Eric Campbell

Guest Writer

Students walking near Slocum of late have been treated to the sight of a colorful mural on the Whitney Electric building across the street. At first glance, the mural appears to many to be nothing more than an ad for a carpet store, but in reality it is tackling complex themes ranging from consumerism to the frustrations of Native Americans.

The work itself was commissioned by Colorado College, and was done by graffiti artist Jaque Fragua, as a part of the I.D.E.A. (InterDisciplinary Experimental Arts) program’s latest exhibition, Rhythm Nations. I.D.E.A. is a CC program that describes itself as: “exploring the big ideas through visual arts, performance, events, and conversation.” Rhythm Nations is the current exhibit, which began in late March and ends in early May. The exhibit features many forms of art, from spoken-word to pieces such as Fragua’s, all of which are centered on the theme of exploring hip-hop and urban culture.

Fragua’s mural on Whitney Electric is heavily connected to his Native-American roots. Students tasked with interviewing Fragua about the piece for the exhibit explain in detail the layers behind the work: “he (Fragua) stylizes Native American rug patterns from various tribes. Similar to the way in which distinct tribal patterns are often clumped together in trading posts as ‘American Indian,’ Fragua utilizes multiple rug patterns as a commentary on the tendency to see Native Americans as one homogenous group. Notice the barcode at the top of the rugs. The vertical black and white lines that accompany the sets of zeroes and ones represent Fragua’s frustration as a Native American in the United States, feeling like he’s ‘just a census number.”’

Fragua is one of four artists currently on display in cornerstone, the others being Ruben Aguirre, iROZEALb, and Kelly Monico. Like Fragua, Aguirre’s background is in street art and graffiti. Aguirre is responsible for the mural on the walls of the main floor of Cornerstone. Meanwhile, Monico: “examines the formation of cultural and personal identities through the study of patterns in human behavior,” as described by I.D.E.A. head Jessica Hunter-Larsen. For Rhythm Nations, Monico studied various female MCs, creating a program that visualizes female rapper’s usage of the terms “bitch” and “hoe.” The program creates stunning visual patterns, which are transferred onto prints currently on display at the exhibit. Then there’s iROZEALb, a painter known for his mash-ups of African American hip-hop and Japanese art that seek to: “reflect the complexities of the perpetually elusive moving target that is cultural identity,” described Larsen.

Rhythm Nations other recent events include hosting performance poet Joshua Bennett and the local rap group The Reminders. There is still more to come. The exhibit ends on May 8.

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