Feature image by Julio Galán, Me quiero morir, 1985, oil on canvas
If by any chance you’re on your way to visit family in México, or in search of a new life on the road, you best stop off in San Antonio and give a whirl at the booming art scene down there. El Instituto Cultural de México en San Antonio currently has mounted an exceptional exhibit of classic, ground breaking works. The exhibit is split into 3 distinct themes, all expressing a current of post-nationalist Mexican art from the ’80s to now. The exhibit presents the works of a “1950s born generation of artists,” as scholar Teresa Eckman, Ph.D. notes in From Mexico New (Con)Figurations in Contemporary Art . Eckman notes this generation of artists “development [of an] artistic tendency that was dubbed neomexicanidad,” and their “responses to the decade’s climate of economic, political, and personal crisis.” The works displayed in ‘Neo-Mexicanism’ deal with the modern artist’s disillusionment with the nation-state and its many repressive nationalist ideologies including issues of gender, sexuality, consumerism and identity.
Building off of the cliché constructs of the great Mexican muralists and commercial Mexican pop art, and exported, and easily consumed “Mexican” identifiers, such as la Virgen, la bandera, la loteria, etc. these artists aimed in the ’80s at auto-critique and self-aware inquiries into “the other,” those aspects of Mexicanidad left at the margins of nationalist discourse. However soundly rooted in a rigid tradition of iconic Mexican signifiers, these artists struggled to break free from these restrictive paradigms, embarking on what would become the journey of re-defining and re-creating a Mexican art aesthetic.
These Neo-Mexicanist works can be seen as the basis of the emergent, avant Mexican epicenter of artistic impetus to rise from Mexico since. Oscillating between homage and hemorrhage, the works dig at the very earth and foundations, the underbelly of those bronze temples and overarching self-aggrandizements of Mexico’s epic muralists and political hopes for 1st world modernism. Reaching beyond the investigations of Octavio Paz into the many masks of Mexican-ness and Vasconselo’s narrow elevation of La Raza Cosmica, these works question and crack the bases of many of the previous generation’s patriotism. What and why is “Mexico” so palpable, so palatable, so easily consumed, packaged and sold around the world? What and how do we ourselves as Mexicans or diasporic-Mexicans contribute to these stereotypes and misgivings?
As if to answer these questions, and aptly following the progression of “Mexican” art into the new millenium, the exhibit carries over into two solo artist shows of post-modern referential-less presentation and pondering. Where the Neo-Mexicanist movement left off, these artists, following their rooted indifference and fleeting obligations to identity politics, progressed into truly avant affirmations and affinities.
Javier de la Garza, Lazo, 2010
The solo artist showings, Rocío Maldonado’s ‘Nature Human Nature’ and Javier De la Garza’s ‘Climate Change’ propose a discontinuation of association and concern with primitive patriotic postulations, and a cataclysmic thrust into universalism. Shed of their necessary and painful precedents, represented in the queer-birth of Nahum B. Zenil’s bearded face tearing through the stretched and stitched womb of the Mexican flag in his seminal Madre Patria, [mixed media on paper and collage] we see the manifestation of these monumental minds into the global consciousness. Both Maldonado and De la Garza’s work reflect a pure rebirth, a clear and cleansed palette, ignited by the over-stereotyped and self-referential flames of their pertaining movements’ prior limitations.
Here we see the waters, the earth, the sky, the body, the animal and the essence of modern art, and all its conflicts calmly presented. Finally, the thoughts and sentiments, or over-sentiments of the so called ‘Neo’-Mexicanist Movement, manifest a self-actualized and un-exaggerated, unfettered action. Maldonado and De la Garza’s solo exhibitions offer feminism and homo-eroticism finally free of repressive nationalist discourse and iconography.
Neo-Mexicanism, a New Figuration: Mexican Art of the 1980’s
Alejandro Arango – Mónica Castillo – Javier de la Garza
Julio Galán – Enrique Guzmán – Rocío Maldonado
Dulce María Núñez – Georgina Quintana – Eloy Tarcisio
Rubén Ortiz Torres – Germán Venegas – Nahum B. Zenil
Rocío Maldonado: ‘Nature Human Nature’
Javier de la Garza: ‘Climate Change’
Curated by Teresa Eckmann
Instituto Cultural de México en San Antonio | Nov. 12 – Feb. 22