Part of Mar 2012 by

Rez Car at Museum of Contemporary Native Arts

Even in Española, the lowrider capital of the world, lowriders look a bit odd–they pump and glow when other cars don’t.  In Wendy Red Star’s latest show Rez Car at the Museum of Contemporary Native Arts, her cars may be your average condemned vehicles, but they are displaced, frozen in a psychedelic home away from home. Curiously preserved under glass in black DIY frames, Red Star’s pieces are much smaller than expected.  Over a dozen 9 x 11″, mixed-media images line one side of the narrow hallway, off the museum’s main room.  Definitely petite works of art, I wonder if unframed, their super groovy textile background and accompanying image are actually two separate entities, held together by the frame itself like a collage under a glass coffee table.

With no wall tags or titles, discussing specific pieces entails pointing or description: the fourth in from the left with the white trim around the car that’s mostly centered with a pink shiny background.  It’s like navigating a city with no street signs.  Indeed, these rez cars aren’t in Montana anymore. They were lifted, twirled around, snipped out of their surrounding landscape and landed somewhere circa 1970.  Photographed in her native Crow Indian Reservation in Montana, Red Star then cut each car out of its landscape imagining for it a new life.  Supposedly indicative of the resilience necessary to keep a culture alive, these super-imposed cars do show vestiges of their dogged history but seem to float so effortlessly in their Technicolor Oz that resilience seems something of old wives’ tales.  Red Star may have gotten the rez cars out of the rez, but I’m not sure where she put them.

As if stopped mid-crash, most of the automobiles look suspended in comic affluence.  Searching for some Andy Warhol car-accident horror amid their rusted bodies, smashed windshields, flat tires, crunched hoods, dilapidated fenders and complimentary overgrown grass, I found very little of which to be horrified.  These are upbeat, Lichtenstein-esque comic strips, formed by their punchy backdrop of which colors include: white and turquoise houndstooth, pin stripe, disco madness ten times over, neon yellow, neon orange, mint green crinkled paper, soft peach toile, and gold quilted lamé.  Studded with sequins or patterned with blue flowers, it’s just a matter of picking your rusted vehicle and fitting a background.  Quite possibly fully outfitted by a trip to Walmart, Red Star’s suburb of unnamed rez cars survive beneath their glass like well-preserved artifacts.


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