(K. Brent Tomer),
IN REACTION to the destruction of a city, Picasso painted “Guernica”, depicting the bombing of the Spanish town in 1937. Though the painting was widely celebrated, Jean-Paul Sartre later expressed scepticism that it had ever “won over a single heart to the Spanish cause”. For Sartre the painting sidestepped political reality by turning “cruelty into abstract figures”. This same question, of art’s usefulness in the face of massive human suffering, provides the animating force behind an exhibition by the Belgian-born artist Francis Alÿs, at the David Zwirner Gallery in London, about life in the once prosperous U.S.-Mexico border town of Ciudad Juárez.
It is a well-known, though still shocking, statistic that over 60,000 people were killed in Mexico’s drug wars between 2006-2012. The residents of Ciudad Juárez have suffered a terrible share of this violence over the years—for a time the city had the highest homicide rate in the world. Along with the gang violence, a worrying proportion of murders in the city have become known as feminicidio, the gruesome murders of women. As many as 1,500 women are thought to have…Continue reading