Museum Paper Assignment - the Struggle of Labor

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A piece of artwork can serve a multitude of purposes, ranging from illustrating a story or reflecting on one’s personal background. Victor Cartagena, an artist from the contemporary period, was able to depict the experience of many laborers in the United States through his piece, “Burrocracia,” an 80 x 11 foot mural created in 2016 with charcoal, paper, and string (original site not included), from his collection, Beta Space. Similarly, a piece by Vincent Van Gogh was created in 1881 in the post-impressionism period called “Road in Etten,” a 15 ½ x 22 ¾ inch art piece made using chalk, pencil, pastel, and watercolor (original site not included) that depicted laborers engaging in their daily activities. Both these artworks conveyed a similar message of how laborers have significant characteristics of hard work and the virtuosity when performing their job, even though their role in society is often understated.

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Cartagena’s “Burrocracia” provides an impactful representation of an incredibly prevalent topic and issue faced in the United States by creating a mural-like spread of rustic paper cutouts. The mural spans across horizontally, as mentioned previously in the dimensions, a total of 80 feet, lining the wall of the Beta Space display. The 11-foot height provides the viewer to truly immerse themselves into the mural, as well as the lifesize cutouts. The paper figures are seen as two-dimensional cutouts of a human-donkey fusion, but the shading of the figures provides it with an appearance of a three-dimensional form, as if the figures are truly present in the exhibit. The characters presented in this artwork are also portrayed in various lascivious positions, held up by several strings in a puppet mannerism. The artwork provides a chaotic blend of the civilized human aspects of the figures, as well as the primitive and muddled perceptions of donkey aspects. With the collision of these hybrid creatures and their atypical positions, it seems almost to have an urgently negative message. “Burrocracia” encompasses one of the numerous significant themes found in contemporary art, which is the predicament of numerous laborers and their personal journey within their routine. When creating this piece, Cartagena incorporated his personal perspective on the life that many laborers in the United States led under large government systems, as he is from El Salvador and had a background that reflected the lives of immigrant workers. By using the display of human-donkey figures as his iconography, he was able to convey the message of how the relationship between workers and the government are regarded similar to “burros,” or donkeys, that are often a symbol of idiocy. Cartagena identified that people are trapped by a false perception of labor created by bureaucracy. This prevents them from understanding the chaos that occurs between them and the laborers who, although they are accounted for majority of time and energy spent on performing their tasks, are viewed as minimal and barely given recognition for their efforts and skill. Using the crude gestures and positions of the human-donkey figures, Cartagena conveys how laborers tend to feel oppressed by their upper administration.

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