Miguel Arzabe's Occupy Space

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Occupy Space is a large, painted, canvas banner hanging in the Oakland Museum of California’s art gallery. The artist is Miguel Arzabe, a San Francisco-based artist who possesses numerous degrees including an MFA from UC Berkeley (www.miguelarzabe.net). Arzabe used an unspecified type of paint (I suspect acrylic due to the appearance of the paint and its quick drying time), ink, paper, and masking tape in the creation of this painting. Occupy Space is a piece of art that is inherently tied to the Occupy Wall Street movement of 2011 in both content and form. What initially drew me to this piece was how visually loud and attention-grabbing it is, and the refreshing quality of seeing something so rough around the edges in an art museum. It is…show more content…
The depth of field is very flat, and realistic lighting and illusionistic perspective are not the priority here. The dominant elements of this piece are shape and line. The image can be divided roughly into thirds; the left, middle, and right as I will refer to them. In the left section, there is a set of three interconnected buildings in space with collaged cutouts of spaceships and shuttles departing. Implied lines are formed by the direction that the ships are facing. Most swoop off to the right of the piece, which works with the Western tendency to want to read from left to right. The middle third shows more images of spaceships leaving the buildings. The ships are facing towards the right, and the artist has used overlapping and size differences to give the illusion that some ships are farther away than others. In the right-hand third of the image, there are a few ships heading towards the planet Jupiter, known by its distinctive red spot. The color scheme of the piece seems to be arbitrary or symbolic, with the deep blue of the background being the largest area of a single color. There are also areas of rusty browns, lime green, sky blue, gray, pink, and other small spots of color popping through in the collaged images. The most attention-grabbing feature of the piece is in the lower right-hand section. Masking tape has been applied to the…show more content…
Feminist, art historian, and activist Ariella Aronstam-Powers said that one of the purposes of art at the Occupy Oakland protests was “visually communicating critical themes, including questions of student debt, community access to social services, and corporate greed” (qtd. in Bryan-Wilson). Art can serve as an expression of why the movement exists, and what the individual artist thinks is important about the movement or their personal connection to it. Here, one of the themes that the artist is grappling with is the continual nature of inequality. Arzabe says that the story behind this piece is that it shows a scene taking place 1000 years in the future on a fictitious Mars colony; humanity is still subject to the same problems it is now, and the very rich are able to escape these problems by flying off to Jupiter in their spaceships (Oakland Museum of California). It shows the discontent that caused the Occupy movement to become a rallying cry. If this is the premise, then the buildings in the left-hand side of the painting and the images of people within them represent those who get left behind when the rich flee their

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