Reviews can be as scarce as collectors in today’s art scene. Emerging artists get critical attention where they can. Victor Ochoa, a 25-year-old grad student in sculpture in Champaign, got some last December from Lieutenant Nelson of the University of Illinois Police Department’s Firearms Training Unit. Published under the letterhead of the Department of Campus Safety and Risk Management, Division of Police Services, Investigator Roy Acree reported: “I inspected Mr. Ochoa’s art project on 12-11-92 and have determined that the homemade weapons in the condition in which I observed them are not operable and can be put on display if they are secured in some manner.”

Now tethered to the wall at Randolph Street Gallery through April 10, Ochoa’s four crude steel guns titled Bang, Long, Fire, and Lack Of lie on the floor like artifacts of an Iron Age playground. In manufacturing these pieces, Ochoa made them operable at one stage, but finished them as “not operable.” Ochoa wants to “investigate the question of power and the acquisition of it through the use of deadly force or the threat of such force.”

Ochoa grew up on the streets of El Paso, steeped in Texas gun culture. One summer during high school he worked selling guns in a store in Dallas. Four members of the family next door were murdered by guns. Ochoa later created a four-walled mazelike crime scene. The locations of corpses were outlined with bullets. Fifteen live rats ran around inside the installation, chewing the slugs off the casings of the live ammo. No casualties resulted, but Ochoa got his bachelor of fine arts.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photos/Bill Stamets.