Today, from our friends at Art Practical we bring you Carlos Jackson’s article in issue 8.3: Art can’t do anything if we don’t. Jackson hails artist Gilda Posada’s large-scale billboard installation, ABOLISH BORDERS, located on the wall of Galería de la Raza, as an embodiment of the Chicanx claim, “sin fronteras.” Jackson says of the billboard, “The billboard creates and imagines a generous form of community through its expression of revolutionary futurity, a political engagement that relies on the collective to form a world without violence.” This article was originally published March 23, 2017.
To witness revolutionary futurity—the belief that social transformation is possible, and begins with a transcendence of the self—in a public space that fosters genuine politics, drive up San Francisco’s 24th Street from Potrero Avenue toward Bryant Street, and you will be presented with a vivid example: artist Gilda Posada’s large-scale billboard installation, ABOLISH BORDERS. Galería de la Raza’s “Liberated Billboard” has been the site of oppositional murals for forty-five years. In 1972, Galería de la Raza began a battle with the billboard advertisement company Foster and Kleiser, who owned the billboard attached to the outside wall of the venue. Over a period of three years, Galería artists painted over the billboard’s commercial advertising images with their own artistic political messages. Eventually, in 1975, the billboard owners sent over a truck and a worker to disassemble the billboard. The Galería staff inquired with the worker about acquiring the dissembled pieces and then led the effort to reconstruct the billboard.1 Since, the billboard has been a platform for artists to protest such events and moments as the International Hotel’s eviction efforts in the 1970s, the police brutality and killing of Danny Terviño in the 1970s, and to visualize the Undocuqueer movement in 2013. Through its programming, exhibitions, and billboard mural projects, Galería de la Raza has maintained a space where subjectivity and community self-determination can be produced and upheld—now exemplified by Posada’s piece.
Posada’s billboard—predominantly pink, and covered side to side with monochromatic graphics and three rows of white text—utilizes a pattern that references both indigenous textiles and contemporary digital printmaking, two qualities that stand in opposition to each other, yet together create a striking communication. The billboard sits a foot off the ground and is attached to the exterior of Galería de la Raza, which is housed in a mixed-use commercial apartment building with Mission Revival-style architecture, and is painted a deep reddish-brown. Because of the building’s color, and the muted grays of the sidewalk’s faded asphalt, the brightly colored billboard catches the eye quickly, demanding attention and an adjustment of perception.