Louie and Fidel stare right through you or, perhaps, right at you. John Sonsini insists that he and his sitters create works of art together—the signature of each finds space on the back of the canvas. The collaborative relationship with Louie and Fidel, day laborers paid to sit for the painting, makes their gaze penetrate right through the artist to confront you. In central Los Angeles, Louis and Fidel’s home, merely glancing across the sharp lines of power, prestige, and privilege that crisscross the city invite psychic peril. Sustained gazes across those lines are out of the question. Through Louie and Fidel, Sonsini positions us in the gaze of the other(ized) and allows us the rare opportunity to gaze back and reflect. What lines do you hesitate to look across? Who is that, over there?
—Amon Emeka, Associate Professor, Sociology
From the exhibition: Where Words Falter: Art and Empathy (July 9 – December 18, 2022)