Ruben Ochoa and Cam La
Ain’t No Green Without Brown, 2023
Vegetation, Ropa de Campesino (farmworkers clothing)
with community support from Celebration-Nation.org and Crenshaw Dairy Mart
Ain't no Green without Brown highlights the often-ignored contributions of Latinx agricultural workers in discussions about climate solutions and eco-futures. Grounded in a question posed by the artist: “Who will be building this utopian green future?,” the work proposes that an eco-conscious economy is inextricably linked to agricultural labor, within which 92% of California field workers are of Latino descent. Rooted in Ochoa’s family history, dating back to his grandfather’s arrival in the U.S. in the 1940s as a ‘Bracero’ — part of a controversial program that addressed labor shortages by offering short-term contracts to Mexican workers for crop harvesting across the U.S. The clothes in the installation are farmworkers’ clothing, purchased directly from present-day farmers working the fields in Oxnard, CA. Ochoa set up a program providing farmers the funds for new clothing in exchange for their used clothes. These textiles, as materials for a living sculpture, host the growth of vegetation and crops — a symbolic statement on sustainable transformation and the interconnectedness of labor, nature, and renewal.
For past few decades, Ruben Ochoa has worked as an interdisciplinary artist to decouple the linkages between urban infrastructure and racial capitalism. Looking at injustice as an infrastructural problem has made rebar, concrete, metal fence posts, as well as sites like freeways and parking lots, the socio-spatial material at the heart of his practice. Whether it is the street or the museum space, his artistic interventions critique, disrupt and make perceptible the perceptual architecture that makes up our modern urban realities.