Cultural Institute of Mexico, Washington D.C.
April 2006
Rachel Beckman, Washington City Paper

The first city across the border from San Diego, Tijuana has long been a hub of sin tourism. Tequila, prostitution, and cheap silver jewelry define the American stereotype of Tijuanan culture. "Strange New World: Art and Design From Tijuana" effectively explores and shatters that stereotype by presenting 35 years of fine art from the border town. The show's first room critiques Mexican class distinctions simply by contrasting two series of portraits: Alida Cervantes' "Housekeeper Series" gives us seven oil paintings of maids who have dark, wrinkled skin and either deadpan stares or shy smiles; hanging nearby is a young upper-class woman with light skin, blond highlights, and a Marlboro Light dangling from her fingertips-the definition of SoCal beauty and a selection from Yvonne Venegas' (twin sister of Latin music star Julieta Venegas) "The Most Beautiful Brides of Baja California." Tania Candiani's installation on the fourth floor of the breathtaking Cultural Institute of Mexico is less successful-she whittled the handles of seven brooms into points, turning traditional symbols of women's work into weapons. This may be hard-hitting in Mexico's patriarchal society, but here in the States it's about as revolutionary as a Women's Studies 101 project. Still, this slight stumble is easily redeemed by pieces like Hugo Crosthwaite's stunning The Border: Tijuana, a four-panel, pencil-and-charcoal cityscape of a bleak, abandoned stretch of the city. "Strange New World" is on view from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, through Friday, April 21, at the Cultural Institute of Mexico, 2829 16th St. NW. (202) 728-1628.