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Young Spartan


digital paint over scanned imagery

variable dimensions, horizontal orientation

edition of 1

Young Spartan is inspired by a childhood photograph of my uncle, Ramon O. Unson. He is the grandson and namesake of Ramon Ochoa, my great grandfather who was brought to the 1904 World's Fair to serve as a waiter and guide on the Philippine Reservation. The composition is painted over a newspaper clipping about an Igorot boy in the exhibit who is taught to use a typewriter.


My family’s story demonstrates how effective the Philippine Exhibit was as a tactic of psychological warfare, deployed to erase the country’s native cultures and colonize them with American values. David Francis, President of the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, said that the exhibits at the fair were explicitly designed to teach capitalism as a form of racial progress.


William Taft, then the Governor-General of the Philippines called the fair “a very great influence on completing the pacification of the Philippines.” Invading the islands created a new market for American goods, opened access to the archipelago’s natural resources, and provided a chance to “civilize” more laborers, while still denying its people any benefits of U.S. citizenship.


This painting is a commentary on how the World Fairs around America in the early 1900's served the imperialist-capitalist agenda by making palatable America's Sparta-like military conquest. It is also a reference to the non-presence of people of color as protagonists in the canon of art history.

Collection: Lacunae


Johnson, Walter, The Largest Human Zoo in World History, Lapham's Quarterly, 2020


Cole, Myke, The Sparta Fetish is a Cultural Cancer, 2019

Degas, Edgar, Young Spartans Exercising, 1860

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