On Cinco de Mayo, I was asked by Tanteo Tequila to judge a unique art competition in search of the top three rising stars in the NYC art world that are of Mexican descent. Even though I’m not Mexican, I’ve always had such respect and admiration for the culture, so I felt honored to be a part of this. And it just so happens that one of my favorites, Michael Pribich, was a winner—along with Martha Clippinger and Doraelia Ruiz.
Originally from California, Michael has been exhibiting his art throughout the world for 25 years. His work, which focuses on the social and spiritual conditions of underrepresented groups and marginalized communities, has received multiple awards, including a Fulbright Award. His "A Mexican in Every Kitchen" series, for which he was named one of the winners of the Tanteo Art Contest, reflects the nature of his art and the universality of cocineros in New York's culinary world. "Seeing Mexicans working in New York City inspires me a great deal," he says.
Here, a bit from Michael himself about the work:
My Mother’s family emigrated two generations ago from Mexico. Our family crossed at the Texas border, lived in Colorado and then eventually settled in California. In the 21st century, this frontier passage is an ongoing story—an immigration struggle and a life struggle that continues to unfold every single day. Constantly redefining itself, this fluid America is history made as we speak. The kitchen workers I see remind me of this ongoing effort and the layers of inherent meaning. The Hood drawings symbolize the hidden layers of struggle inherent in the complex lives of kitchen workers…
During the presidential race prior to the Great Depression of 1930, Herbert Hoover included the following in his campaign slogan: “A chicken in every pot. A car in every garage.” This was the Republican Party’s promise that average Americans could and should have a middle-class life. Hoover’s words hold an enduring myopic optimism with a dubious caveat: provided there is a “Mexican in Every Kitchen.” In other words, the hidden working class of immigrant, undocumented and underrecognized workers who provide the backbone of this economy are absolutely essential for almost everything we do in America.
This effort, this toil, is work that nobody else wants to do and is routinely completed with a salary and working condition that citizens here would not tolerate. These drawings show a link between America’s insatiable need for growth and prosperity supplied by an immigrant labor force. Americans would not have their “chicken in every pot” without the hidden working class to provide it. This is the America that I see.