The 10 $1 bills that make up From a Whisper to a Scream (2012) read like instructions in origami. From left to right, each bill is progressively folded up, step by step, into the shape of a gun. Both a scream and a whisper are capable of conveying the same content, if at drastically different decibels, the artist proposes. The folded guns suggest that United States currency carries with it an implicit violence. Though ordinarily barely audible, Capistran’s lucid permutations make that violence loud and clear.
White Minority, is typical of Capistran’s sampling of high art genres and living subcultures in which the artist subsumes an object’s high art pedigree within a vernacular art form. Here, Capistran humorously remixes the form and style of Frank Stella’s Black Paintings with California punk rock band Black Flag’s song title and logo (created by artist Raymond Pettibon). White Minority, then, appropriates, recontextualizes, and riffs on language and visual signs to unmoor notions of identity, power, and revolution.
The Breaks reflects Capistran’s interests in sampling and fusing different cultural, social, and historical sources. Growing up in an African-American community in Los Angeles, Capistran has long been influenced by hip-hop culture. The photographs in this print document him surreptitiously breakdancing on Carl Andre’s iconic lead floor piece after the guards at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art have left the gallery. Each of the twenty-five frames depicts a classic breakdance move.
Born in Guadalajara, Mexico, and raised in South Central Los Angeles, Juan Capistran was undocumented until midway through grade school. As a teenager he gravitated toward graffiti, punk rock, reggae, house music, and DJ culture as tools for crafting a hybrid identity. His work has diverse influences, from Malcolm X to Led Zeppelin and Richard Serra, and it quotes keenly and democratically, from gang colors to minimalist forms.