Paintings as Protest

March 15-28, 2021
  • May 25, 2020

    May 25, 2020

    May 25th was a Monday and the end of the long Memorial Day weekend in the United States. It was also the day that George Floyd died, after four officers arrested him and one, Derek Chauvin, knelt on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.

     

    Floyd's death prompted a surge of protests and rallies across the globe to defend Black lives. One such protest is captured in Jorge Tacla's oil and cold wax painting, May 25, 2020.

  • Jorge Tacla, May 25, 2020, 2020

    Jorge Tacla

    May 25, 2020, 2020 oil and cold wax on canvas
    40 x 57 inches
    101.6 x 144.8 cm
  • The painting shows a group of protestors gathered with fists outstretched. It pulses with an energy underscored by Tacla's all-over composition and striking diagonal lines. There are many different scenes visible at any given protest, but Tacla's focus is the crowd. This is the story of many individuals coming together as one to state their demands.

  • A red line runs down the canvas dividing it in two. On both sides, the artist has mixed oil paint and cold wax to create a rich surface of texture and corporeality. Tacla often creates incisions in his paintings and leaves parts of the canvas exposed to mirror the tension of his subjects. He compares the paint and wax on the surface to a skin. In May 25, 2020, the "seams" suggest not only cuts in this skin, but also the entrenched polarity of the United States. The pieces have pulled so far apart as to be strained at the edges--any further and they might rip in half.

  • A Closer Look

    Jorge Tacla's May 25, 2020
  • 'This is our contemporary history. I have a duty to respond to it.' -Jorge Tacla
    Photograph by Etienne Frossard
    "This is our contemporary history. I have a duty to respond to it." -Jorge Tacla
  • A History of Protest

    Jorge Tacla's personal history has given him a unique perspective on how quickly power can shift hands. Although born in Santiago, his grandparents immigrated to Chile around 1910 from Syria and Palestine to escape oppression and political turmoil. As a teenager, he came of age in Chile during the rise of the Communist party, youth-led popular protests and the U.S.-assisted overthrow of Salvador Allende's government, followed by Pinochet's dictatorship. Tacla moved to downtown Manhattan in 1981, just as the Wall Street boom was taking off. He was also in New York City in 2001, when the North and South towers of the World Trade Center fell due to terrorist attacks by Al-Qaeda.

  • Tacla's protest paintings aim to capture the moment when the invisible systems guiding and controlling people's lives become apparent. In...

    Tacla's protest paintings aim to capture the moment when the invisible systems guiding and controlling people's lives become apparent. In October 2019, the artist had just opened a new body of work at the Bienal de Artes Mediales in Santiago when nationwide protests erupted about a rate hike on Santiago's Metro service, as well as widespread corruption, inequality and privatization in the country. The exhibition--and the museum--closed the day after the opening.

     

    Presented below are additional works by Tacla that show protests from the last 18 months both in Chile and the United States. Representing some of the most incendiary moments of recent history, each painting demonstrates the strength of the artist's community.

  • In Context

    Additional Protest Paintings by Jorge Tacla
    • Jorge Tacla, October 25 #2, 2019, 2020
      Jorge Tacla, October 25 #2, 2019, 2020
    • Jorge Tacla, May 25 #2, 2020, 2020
      Jorge Tacla, May 25 #2, 2020, 2020
    • Jorge Tacla, May 25 #3, 2020, 2020
      Jorge Tacla, May 25 #3, 2020, 2020