Central Library exhibit examines the lives of those on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border


When the Downtown Central Library reopened its doors last year after more than a year of renovations, it dedicated a space for reflection and examination of human rights atrocities.

The ReflectSpace Gallery, as it’s known, opened an exhibit last week that navigates issues of immigration with artwork that highlights the visible and invisible effects of the U.S.-Mexico border wall has on those living on either side.

“In|visible: Negotiating the U.S.-Mexico Border,” on display through March 14, is curated by Ara and Anahid Oshagan and features work by artists Dulce Pinzón, Claudia Cano, Teresita de la Torre, Tom Kiefer and Joan Zierhut.

Dominating the exhibit is a site-specific installation that emulates a segment of the San Diego-Tijuana border wall and splits the gallery in two. The wall is modified with nine open portions so that attendees can “subvert” the obstruction and view artwork displayed on either side.

A look through one part of the wall reveals a series of photographs by Pinzón, where real immigrant laborers are dressed as famous superheroes and captured working their daily jobs.

“They are invisible, doing a lot of the work many wouldn’t do here,” Anahid Oshagan said. “They are visible to the countries that they come from, sending their low wages to Mexico and other places south of the border.”

Another series of photos by Kiefer, documents the collection of possessions confiscated and tossed by agents, which he saw while working as a custodian at the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol processing facility in southwest Arizona for more than a decade.

The exhibit also contains a project by de la Torre that documents her year wearing a shirt discarded by an immigrant and performance art by Cano, where she adopts an alter-ego as a cleaning lady who is an immigrant.

Another major installation is a collaboration between Zierhut and students in the Glendale Unified School District. Throughout the library are sculptures made out of tape that recreate the silhouettes seen on the once-common Caltrans signs cautioning drivers along the Golden State (5) Freeway about immigrants crossing illegally into California.

“When you put up a sign like that, that is hated, it draws attention to it and creates a context where people can have a relationship to the sign,” Ara Oshagan said. “It serves a dual purpose — many millennials have no idea what that sign is.”

Only one of those signs remains on the 5 Freeway.

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Twitter: @JeffLanda