Reynold de la Cruz’s “Every war is different, every war is the same” was born out of chaos––the chaos of the world around him, and the chaos inherent in every aspect of life. Every living person and creature faces a battle. Man’s first opponent is himself as he struggles to make decisions, with his conscience being the most formidable adversary.
This truth underscores de la Cruz’s work in the exhibit, with conflict centered at the heart of it. Symbols of destruction and anarchy––an atom bomb going off, an obscene gesture, a loaded firearm––contrast with otherwise innocent and youthful cartoonish imagery.
He overlays familiar characters of our youth like Spongebob and Yosemite Sam atop photographs of classical sculptures and beautiful women, often engaged in what the most prudent of society would consider licentious acts.
Despite the work’s sometimes antagonistic imagery, the show adopts a sentimental angle with the piece “Mona Lisa New.” Its title refers to the fact that when de la Cruz was young, it was Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa that first exposed him to the world of painting.
When he finally got to visit the Louvre Museum last June 2022, he was able to see the painting in person, but the impression it left on de la Cruz has changed. Instead, the piece opened his eyes to the liberal nature of art in Europe, and the freedom of expression that’s been granted to artists since then, which has inspired him to hold steadfast with his advocacies.
One glimpse at the work and it’s no surprise that de la Cruz takes inspiration from pop art icons like Banksy, Andy Warhol, and Roy Lichtenstein. Each of whose work challenges the traditions of fine art, borrowing images from popular and mass culture, as de la Cruz does.
The juxtapositions in each piece communicates the warfare that goes beyond an exchange of fire. There are battles for survival––in hospitals, among the poor, and the suffering. There are disputes between tradition and modernity, between the conservative and liberated. Discord is rooted at the heart of society, manifesting itself in different forms and eventually revealing itself in de la Cruz’s work.