Hataya Tubtim

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"Wrestler Saints Live Among Us"

The most rugged critique I’ve heard about portraiture today is that no one wants to see a picture of someone they don’t know. Beholding the image of a stranger suggests the unknown details of a particular location, history, and identity. These are burdens that counteract universal aspirations. There can be no real truth in the specific. Furthermore, what could the rendition of someone else’s friends have to do with me? These are assumptions any thoughtful viewer could make, I suppose. Yet, to me, there has always been something that is deeply intriguing about Sergio’s portraits of “friends as El Santo”.
That is because the identities of these “strangers” are concealed with another image, the wrestler’s mask, and it is precisely what lures me in. I consider the importance of a figure like El Santo in a diverse capital like Los Angeles. From there, my intellect safely wanders over to other concepts like traditional customs, and pop culture, or contemporary mythologies. However, there is always an element that keeps me from straying too far into the theoretical. I remain grounded in dramatic postures and the idiosyncrasies of personal style. One friend wears Converse shoes as he hunches low to the ground. Another wears a turtleneck and blazer that spreads open as he stretches his arms up and outward. The gestures are confidently theatrical despite the usual street wear. The titles name each subject “…as El Santo.” Of course, it is common sense that a magical object may endow a person with magical qualities. Could it be that I am witnessing the invocation of the Wrestler Saint himself?
How does an average person represent a Holy Warrior? I wonder what makes these subjects especially qualified for this role. Maybe it was all just a joke… but the technique of the artist seems to override any lack of commitment. Carefully textured. Velvet surfaces. Meticulous detail. I realize whoever these friends are and however mundane they seem to be, they have become holy through several intersecting imaginations.