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'I Saw The Sign' by José Villalobos at EVERYBODY, Tucson

Everybody is excited to present I Saw The Sign, an exhibition of new works by José Villalobos. Raised in a conservative-evangelical household on the US/Mexico border in El Paso, TX, Villalobos is intimately aware of how religious and political threats can impact one’s behavior and identity. His work reconciles the conflicting identity challenges in his life, caught in between traditional Mexican customs and American morals, as well as growing up with religious ideals that conflict with the artist being gay. 
The new works presented in I Saw The Sign marks a shift in focus for Villalobos, an artist primarily known for his dialogue with Latinx/Norteño culture and toxic masculinity. The pivot is one towards religion, extremism, and wider attacks on the LGBTQIA+ community by an increasingly extreme and fragmented network of hate groups and individuals. Enter the Westboro Baptist Church: a small, loud, and mostly extended-family run organization that has been well known for decades for its attacks on Jewish and Muslim people, gay and transgender people, various Christian denominations, among others. Westboro’s tactics, such as protesting the funerals of those that died during the HIV/AIDS crisis, have garnered much attention in the American media landscape. In I Saw The Sign, the Westboro Baptist Church can be seen as a muse for Villalobos, a launching-off point that lets him explore a subject matter that is still inherently linked to his prior bodies of work. 
The root of Villalobos’ work lies in the performativity of his identity. The performativity in I Saw The Sign can be found in the artist’s manipulation and dialogue with images, text, and physical materials. Words are twisted, translated, and re-drafted. Images turn, loop, and are put in new contexts. Materials are juxtaposed, elevated or brought down. This exhibition marks a new and experimental curve for Villalobos - one that is less cowboy and more altar boy.

17.3.23 — 22.4.23


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