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Tijuana Museum Hosts First Exhibition By American Artist In 15 Years

Credit: Mark Bryce

Above: "The Flame," a painting by San Diego artist Mark Bryce, features an Uncle Sam hat sitting on a blue box with a dimly lit candle in the foreground.

The Centro Cultural de Tijuana this week opened its first exhibition of an American artist in more than a decade, part of an effort to stimulate more cross-border cultural exchange in a turbulent time for U.S.-Mexico relations.

The exhibition, titled "Love and War," features 23 paintings by San Diego-based artist Mark Bryce. It opened Thursday evening, just over a week before CECUT celebrates its 35th anniversary.

Bryce's paintings make heavy use of American iconography, including collages with copies of "American Gothic," "Washington Crossing the Delaware" and the photo of American Marines raising the flag on Iwo Jima. One painting replicates a photograph of two smiling young women sitting on the hood of a Chevrolet. Bryce found the photo in a junk shop in Ocean Beach.

The painting titled "The Flame" shows an Uncle Sam hat sitting on a blue box with a small lit candle in the foreground casting a dim light.

"It's rather symbolic of where, perhaps, we are in America," Bryce said of the painting. "There's a flame in the American people, and there's that spirit. So we want to keep that alive ... Being American is great, but we have to do the right thing, right?"

RELATED: Exhibit At Oceanside Museum Of Art Focuses On Border Issues

Bryce said the American imagery in his paintings are simply a reflection of who he is — he was literally born on the 4th of July. Some of his works do take a critical look at the United States, but they are not preachy.

"The paintings have less to do with politics specifically, but more to do with humanity and the challenges we all face as human beings," he said.

The human themes in Bryce's work are what led the museum to approach the artist and organize the exhibition.

"His work is very universal and has a very universal language," said CECUT Deputy Director Alan Bautista. "So I think that will appeal a lot to the public here, and they'll understand what he's trying to tell us through his work. Because it's not so different from what people here want or pursue."

Both Bautista and Bryce declined to talk directly about the effect President Donald Trump has had on U.S.-Mexico relations. But Bryce said he hoped his art would spark dialogue and introspection in all the exhibition's visitors.

"Let's keep talking, let's be friends," Bryce said. "Americans are very separate from their government. You can love your country and be American, but you don't have to agree with what your government's doing. And I think it's true for Mexican people too."

The Centro Cultural de Tijuana, or CECUT, is featuring its first exhibition of an American artist in more than a decade. The artist and the museum both hope it will spark dialogue in a turbulent time for U.S.-Mexico relations.

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