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Dynamics of Aggression

Francisco Guerrero’s artwork takes bold new direction in exhibition opening in Vachon Gallery

Written by Amanda Donnan, curator, SU art galleries
October 11, 2016

An exhibition of artwork depicting provocative images of military might opens tomorrow night at Vachon Gallery. 

Sponsored by the Art + Art History Department, the exhibition, Torito + Castillos, features works by Associate Professor Francisco Guerrero. Drawing on his previous work around lowrider culture and other popular expressions of power or potency, Guerrero's exhibition, features a body of sculptural and installation work that conflates aggressive posturing of the military industrial complex with the spectacle and machismo of traditional Mexican pyrotechnic displays. 

The concept grew out of Guerrero's interest in the do-it-yourself origins of military technologies, particularly Unmanned Aerial Vehicle platforms or drones. "The UAV was invented during World War I by an engineer named Elmer Ambrose Sperry," he says. "It was basically a biplane packed with TNT whose operators aimed it from the ground and launched it toward its target using a huge catapult." A century later, drone technologies like the MQ-1 Predator have become a major facet of military strategies-purportedly used only to carry out "targeted killings" but often striking civilians as well.

Guerrero translates these dynamics of aggression-and the drone's homespun roots- through traditional Mexican forms associated with the celebration of New Year, Holy Week, and saints' feast days. Since the 19th century, people in small towns across Mexico have marked these occasions by constructing castillos, or "castles": spinning Catherine wheels mounted on wooden towers and strung with lighted rockets. The culmination of a town's fireworks display is often the quema de toros, or the "burning of the bulls," in which hundreds of boys and young men wheel handmade toritos- papier-mâché bulls stuffed with explosives-into the plaza and set them alight. 

Guerrero's artwork has been featured in exhibitions throughout the country and internationally. He joined SU's faculty in 2003, after having taught at Cornell University.