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The Story Behind the Work

Friday, January 4, 2008

One of the first paintings you'll see upon entering "Migration: La Diaspora" features a group of five blank-faced figures carrying bags. Called "Con Maletas" ("With Suitcases"), the painting on paper by Spanish artist Rafael Alvarado is set against a black background that could just as easily be the Madrid airport tarmac as the Mexican desert by night.

The picture's deliberate ambiguity -- is this traveling party legal or illegal, and where is it going? -- and its placement near the entrance to the show seem designed to capitalize on one of the hottest hot-button issues of the presidential election season. The Venezuelan Embassy's Patricia Abdelnour, vice president of the Association of Ibero-American Cultural Attaches, says that's not the case.

The exhibition, she says, deals with many aspects of migration, spiritual as well as legal; when the theme was proposed, its topicality wasn't even discussed. To the extent that the art could benefit because some of its themes are being loudly argued about by political candidates is simply, she says, an accident of "good timing."

-- Michael O'Sullivan

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