In Juxtapositions, Willie Varela focuses on advertising strategies employed by the mass media. Culling footage from cities such as Las Vegas, NV and Los Angeles, CA, he exposes the quotidian nature of iconic figures in public spaces through individual, diptych, and triptych photographs. A video projection, single channel video, and pervasive sound piece complete the installation. The project suggests that consumer culture, and those who buy into it, has turned imagery that was once sacred into products to be bought, sold, and consumed.
Advertising’s aggressive tactics are reflected in Varela’s photographic works. Hypnotic in their intense, television-like technicolor, the images march across two walls of the gallery. Photographs of a crucifix are juxtaposed with billboards of Brad Pitt and Jennifer Lopez. The critique erupts in an ironic photograph of the Hulk’s giant green fist coming down on the awning of a movie theater, threatening to crush the massive artifice that is Hollywood.
On the opposite wall a looped video, Made in San Antonio, projects clips from television news broadcasts, streamed Internet videos, pornographic scenes, and voyeuristic documentations of public spaces. A separate soundtrack samples random splices of popular movies and commercials.
Amidst this chaotic assembly of consumer media, the presence of several slower images offers redemptive power. The Waters, a film showing the ebb and flow of natural water, is situated at the central axis of the space. This video, coupled with similarly contemplative photographs (a lone man standing on the street, an empty cemetery against a pristine sky), acts as a signifier of the human condition in its most natural and vulnerable state.
Juxtapositions adopts mass media tactics to expose the industry’s marketing strategy of manufacturing desire where none intrinsically exists. It hawks goods and services as fulfilling, but, paradoxically, the more we consume, the emptier we feel.