Reviewed by Lani Asher
December 2, 2019
Joe Lewis’s show at No Nada Galeria, “Ferrocarril Subterraneo,” links the storied Underground Railroad to the contemporary journey of refugees fleeing violence today in the Americas. Woodcuts of slave ships and their human cargo from the 1800s show the brutal Middle Passage, a touchstone for many African-American artists. Lewis sources images of the U.S.-Mexico border from the Internet, executes them as diagrammatic woodcuts, prints digital enhancements of them on unframed white linen, and accents them with embroidery. The jagged edges of the linen and the handwork give a human dimension to this No Man’s Land of border patrols, bodies hidden inside trucks, surveillance equipment, fences, immigrant tent cities, and deserts along the Rio Grande.
Joe Lewis’s handsome work points to both the depth of human suffering and the incandescent hope for a better life. Each work helps the viewer navigate a way through the darkness, using beauty, tragedy, and history as guideposts.