loitering young men’s clothing and expressions, Shizu Saldamando makes her careful applications of glitter to their macho portraits endlessly intriguing.

Although “Con Safos” should have provided more information to tie its four decades of work together, it certainly deserves respect.

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