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Category Archives: Temporary Exhibits

Day of the Dead – A True Celebration of Life

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Mexico’s Day of the Dead festivities are so unique that the UNESCO declared this holiday “intangible cultural heritage” in 2003 (inscribing it in 2008). A glimpse into this colorful blending of pre-Hispanic ritual with European religion and traditions provides an insight as to how Mexican’s view not only death but also life!

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Dia de los Muertos is a two-day period where Mexican families honor their deceased loved ones. It is a window of opportunity, lasting 24 hours for deceased children on November 1st (actually beginning at midnight on October 31st and referred to as All Saint’s Day), and 24 hours for deceased adults on November 2nd (All Soul’s Day). It is believed that the spirits of the dead return home for a short visit during that time span.

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Personalized altars or ofrendas are prepared with much care, thought and love to welcome relatives and friends back to Earth.

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Among the most common elements placed on these altars is the fragrant cempasuchitl (orange marigold flowers), with the belief that the flower petals combined with copal incense (a natural tree resin which gives off an unmistakably pungent scent) purify the altar and attract the souls through their aroma.

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Candles light the path for the deceased in transit.

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Religious images and crosses incorporate Christian elements.

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Candies and toys are set out for the deceased children, while tequila, beer or mezcal (whatever the favorite libation of the deceased was) and typical foods (such as mole, fruits, tamales) are lovingly provided for more sophisticated adult tastes.

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Water and salt are also prevalent – basic elements for life.

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Photos and/or drawings of the deceased, along with whimsical sugar skulls are combined to make the decoration of each ofrenda unique, be it humble and makeshift or rich and elaborate – all in tribute to those no longer inhabiting the Earth.

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Ancient pre-hispanic tradition blends well with popular culture. Death was an integral part of life in Mesoamerican cultures. There were several festivities reported by Spanish chroniclers on their arrival to the New World. According to Sixteenth-century Spanish Monk Diego de Duran the actual dates the mexicas dedicated to the dead were moved to coincide with the Catholic calendar.

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It is not by chance that Day of the Dead falls at the end of the agricultural cycle. Mexico up until recently has been a predominantly agricultural society, with corn – the main staple of the average Mexican diet – central not only to local cuisine but to the culture itself. Halloween, celebrated one day before Day of the Dead, is rooted in the ancient traditions of the Celtic Druids (Samhain), which also holds that spirits return on this day, marking the start of a fallow period of the soil, when the land is put to rest.

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The main difference between these two holidays, both entrenched in ancient native agricultural societies, is that Halloween is laced with fear and concern over the returning malevolent spirits (which is why children were dressed in costumes – to confuse the spirits and protect the kids), while Dia de los Muertos is a joyful celebration, viewed more as a family get-together with transitory spirits.

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The focus of Dia de los Muertos is not solemn or gloomy. Actually, the bright colors, whimsical decorations and fragrant aromas set the scene for what is considered a serious yet festive occasion, all of these elements contributing to guide the deceased relatives and loved ones home or back to the cemetery where they were laid to rest. That is why cemeteries become the site of overnight vigils and partying. It is common, particularly in rural Mexico, that families spend the night at the graveside, on the watch for the visits spirits. At this time of year, it is common to see groups picnicking, dinner may be served with alcohol, while reminiscing to the backdrop of local music or mariachi serenades. Without a doubt, the annual gathering is one of joy and happiness rather than sadness and sorrow.

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The teeming metropolis of Mexico City, where Halloween-influenced decorations of pumpkins, witches, ghosts and spiders have become more and more prevalent every year, may seem far removed from rural and indigenous communities, yet there has been a revival of this vivid holiday. There are noticeable variations depending on the region

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There is much to do and see in the capital as well as around the country. Try the pan de muerto, a special sweet bun of sorts, topped with a cross-bone motif. Taste a calavera sugar skull (a reflection a fusion of cultures, since although human skulls abound in prehispanic cultures, sugar was brought to the New World by the Spaniards, making for an all inclusive and whimsical invention) or its more recently invented chocolate or amaranth cousins. The whimsical sugar skulls can be purchased at virtually any local market or even supermarket. Many vendors are happy to label them, upon request, with the names of your friends and family members! Buy the vibrant hand (or machine) cut tissue paper banners complete with images of friendly skeletal couples. Check out the altars that abound everywhere – literally on the street, in office vestibules, museums, supermarkets, malls and even in churches.

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This holiday has melded into an amalgamation of cultural as well as religious festivity, expressing the spirit of life as much as that of death. Where else can you experience the blending of prehispanic customs with Christian nuances, fused together to applaud life?

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NOTE:  All of the photos included in this blog were taken by me this 2013 Day of the Dead holiday.

If you would like to use them, feel free but please give me due credit.

 

 

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Stones from Heaven – Stunning carvings of Jade and Jadite from Ancient Civilizations of Mesoamerica and China

Jade, more correctly – Jadeite,  was prehispanic Mexico’s diamonds. This green stone was no less valuable in Asian cultures. “Stones from Heaven: Civilizations of Jade” offers a glimpse into both the ritual and decorative aspects of what was once, and continues to be, a highly prized stone in both Mesoamerica and China. The 220 pieces on display at this relatively small but highly illustrative exhibit currently on at the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City is one not to be missed.

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A Mexica (central Mexico culture, late post-classical period) rendition of a human heart, carved out out green stone. And remember that the Mexicas  who practiced human sacrifice knew a thing or two about human anatomy!! (24.2 x 20.9 x 14.1 cm) Photo: National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City.

Called “yu” in Chinese, “chalchihuitl” in Nahuatl, and “ya’ax chin hun” in Mayan, the term “jade” loosely refers to a variety of metamorphic green stones including jadeites and nephrites (a distinction best left for geologists and gemologists to differentiate) – all of which were of great value to early civilizations. Varying in size, craftsmanship and hues, the pieces showcased were hand-picked from hundreds of pieces crafted by the ancient cultures of China and Mexico.

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The Chinese items are on loan from the Forbidden City’s Chinese Imperial Palace Museum (of Beijing) marking the framework of the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Mexico and the People’s Republic of China. The Mexican objects have been culled from collections of the Olmec civilization, Teotihuacan culture, Mexica and Maya zones (borrowed from the National Museum of Anthropology), Teotihuacan, the Regional Museum of Yucatan, the Regional Museum of Campeche, the INAH in Veracruz, the Regional Museum of Tabasco, the Templo Mayor Museum and the Anthropology Museum of Xalapa).

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An elaborate funeral mask of Yuhkno’m Yihch’aak K’ahk’ (translated as Jaguar Claw) Maya Calakmul ruler (from Campeche, classical period). Mosaic work made principally from jadeite, shell and obsidian. Ca. 695 d.C., 28.2 x 21.5 cm. Photo: National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City.

All are stunning. The displays are divided into five principal themes touching on the characteristics of jade/jadeite and the techniques of working with these stones; the rituals involving jade/jadeite and its aesthetics; jade/jadeite as a symbol of power and the last segment of the exhibit shows evidence of how it was believed that jade/jadeite accompanied people into the after-world, both in Mesoamerican and Chinese cultures. The use of funeral masks in ancient Mexico is illustrated with a spectacular piece from the tomb of Calakmul’s great ruler Jaguar Claw, dating back to the late 7th century.

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Jade Mountain, from the Qing Dynasty (1736-1795), 51 x 51.5 cm. Photo: National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City.

The oldest item shown is a piece from China – shaped like a ring – calculated to be close to 7,000 years old.

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Prismatic Tube (Cong), carved from grayish-green jade. Liangzhu Culture dating back to the Neolithic Period (3200 BC -2200 BC), 31 x 7.5 x 7.5 cm. Photo: National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City.

The array of carved items, range from utilitarian pieces such as incense burners, arrow heads, musical instruments and jewelry, to sculptures of animals, humans and scenes, provide viewers with an ample selection of styles, uses, materials and symbols. It is fascination how these two unrelated early civilizations showed parallel esteem for this naturally occurring ornamental stone.

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Jadeite treasures from K’inich Hanaab Pakal’s tomb on permanent exhibit at the museum in the Mayan Hall (Maya civilization, classical period). Photo: Lynda Martinez del Campo

Ironically the color green has taken on a renewed relevance today. Whether it be nephrite or jadite from Asia or the Americas, this exhibit curiously reminded me that the color green, symbolizing life and vitality for early agricultural societies, has come full circle. Given our 21st century environmental sensitivities, once again the color green has become not only pertinent but fashionable to our cultural – with people “thinking green,” and activist groups baring names such as Green Peace or Partido Verde (a Mexican political party).  Whether you are an environmentalist or not, be sure to catch this unusual collection which shows how two unrelated civilizations held such a high regard for this rare, natural stone.

The National Museum of Anthropology is in Chapultepec Park, Mexico City. It is open to the public from Tuesday to Sunday, 9 am to 7 pm. General entrance fee is $57 pesos.

 

King Tut Visiting Downtown Mexico City

The UNAM's Palace of Autonomy hosting the temporary exhibit of King Tutankhamen

King Tutankhamen is visiting Mexico City! Over 200 reproductions of artifacts found in 1922 by British archaeologist Howard Carter are on display in a temporary exhibit entitled “Tutankhamen: The Tomb, The Gold and The Pharaoh’s Curse,” at the Palacio de Autonomia (a UNAM-run museum site tucked away in a well conserved 19th century neo-classical building).

King Tut in all his glory

Copies of original objects housed in the Museum of Egyptian Antiquities in Cairo aim to duplicate the splendors of King Tut’s tomb. The funeral rituals, process of mummification and customs of ancient Egypt have little in common with pre-Hispanic Mexico. King Tut is believed to have ruled Egypt from 1334 to 1325 B.C. – way before the Mexica’s arrived to the swamplands of downtown Mexico, where the exhibition is housed. The treasures seem foreign, somewhat forced and out-of-place at first, until one passes through the first introductory section and becomes involved in the ambiance of the Pharaoh’s burial setting.

Reproduction of a burial found in King Tut's tomb

Capturing the extravagance of the mortuary chamber of King Tut, located in the Valley of the Kings on the West Bank of Luxor, is no easy task. Although some of the artifacts are noticeable copies, the majority are exceptionally well-crafted, making using the same techniques and material – including gold – as the original ones.

A sampling of exquisite jewelry which was found in King Tut's tomb in 1922 by Howard Carter

Unlike the previous mega-hits of “Pharaoh: The Sun Cult in Ancient Egypt” Exhibit or “Isis and the Feathered Serpent” both record-breaking expositions housed in the National Museum of Anthropology a few years back – with an obligatory 2-3 hour wait to get in), this exhibit is easily accessible and aims to combine art and entertainment, reproducing not only the wonder of a royal Egyptian burial but fostering mystique which shrouded the discovery itself.

A partial view of the King Tut exhibit on temporary display downtown Mexico City

The legend of the evil spell cast on the early explorers, intertwined with the revelation of the riches of the boy king itself is so deeply embedded in history, that it is a standard scenes in Ripley’s Believe it or Not Museum! Needless to say, there was no curse. Archaeologist Howard Carter, who unearthed the cache, lived till the ripe old age of 65 (in the 20s that was considered old age!), surviving 17 years after his find.

The reproductions were made with painstaking care, using similar materials and techniques as the originals, in attempts to re-create the details of the objects found in King Tut's tomb

Do not expect a dry, scientific, conventional display – this is more of a trip back in time, a-la-Disney, with a play of light and sound to further dramatize the setting and the magic associated with the site. Yet, the exhibit is based on fact, including an explanation of techniques of mummification, and a representative selection of mortuary masks, the sarcophagus, a throne, jewelry, a royal diadem, a funeral Canopus vessel, and much more.

The gilded wall with detailed Egyptian hieroglyphs and decorations

The exhibit is small, divided into four main rooms: the first focuses on religion, funeral rites and the process of mummification used in ancient Egypt; the second highlights several of the most outstanding troves of the tomb including guardian statues, the God Anubis, and a golden casket; the third hall showcases the four monumental gold reliquaries which protected the Pharaoh’s sarcophagus, and the sarcophagus itself; and the last room is a recreation of King Tut’s tomb with a reproduction of the sarcophagus and coffin which housed Tutankhamen’s mummified body.

Life-sized proportions give the exhibit a dramatic, theater-like sense

Somewhat expensive for the average Mexican museum ticket ($80 pesos), this reflects a noticeable trend in ticket price-hikes at UNAM-affiliated exhibits (San Ildefonso is another example of this), which is unfortunate, since it is just one more excuse for people not to visit the many cultural offerings of the city – the ticket costs more that the daily minimum wage in Mexico City – certainly unfordable for the average Mexican household. However, for those who will never have the opportunity to travel to Luxor to see the original tomb or Cairo to witness King Tut’s mask or the treasures of the Pharaoh’s burial, this the second best!

For those who won't have the opportunity to visit the real thing in Egypt, this is the second best!

By the way, the income from ticket sales are earmarked for university scholarships according to Rafael Moreno Valle, chairman of the UNAM Foundation, organizer of the exhibit. The Tutankhamen Exhibit is in the Palace of Autonomy (Palacio de la Autonomia de la UNAM) which is open every day of the week, Monday through Saturday 10am to 6pm, Sunday 10 am to 4 pm; entrance fee to this temporary exhibit is $80 pesos; Lic. Primo de Verdad 2 (next to the Templo Mayor, access from Moneda Street).

King Tut's famous funeral mask, stunningly reproduced

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VIDA: The Textured Work of Juanita Pérez

Colombian-Mexican artist, Juanita Pérez in front of two of her works that are part of VIDA, an exhibit at Casa Lamm

Juanita Pérez is an extremely talented, unique artist. Her work is unlike that of any other artist I have seen. It projects her life – layers upon layer of elements built up to produce the final oeuvre, which emits a strong, sensual, energetic message. Her art is hard to describe in words. It is complicated, yet at the same time simple.

Three pieces that are part of her current exhibit

It is a collage of sorts, but not in the traditional sense of cut-out figures, pasted on a stark background. Juanita combines textures, patterns and diverse materials, telling her story in canvases covered with paper, textiles, oil colors and much more. Colombian-born, she formally studied art in the United States before making Mexico her permanent home. Her life narrative is reflected in the dynamics of her work – vivid, colorful, active, complex, rich, profound, coherent and vibrant.

An rich combination of colors, textures and materials makes Juanita's work unique

Many people shy away from abstract art since, unlike figurative art where forms and figures are clearly identifiable, abstract art leaves the viewer much leeway to interact and interpret the pieces – which is often uncomfortable for the neophyte. Juanita reassured me that this is exactly the point of this genre. The viewers “in abstract art have more opportunities of interpretation and freedom to invent their own stores.”  She hopes that her art is a trigger for the viewers to immerse themselves in their own dreams and adapt her images to their own emotional imprints.”  Thus, there is no correct or incorrect way of interpreting art.  According to the visual artist, art is free and open.

Luna y Viento (The Moon and the Wind), a mixed technique (144cm x 168 cm)

Her current exhibit, entitled “VIDA” or “LIFE” is on display at Casa Lamm, a unique Cultural Center which combines classes, workshops, exhibits and a variety of cultural activities. I have a soft spot in my heart for Casa Lamm, since that is where I began my current career as historian-guide-teacher over a decade ago!

Cosas y pensamientos nocturnos (Things and Nocturnal Thoughts), a six piece collection (each 43 cm x 43 cm)

VIDA contemplates and reflects on certain aspects of Pérez’s life and memories. To project these, the catalogue of this show explains that “she has chosen to use (papel picado) to symbolize festivals, remembrances, sacred rituals and childhood. The telling of stories, elaborate games, remembrances of things past, are concealed in the intricate patterns and colors of this integral and powerful manifestation of Mexican life.”

Juanita and I at her exhibit entitled VIDA (or LIFE)

A personal concern of mine is how attached the artist becomes to her pieces. In fact, in previous work, Juanita has included elements as intimate as passports, photos and maps, which are an extension of her very personal life, yet she insists that she is only attached to her work during the process of painting. After she has finished a piece, she lets it go.

Pedacitos de cielo y agua (Pieces of the Sky and Water) showcased on the catalogue cover of VIDA (145 cm x 105 cm)

Be sure to check out Juanita’s latest work at Casa Lamm, which is divided on two floors of the gallery.  And good news – the show (originally scheduled to close January 4th) will be extended until January 20th, 2012!  Her pieces will be available for private viewing after that date, so be sure to drop by Casa Lamm for an uplifting visual treat!

 

Day of the Dead is for the Living!

Day of the Dead festivities are so unique in Mexico that UNESCO has deemed them Intangible Cultural Heritage!

Day of the Dead festivities are so unique in Mexico that UNESCO declared this holiday “Intangible Cultural Heritage” in 2003 (and inscribed it in 2008).  A glimpse into this colorful blending of pre-Hispanic ritual with European religion provides an insight as to how Mexican’s view not only death but also life!

This year's altar at the Dolores Olmedo Museum, dedicated to Olmedo and her mother Maria Patiño Suarez

Día de los Muertos is a special period where families are unite with their deceased loved ones.  It is an annual window of opportunity, lasting 24 hours for deceased children on November 1st (actually beginning at midnight on October 31st and referred to as All Saint’s Day by the Catholic Church) and 24 hours for deceased adults on November 2nd (All Soul’s Day), when it is believed that all the spirits of departed return to Earth for a visit home.

Festive paper mache skeletons playing marimba music!

Personalized altars or ofrendas are prepared with much care and thought to welcome them back.  The most common elements include the fragrant cempasuchtil -orange marigold flowers-  and vibrant red cockscomb, as well as copal incense to purify the altar and attract the returning souls.  Candles light the path for the animas to these offerings; religious images (pictures of saints, Virgins, etc.) and crosses incorporate Christian elements; tequila, cigarettes and the favorite foods (such as mole, a typical dish often served at parties) of the succumbed are set out for the more sophisticated adult tastes, whereas toys and candies are placed on the altars to lure children home.

Candies and toys are set out to allure young children back home

Water and salt are musts for the traditional ofrenda (but often forgotten in more modern settings).  Photos or drawings of the deceased and whimsical sugar skulls complete with humorous poems are combined with seasonal orange-blossom-infused Day of the Dead bread topped with crossbones, making the decoration, and personality, of each altar unique – whether it be humble and makeshift or profuse and elaborate – but always a tribute to those no longer inhabiting our realm.

Festivities at Frida Kahlo's Blue House Museum. This Ofrenda is dedicates to Frida (whose image is to the left in the first arch) and Diego (to the far right in the last arch)

Ancient pre-Hispanic tradition blends well with popular culture.  Death was an integral part of life in Mesoamerican cultures.  Miccailhutontli (Celebration of the Dead) and Huey Miccaihuilt were two of but many festivities reported by Spanish chroniclers on their arrival to the New World.  According to XVI century Spanish Monk Diego de Duran, the actual dates dedicated to the dead were moved by the evangelists to coincide with the Christian calendar, thus launching what continues today to be a unique, syncretic holiday.

This offering, housed in the Anahuacalli Museum, honors deceased Revolutionary Emiliano Zapata!

It is no coincidence that Day of the Dead falls at the end of the agricultural cycle.  Halloween, celebrated the day before, rooted in the ancient traditions of the Celtic Druids (Samhain) also holds that spirits return in this season, marking the start of a fallow period of the Earth, when the land is put to rest.  The main difference between these two holidays, both stemming from ancient native agricultural societies, is that Halloween is laced with fear and concern over the returning malevolent spirits (hence the costumes to confuse and trick the spirits), whereas Día de los Muertos is a joyful celebration, viewed more as a time for family reunion.

Mexican comedian and movie star Cantinflas (Mario Moreno) is honored in this altar in the building which housed the first printing press in all of the Americas

Rather than solemn or gloomy, the bright colors and fragrant aromas set the scene,helping guide the deceased spirits home or back to the cemeteries where they were laid to rest, which is why the graveyards are common partying sites.  Thus the living reminisce to the tune of local music, alcoholic beverages, abundant repast, making the annual gathering one of joy and happiness rather than sadness and sorrow.

Catrina skeletons immortalized in a Diego Rivera Mural, alluding to Jose Guadalupe Posada's controvertial political cartoons which mocked the upper class Porifirian crust

Every year the spaces dedicated to public alters change, but the colorful festivities, general tone of joy, and deeply rooted elements remain constant.  Happy Day of the Dead!

A simple, yet elegant, ofrenda in a colonial building in downtown Mexico City

 

Museo de la Estampa – NOT a Stamp Museum but a Showcase for Graphic Art

A sampling of graphic work currently on display at the Graphic Art Museum

The Museo de la Estampa (MUNAE) is NOT a museum dedicated to stamps as this false cognate might insinuate, but rather a museum devoted to graphic art, prints and engravings, inaugurated in 1986 to fill the gap in public space earmarked for graphic work.  Do not be put off by the building’s semi-abandoned, somewhat dilapidated façade, particularly in contrast to the oft visited and highly lauded neighboring Franz Mayer Museum to its left.  Both museums are located on the Plaza de la Santa Veracruz (on Hidalgo Avenue), flanked by two churches (San Juan de Dios and The Santa Veracruz Parish Church built in 1586, one of the oldest in Mexico City, from which the plaza gets its name), behind the Alameda Park, yet the Museo de la Estampa rarely gets its due of publicity, and is seldom visited.

The somewhat abandoned aspect of the building housing the Museum


Don’t miss the MUNAE’s currently show entitled “The Double Fold Dream of Art; 2RC – Between the Artist and the Artifact.”    “2RC,” for those unfamiliar with the art world, is one of the most important and well-known contemporary graphic art printing houses, founded in Italy by Valter and Eleonora Rossi. This itinerant exhibit has already toured the United States (in Chicago, Indianapolis and San Francisco) as well as Russia and Saint Petersburg, Indonesia and Japan, and includes the collective work of 40 conceptual European artists, representative of the contemporary graphic arts movement of the 60s, including Francis Bacon, Lucio Fontana, Eduardo Chillida, Henry Moore (studies for his later sculptures), Man Ray, Julian Schnabel and many, many more.

A colonial structure refurbished to house exceptional graphic work

The 160 pieces on display aim to illustrate the idea behind the title of this show.  Although many art forms are achieved solely by the artist (oil painting, sculpting, water color, etc.), graphic arts, by nature, demand a collaborative effort of many players.  This genre of art is produced through teamwork, as required by the process itself.

Another sample of the work coming from the Roman Worshop 2RC

Even if you are not a fan of contemporary art, be sure to check the MUNAE’s calendar of ongoing exhibits which rotate regularly, since the realm of graphic art is amazingly broad – encompassing pre-Hispanic art (made from clay seals which, by definition, fall under the category of print work) to pieces by Dali or Picasso, part of the museum’s permanent collection, and everything in between, including notable Mexican artists who worked in this medium such as Jose Guadalupe  Posada (known for his Catrina skeletons), and Siqueiros and Tamayo, whose works are shown sporadically.  Definitely worth a visit to the grimier northern edge of the city’s first urban park!

An upclose view of a 1980 work of Victor Pasmore

 

Colorful Sculptures Dot Drab Downtown Plaza

Sebastian's vivid sculptural oasis in downtown Mexico City

 “Sebastian in the Tower” is the name of a current public art exhibit of well-known modern Mexican sculptor Sebastian.  A series of 13 signature medium and large format sculptures, produced from 1980 to date, dot the otherwise drab open courtyard behind the Latin American Tower, hence the name of the show, which shares space with the side atrium of the San Francisco Church in bustling downtown Mexico City.  The elastic, colorful figures are on open-air display in this high pedestrian traffic zone in attempt, according to the artist, to bring his work closer to those who do not habitually frequent museums.  And given that these vibrant, free-form steel and aluminium structures can be appreciated free of charge, are easily accessible, and are hard to miss, they certainly have attracted many on-lookers.


The sculptures to the backdrop of Sanborn's House of Tiles

The names of the works are as animated as the pieces themselves: Conspicuous, Arch of Torus, Shuayo, Tzompantli, the Scorpio, etc.  Among Sebastian’s latest monumental pieces (NOT on display here) is a 60-meter tall X-shaped sculpture to be placed on the Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua – El Paso,Texas border, which will double as a look-out tower.  Why an “X”?  According to the sculptor, the letter X carries an important historic weight. It was Benito Juarez who changed the official spelling of the country from “Mejico” – which, by the way, is still used in Spain today – to “Mexico,” thus giving the nation a new identity, to reflect its true nature of a mixed (mestizo) or assimilated race.  With this latest project, the sculptor attempts to integrate observers into his art work by allowing them the option to climb the X-shaped object de art.

Perhaps Sebastian’s most recognized work is El Caballito, which crowns the busy intersection of Reforma and Avenida Juarez.  Replacing Manuel Tolsá’s famous masterpiece equestrian sculpture of Charles the IV (which was moved in front of the MUNAL Museum, gracing the plaza named after the Spanish neoclassical architect and sculptor), el Caballito doubles as a chimney for the city’s updated deep drainage system, and often spouts white billows of smoke.

The world's most elegant (and expensive) chimney!

The Chimalli Warrior, another work in process, made headlines in August, when it slipped as it was being hoisted to its new home in the Mexico City suburb of Chimalhuacán.  The 60-meter, fire-engine red sculpture, weighing 500 tons, suffered minor dents and scuffs which will require touch up work before its inauguration in 2012.  Again, as is the tendency of Sebastian’s oeurve, it will serve a double purpose – acting as an artistic landmark as well as a light beam to illuminate the zone. Costing 30 million pesos, the Chimalli Warrior required creative financing – aside from funds underwritten by the local government, donations were collected and miniature scale models of the piece were sold to cover expenses.

No need to wait till next February to see the Chimalli Warrior.  Take a stroll down Madero Street, half a block from the Eje Central and check out Sebastian’s vibrant repertoire to the backdrop of the Latin American Tower, and Sanborn’s House of Tiles.