Paper Tigers...from a whisper to a scream
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. From a Whisper to a Scream is also the title of a 1987 horror film (also called The Offspring), in which a historian describes a series of gruesome murders that take place in a small town, the seeming center of an incomprehensibly evil force. In this case, the treacherous power is shown to be ubiquitous—the foundation of an economy that permeates everything and leaves no one untouched.
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.