DIFFICULT TO SWALLOW
In June 2012, Lucero created one-hundred-two paintings under the project title Difficult to Swallow: Recherche Summer(ee). The entire series of paintings was completed over a three-week span shortly after Lucero was diagnosed with a stress-induced swallowing ailment called dysphagia.
As a means to avoid taking medication to alleviate the problem, Lucero assigned himself a very specific painting project in the hopes of recuperating something that—prior to the dysphagia diagnosis—he ignored as “second nature”. For Lucero—an academically trained painter who at the time was practicing more as a polyglot conceptual artist—painting as a “recovered act” paralleled this suddenly urgent task of re-teaching himself how to do something (learning how to swallow again) that previously required no active thinking or exterior assistance in order to happen.
The formal and conceptual rules for this project’s process were simple but firm; and Lucero used these tight parameters as a type of “prescription” in order to make the work’s execution as painless and clear as possible. All one hundred and two paintings were systematically made on 12” x16” mass produced canvases, painted vertically, and painted strictly with acrylic and graphite. On one particular canvas a puddle of juice was incorporated and manipulated to form a halo-like shape, but that was the only instance of non-acrylic interruption in the entire series. In addition to the material rules, Lucero worked on all the paintings at the same time, shuffling through them intermittently. The self-imposed “constant painting” rule was instated in order to avoid interruptions in the painting activity, effectively eliminating prolonged contemplative moments where things like labor, quality, seriousness, or conceptual completeness would inevitably insist on being considered.
This series of works can be exhibited in many different ways since it is intentionally modular. In 2012 the series was shown as a whole and in parts at Collaboraction (96 paintings @ YO SOLO), The Krannert Art Museum (48 paintings @ Art + Design Faculty Exhibit), and The Evanston Art Center (7 paintings @ Evanston Art Center Biennial). At the 2012 Evanston Biennial the seven paintings from Difficult to Swallow that were exhibited were shown under the title, Deskilling Propriety. This title is a play on the germinal text by the educational theorist Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society (1970). For Lucero, an artist, professor, and researcher at The University of Illinois, painting (as well as many other art actions) falls tenuously into a liminal gap that presents itself simultaneously as a research and production opportunity. That middle-space can be equally social and personal; educational and activist; and ultimately somatic, while philosophical. For Lucero painting is a language and as such its poetic potential allows for it to be re-conceptualized, re-enacted, and even re-pedagogized.