The puckered Cosbys and OReillys of the world would be sorely missing the point if they pointed their moralizing fingers at artist Michael Vasquez. He creates kinetic, color-saturated portraits of small-time gangster bravado in which undiscerning eyes might see violence glorified.
In Vasquezs exhibit Authority Figures, opening tonight at the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art (4420 Warwick, 816-753-5784), street-weaned bad boys with gilt teeth posture flamboyantly, their gestures speaking a secret language of loyalty and intimidation. The lovely, light-dappled paintings are soaked with a rich, Kodachrome blue. Unlike some suburban kid buying grills at the mall, Vasquez is no bling-appropriating charlatan. While growing up in St. Petersburg, Florida, he kept some risky
company. Many of his subjects ran with the Young Bloods, an affiliate of the United Blood Nation. With the symbol-pillaging gangsta culture of MTV, its easy to forget that there really are virtually seceded nations within our own, governed by their own tacit laws. Vasquez depicts this underground with a graceful objectivity that neither condemns nor glorifies. He just paints what he knows. Tonights opening reception runs from 5:30 to 7:30.
Fridays, Saturdays, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sundays, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Tuesdays-Thursdays, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Starts: Oct. 5. Continues through Dec. 30, 2007