Marice Berger. “Lynchings in the West, Erased from History and Photos.”
Lens Blog, New York Times, Dec. 6, 2012, New York.
At first, “Disguised Bandit” — a life-size reproduction of a century-old postcard by Ken Gonzales-Day — does not suggest anything out of the ordinary. A sparse tree cuts the center of the photograph. A group of white American soldiers flanks the tree. One man grins. The others stare passively into the camera.
But the meaning — and the power — of the image (Slide 3) resides not in what’s visible, but in what’s not: the “disguised bandit” suggested by the inscription at the bottom of the postcard. In the context of Mr. Gonzales-Day’s art, the word “disguised” is fraught with irony: the artist has altered the photograph, digitally erasing the “criminal,” who in the original scene is a brutalized corpse dangling from the tree.
“Disguised Bandit” is part of Mr. Gonzales-Day’s “Erased Lynching” series, which also includes similarly altered photomurals based on postcards, souvenir cards and published photographs of mob violence that were widely circulated and collected in the United States from the late 19th century through the 1930s. “Disguised Bandit,” like the other works in the series, upends expectations about the geography and targets of lynching: its location is the American West, not the Deep South, and its victims are Mexican, not African-American…