Magazine article Artforum International

Juan Pablo Ballester

Magazine article Artforum International

Juan Pablo Ballester

Article excerpt

GALERIA RAY GUN

Spain, which during the Franco era forced its political dissidents into exile, has more recently become a land of asylum. This transformation has aroused conflicts, however, especially those generated by politicians who promote racism and xenophobia and place all kinds of obstacles in the way of any tolerance of unfamiliar cultures. Juan Pablo Ballester (born in 1966), a Cuban artist living in Barcelona, is very familiar with all of this. His work, expressed here principally through photography (sometimes he works in video as well), conveys the complex problematic of exile. And yet that is not really the central theme of his new series of ten Cibachromes, "En Ninguna Parte" (Nowhere), 1999-2000, even though its title denotes the transit through which the exile passes, as if he lived in a type of limbo.

The main thread that runs through "Nowhere" is, rather, the palpable presence of some young men of menacing aspect. The artist met them--boys who have passed beyond adolescence without yet reaching full maturity--by chance on the street in his central Barcelona neighborhood. They form part of a vaguely defined urban tribe who, mistakenly or not, are perceived as dangerous and violent. Membership is signaled by their clothing: warm-up pants decorated with the Spanish flag, track suit and/or jacket, Barcelona soccer dub jerseys, bootlike black sneakers--the uniform has become a familiar sight in large Spanish cities whose youth culture is dominated by the language of soccer. The boys' short hair ominously echoes the look of skinheads, although they do not identify themselves politically with any particular group. …

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