They’re not terrorists!
As a gallery attendant in Walsh 101, I sit for five hours, twice a week attempting to read a book amidst the noise of Bolivian rap and the trumpets of a street performance in La Paz. Occasionally, a student wanders in as if entering an undiscovered portal to a fourth dimension. As I remind them that they’re just in a gallery they’ve never noticed, they tilt their heads in bemusement at Edgar Endress’ video installations—a series of masked faces viewers tend to perceive as terrorists—and leave without reading the program (which I always recommend).
Let’s get a few things straight. Yes, there is a gallery in Walsh, right next to the staircase. It’s been there for quite a few years now. No, Endress’ Heroes and Masks exhibit has nothing to do with terrorists. Those masked faces are shoe-shiners working for a dollar a day; many of them are college students. And yes, they do look like terrorists, if you are one of those people who breezes by without taking care to realize what you’re seeing.
The art most people enjoy consists of voluptuous nudes reclining on divans or landscapes rendered in thick, emotionally-charged brush strokes of oil paint. At least, that’s the sort of art I enjoy. But Endress’ exhibit doesn’t involve that sort of aesthetic. It reaches out to educate, explore and expose the viewer to a socio-political condition most are unaware of. Students and professionals donning ski masks shine shoes for a meager wage to supplement their income and studies, while smaller horizontal videos capture street performances in La Paz, Bolivia, where participants don the “Mask of All the Saints”—the actual mask is on display nearby. An embroidered fabric, “One Latino American Story,” tells a tale slightly chaotic and saturated with symbolism. Endress stopped by the gallery and explained it to me in detail; the beautifully-rendered, folk-style embroidery (which Endress commissioned) contains images of saints, military symbols and the U.S. seal and dollar signs.
The exhibit is modest, but Endress’ exploration of the mask as a political and social symbol is complex and intriguing. Between classes, or in your free time, drop by, entertain the idle gallery attendant and take a thorough look at Endress’ “Heroes and Masks.”
The Walsh 101 Gallery is open Mon-Sat, 12-5 pm. Heroes and Masks runs through Oct. 5.
–Madeline Reidy, Leisure Editor