Monday, November 22, 2010

The Last Conquistador (of The Art World)

He sort of ravaged the countryside,” says one organizer, before pointing to a model on display: “But look at the detail in this: isn’t that beautiful?”

Try as you might, long as you like- you really won't find a better one sentence summation of the relation  between the power brokers of the art world, and the medium itself! The Last Conquistador centers on the larger than life creation by artist/sculptor John Houser of the 16th-century Spanish conquistador Don Juan de Oñate. Like most Spanish conquistadors of the era,  El gran hombre de Oñate had a not so secret penchant for the wholesale slaughter and enslavement of indigenous peoples. His particular trademark was chopping off a foot from every Indian male capable of active resistance. But hey, that was a different era Mr. Houser fondly reminds us, and I guess it would be kinda petty, to hold such a centuries old grudge. Mr. Houser also sculpted a bust of Jaime Bermúdez (the founder of the maquila industry). Can this guy pick 'em, or what?

The film gives voice to the great divide that has existed for centuries between lighter skinned, wanna be white Hispanics and their "social lessers," the darker skinned, Indian and mixed race peoples of these Americas, who for some reason just can't seem to shake their world view of being the subjects of a brutal history of oppression to this very day. And while both sides passionately enunciate their opposing views, Mr. Houser finally reaches a moment of enlightenment where he actually begins to perceive how his own messianic hardheadedness has served to further perpetuate that history- before managing to conveniently complete his 360 in time for the great unveiling. Far above the fray, the the ruling WASP enclave parties through it all, carefree and (intentionally) oblivious as ever...



2 comments:

colin pantall said...

Thanks for this Stan!

Stan B. said...

Colin, I'd like to tell ya how I researched high and low to find this- truth is, I woke up to it on the living room couch...