In a town with a stultifying 112 murals and only 400 inhabitants, you already know that your work will be judged by experts – since everyone is looking and communing with multiple murals in the course of one day all over their city. This unusual urban occurrence is thanks to the Gar Gar Festival which has invited local and international artists for six years under the curatorship of the duo Binomic, formed by Maria del Mar López and Jordi Solana.
For the MEXPANIA installation, the artists Paola Delfín, Sixe Paredes, Pilar Cárdenas AKA Fusca and Daniel Muñoz all joined ranks to symbolically relocate a mosaic painted on Pino Suárez street in Mexico City – itself a reproduction of an original work made by Juan Correa in the 17th century. Joining languages, histories, and iconography, this unique enterprise could have ended in disaster, yet here presents a unified composition that speaks with poetry and authority.
To appreciate the work completely, we asked curators Arcadi Poch and Édgar Sánchez to describe it for BSA readers.
“The two main characters are Moctezuma and Hernán Cortés, who have been transformed into two symmetrical doors, crowned by two divided suns. The floor of the scene is transformed into a map that collects a series of migratory paths through the history of humanity. Two surrendered horses fall on the map, followed by two eagles, meant to represent the fall of the symbols related to all the warlike and racist conflicts that occurred 500 years ago. The play speaks to the public about the richness of the past to inspire us to build a reunion and hence a future of greater integration.”
Édgar Sánchez and Arcadi Poch may not simply be curators of the new initiative called Mexpania that merges the cultures of Mexico and Spain. They are social scientists, anthropologists, historians, and some may say, alchemists. With the inaugural installations of this auspicious project primarily created inside the entrance and with only 4 national/international artists, you may be curious how these foundational works will influence future curatorial choices for this ever-growing museum dedicated to urban art, or arte urbano.
The Museo de Arte Urbano de México (MARUM) has been steadily and organically evolving these last ten years into a bonified attraction in the center of Querétaro thanks to the existing remarkable architecture and the driving force of the visionary Sánchez. Now with a partnership focused on the 500-year history of the Spanish migration to ancient Mexico, the opportunities to visually capture and illustrate the modern identity of a common culture must be daunting, but they have begun.
“We are the fruit of migration and miscegenation, of love and conflict that led to the mixing of our blood,” say the authors of Mexpania’s manifesto. “From that union was born an uncountable multitude of identities, ways of being, thinking, and believing.”
As an inaugural set of events and art-making, Mexpania presents what can only be considered an initial attempt to draw upon those themes and present an opening salvo. A calculated project to establish this entrance to the formalized museum, one that proposes to document and celebrate the movement of monumental art through streets and cities. The selections are a deliberate mixture of styles, histories, and identities that confront our ability to parse differences and similarities and emerge with one unique voice.
“The feeling is like entering a contemporary temple, which transports you to a sacred place dedicated to the mestizo and migrant nature of humanity,” say the two curators of the freshly combined works on the MARUM campus, as they call it. “It has not been an easy task to generate what we understand as a single piece by making such different artistic languages coexist and getting them to dialogue in harmony.” Just reviewing the 33 muralists on the exterior spaces of the campus gives one an opportunity to consider the richness of this locally grown, now globally expanded, multi-voiced culture.
BSA is proud to be the first to present the new works in their new home and to welcome readers to regard these fresh murals in context inside an institution dedicated to urban art now rooting into the soil of one of the original forbears of the modern mural movement a century ago, Mexico. In a city visited on the streets by modern street art internationalists like ROA, Stinkfish, Jaz, Elian, Sens, Sego, Alexis Dias, Entes, Enter, Ever Siempre, and others – this too is the land that gave birth to the great muralists Diego Rivera, José Clemente Orozco, David Alfaro Siqueiros, Rufino Tamayo, Aurora Reyes Flores, Elena Huerta Muzquiz, and Rina Lazo.
“Inside the venue, directly to the left, we see the introductory text to the project, calligraphed by the hand of the Mexican artist Jassiel Rivera and written by the two curators. Above the text, in the large circular niche, there is a joint work by four artists. It is a large X that represents Mexpania and defines the four elements of the whole being.”
“Our ancestors traveled the world and in different eras or by different routes, they arrived in what we now call Mexico. … Mexpania seeks to respect and question these identities, to propose cultural freedom as a path to urban peace. While observing human chaos, this work raises the banner of the dynamic beauty of our cultures. We believe that there is no absolute truth or a pure lineage and that the charm of life is born of our differences. 500 years after the first Spanish migration to ancient Mexico, we are privileged to explore the cultures that bequeathed us, create our own identities, and lift each other up toward a future of cultural freedom.” – Édgar Sánchez and Arcadi Poch. Curators.
“Sixe, an artist of Catalan origin, occupies the two walls corresponding to the main entrances, the entrance, and the exit, with a numerical representation that occupies the entire surface. The enormous network in black and red is a symbolic and abstract representation of the data and events, loves and hates, pains, and hopes that emerged as a result of the great encounter between the multiple cultures of both continents. It is a contemporary codex, an abstract framework, in which the symbols of death are represented by skulls, the cross of the Catholic religion imposed by the Spanish, and other symbols that represent the balance of the cosmos, the new sun, and the eclipse of the civilization of ancient Mexico. We can also observe the gold coins that Daniel Muñoz incorporates in Sixe’s work, generating a dialogue between these two works.”
“On the front side and on the right we find the wall by Daniel Muñoz, a conceptual work with a great load of social reflection and critical thinking. Daniel talks about the power of money around domination and how it is able to make our cultures invisible. The large coin that presides over his work seems to cover the American continent and around the great circle, there are representations of the globe seen from different perspectives, creating a cartography of money. Behind the plaque that commemorates the inauguration of this space, and that contains an extract from the Florentine Codex, we observe a group of invisible indigenous women. Using these and other symbols, Daniel creates a representation of money as a motivation towards domination, but reinterprets its value with the phrase he writes around the central coin of the mural: ‘The Earth Will Return to Those Who Work It With Their Hands.’ “
“Directly in front of the work of Fusca, appears, in black and white, the work of Paola Delfin. Mictlantecuhtli, the lord of the underworld, presides, radiant over a chaotic swarm of horses, and from them emerge, on the flanks, two mestizo identities. This deity representing death reigned over the underworld through which the dead traveled. It should be mentioned that despite the difficulties that lie in the Mictlan, this was not hell but a challenge that had to be faced after passing away if one wanted to reach the palace that is found after overcoming the difficult journey. The symbols embodied in this piece seem to recognize the enormous pains and sorrows of the past as strengthening challenges, which can give us fortitude and inspire us to live with good conscience.”
On the back wall to the left, Fusca uses timeless symbols to express subtleties behind the way we think. In moonlight-like colors, we see a representation of Coatlicue, the archetypal maternal deity of ancient Mexico, who as the legend tells us, gives birth to Huitzilopochtli, the cultural leader of the Mexica, who we still see on the Mexican national shield, represented by an eagle. This figure, who could be interpreted as the mother of Mexico, is intervened in such a way that an equine head instead of a serpentine one emerges from her neck. In this way, the deity and the horse are united in a single, mestizo figure. The piece expresses the emotion of living the fusion between different identities. These understandings of who we are can weaken or strengthen us. How can we better understand the past that created us to empower and liberate us? To build our own way of describing ourselves, to strengthen life in our future and that of our descendants?
“Every man is the son of his own works” ~ Miguel de Cervantes.
The greatest writer in the Spanish language was inspired by the character of this region and its arid but fertile elevated plateau when creating his greatest work Don Quixote, a true titan of historical literature and one of the world’s most translated books after the Bible.
His central character is a delusional would-be knight who calls himself The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha. His absurdist but imaginative self-regard is echoed in the sheer scale of the grand new Titanes (Titan) mural project. Given the camaraderie among artists and organizers here you may say that the heart of Titanes is more likely aligned with the earthy wit of his sidekick Sancho Panza.
Naturally when these characters are intermingled by an imaginative multi-disciplinary artist like Okuda San Miguel you are not surprised to see the image of movie director Pedro Almodovar co-starring along with Quixote; Okuda’s silo is seated in the filmmaker’s town of Calzada de Calatrava and Almodovar’s richly drawn characters have captured a generation of Spaniards happily. As a rainbow splits the storm clouded sky behind him, it’s precisely this painters intuitive alchemy of reality and fiction that may shake a viewers’ conscience while entertaining them, revealing Titanes as an enormous vehicle of communication.
“The past and present are seen through my geometric and surrealist filters,” says Okuda, who is a principle architect of this audacious public mural project in La Mancha. In an era of perplexing social, political, and economic upheavals, it is comforting to see modern artists take on the messages of the classics, reinterpreting and re-presenting them.
15 or so more murals on silos are on the way here from top talents before the year is complete. The societal outreach is ground-breaking in its own way with an uncommon integration and engagement with the neighboring communities.
“It’s an interesting story,” says photographer Martha Cooper, who shares her images with BSA readers today. “Okuda is working with organizations who help people with disabilities like autism and Down Syndrome. The part of the mural at the base of each one of the silos was painted by a number of these participants,” she says. “And they all seemed to be having a great time.”
Startlingly original and indelibly context-specific, Titanes is a mural/public art project that resides at the intersection of social responsibility and community participation. Organizers say that the goal is not only to bring a roster of well-respected artists here to paint but to be completely inclusive of societal members who aren’t typically thought of as artists.
From now until October, a number of artists from the urban art scene will be transforming silos into art all across this region, including Bicicleta sem Freio, Daniel Muñoz, Demsky J., Equipo Plástico (comprised of Eltono, Nuria Mora, Nano4814 and Sixe Paredes), Fintan Magee, Hell’O, Smithe, Nychos, Ricardo Cavolo and Spok Brillor. In an unprecedented program of social inclusion through public art, 450 members of the Laborvalía association will also be working alongside the artists on various creative activities.
Already the program has proven life-changing in many ways, say participants, as perspectives and relationships are evolving during the initial painting program. “Okuda worked with one boy with autism while painting his mural,” Martha tells us. “He began to speak and interact after starting to paint – much to his parents’ delight. This part of the project gave it more weight than just the usual “artists-painting-walls” event.”
Organizers say that they hope Titanes will be an epic project that will go down in history as one of the world’s biggest events to promote social inclusion. At its core are Okuda’s own multi-faceted art agency called Ink and Movement, the Laborvalía organization, the Provincial Government of Ciudad Real, and a number of other municipalities and civic and tourism-related fields who are supporting the art and its message throughout society.
Laborvalía says in its mission statement that its principal goal is to promote the integration of people with disabilities in society and the workplace.
Titanes looks like it is the perfect project to make a big impression.
Hell’O Our idea was to mix abstract shapes and figurative elements in a colorful environment. We enjoy playing with the balance between different shapes and finding a homogeneous composition. We wanted to give it an optimistic, pop, fresh touch, something that speaks to everyone
Bicicleta sem Freio
“Os Gigantes de la Mancha” (The Giants of La Mancha) represents the
power of creativity and imagination and its indispensable role in the ability
of human beings to make sense of the world and others, especially among
children and people with disabilities.
Daniel Muñoz & Spok Brillor:
There are a number of concepts behind our intervention. First, it represents 15 years of working together as artists and friends: each medal symbolizes a story from some of the projects we’ve worked on in recent years.
It also reaffirms the building from an architectural standpoint: “decoration” in the sense of an award or honor and not just ornamentation. For us, it’s important to reaffirm the object in itself and not its political history. Finally, there’s an irony in the use of gold and its contrast with bread, a basic product produced by the silo and one that, in reality, was always represented as luminary and powerful in the imaginary of the 20th century.
Equipo Plástico (Eltono, Nuria Mora, Nano4818 and Sixe Paredes)
“Meseta” (Plateau) is a homage to the countryside, to the intractable space surrounding these silos. The tones and patterns of the surrounding areas, their textures and shades, cover every centimetre of the wall like a blanket, giving the building a round, almost sculpted look. Ignoring the limits of the building and symbolically camouflaging it in its environment accentuates its current invisibility after years of neglect and helps lighten the weight of its history.
Demsky & Smithe
In “Parábolas del
Pensamiento” (Parabolas of Thought), we have unified our style, based on the
phases of the brain for creation and thinking: preparation, incubation, illumination
Our weekly focus on the moving image and art in the streets. And other oddities.
Now screening : 1. “A Message From the Future” Narrated by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Illustrated by Molly Crabapple 2. Good Guy Boris – Viral Vandals Music Video 3. TITANES: Six Silos. Eight international artists in La Mancha, Spain. 4. The Story of Us and Them – Conor Harrington
BSA Special Feature: “A Message From the Future” Narrated by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Illustrated by Molly Crabapple
A project from The Intercept and Naomi Kleinit imagines that somehow the oligarchy is going to let go of its addiction to fossil fuels and the aspirations of the citizens will prevail. Enjoy!
A Message From the Future
Good Guy Boris – Viral Vandals Music Video
Good Guy (bad guy?) Boris is back with his own version of Gypsy trap to entice and thrill you to do a big ass tag. A graffiti renaissance man who continues to plow his own path forward, the hijinx are hilarious and the song isn’t so bad either. Maybe it is a little better than those graffiti vandal road trip movies he was doing, but maybe we just have a short attention span these days.
TITANES: Six Silos. Eight international artists in La Mancha, Spain.
“People who normally lived in a very specific way and nobody had bothered to see whether they had talent or not,” explains Alfonso Gutierrez about the genesis of this project encouraging 450 students from around Spain to participate in a public mural campaign.
An inspirational message, and a welcome sign in this march of humans.
The Story of Us and Them – Conor Harrington
A short film that looks at the creative process on by the sincerely absorbed Irish Street Artist/fine artist Conor Harrington as he talks about his work and promotes his new show ‘The Story of Us and Them’ at Heni Gallery in London.