ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project

by Drew Penner

Some came from Puerto Rico, some from China, and others arrived in the city from Chicago or Tennessee. But the images Etienne Rougery-Herbaut took of the New Yorkers he met randomly between 2016 and 2018, underscore the humanity of them all. This collection, along with the paintings of the Haitian artist Xavier Delatour, aka Samdi, form the inaugural exhibition put on by the freshest face in the DTLA Arts District, Brannan Mason Gallery. It explores the reality that beauty isn’t contingent on your immigration status and puts its money where its mouth is. After all, a portion of the proceeds will go to support the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Southern California’s Immigrants’ Rights Project. Gallery founder Brannan Mason has pledged to donate at least 10 percent of the gallery’s artwork sales to deserving non-profits in the days to come.

Xavier draws inspiration from Pablo Picasso’s cubist period, in a language that can trace its lineage to Jean-Michel Basquiat, while Rougery-Herbaut probably still has the scars from being knocked unconscious while photographing a street protest as a youth. Mason, for his part grew up in Nairobi, Seoul and Bangkok. So while the images in Rougery-Herbaut’s snaps may have a limited scope, the overall message of the show is brimming with global relevance. It sure doesn’t hurt the show’s ability to translate the concerns of often voiceless subjects to a wider audience, that Rougery-Herbaut interned with renowned street artist JR, ultimately becoming his head of production. It’s why the four eyes of the children in the Harlem Twins painting beam past the frenetic white scratches, vivid red, yellows and pink smears, and far beyond the solid grid pattern, in the remix done by Samdi of one Rougery-Herbaut photo.

CORNERSTONE: Etienne Rougery-Herbaut and Samdi March 2–March 30, 2019

1923 S. Santa Fe Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90021

Opening Reception: Saturday, March 2, 6-9pm