Mexico is a country that is associated too often with violence, cartels, drugs and corruption. But what do we know, in Europe, about Mexican contemporary art, or about Mexican art in general? Not much, except from Frida Kaho and Diego Rivera. Contemporary Mexican art criticizes, denounces, it is engaged, and its social dimension is essential: history, the people, memory and the future. This section of our blog has the ambition to cover subjects from outside of France. Today, we feature Bayrol Jiménez.
Elle, 2013 (Acrylic on paper)
The thirty-year-old Bayrol Jiménez defines the art of his generation by saying that “the social and political subjects bring us together. That doesn’t make as engaged artists, though. My work comes from what I have experienced every moment in my city, in the streets. My drawings are inspired from comics, and the black humor tries to make things easier to take in”. Born in Oaxaca, a historical town 6 hours away from Mexico City, Bayrol Jiménez first comes to live in France, and it is in Nice that he starts his art studies. After finishing his studies, he went back to Mexico. He currently lives and works in Mexico.
Drawing its inspiration from the American comics of the ‘60s, his work strongly echoes the Mexican tiendas. Even today, shop owners decorate their façades with murals representing popular heroes of modern Mexican culture. These murals are realized by amateurs though, and that gives the idealized bodies a clumsy and unusual appearance, and, because of that, all the more ironic. In his drawing Taste Rico, the artist chooses to strip his work from any romanticized intention, representing a couple that kisses voraciously. The French and Spanish inscription “Taste Rico” means “tasting good”, but also designates rich people, and reflects the American influence on Mexican culture.
Taste Rico, 2012 (Acrylic on paper)
24 Publicity in 24 hours, 2012 (Acrylic on paper)
Between drawing and installation, Bayrol Jiménez creates a setting for his works, he takes them beyond the medium as they take over the walls or the floor. In No holds barred, a piece from 2011, a baby carriage extends the drawing, giving it an impressive visual strength. Similarly, in Maldito, a piece from 2012 featured in the show 2000-2012 : l’art mexicain en résistance (2000-2012: Mexican Art in Resistance) at the Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris, the drawing extends to the floors, where the word “robar” (“to steal”) multiplies itself. The drawing presents fragments of bodies, skeletons, grinning faces, weapons and people hiding behind car wrecks. Symbols of power, money, death and violence are ever present, and the blue eagle (an American symbol) occupies a central spot, holding the red and green Mexican snake in its claws.
No holds barred, 2011 (Mixed media on paper)
Maldito, 2012 (Acrylic on paper)
Maldito (detail), 2012 (Acrylic on paper)
His works are far from being frozen in time, they are in continuous evolution and sometimes require the intervention of the viewers, as it happened during the show Recuerditox, presented in 2011. The walls were covered by pieces of paper, as parts of a mural, and people were invited to lift the papers and discover messages on their backs, as well as other drawing underneath them. They could take home the drawing they had picked up once the show ended.
Swarming with details, inscriptions, faces, the works of Bayrol Jiménez suggest saturation and invite the viewer to get closer and watch the drawing attentively. His sources of inspiration are always renewed and he reinvents drawing techniques by reproducing and creating settings for inscriptions engraved by strangers on sidewalks. The city is not only a subject, but also a technique, as it is the case, for example, for the piece Huellaurbana.
Huellaurbana (work in progress), 2012 (Mixed media on paper)
Huellaurbana (final result), 2012 (Mixed media on paper)
Bayrol Jiménez offers a humorous view (and, of course, a view of violence), but his he also lets us perceive a great love and generosity towards his country. It is an excellent reflection of the modern Mexican society, of its history and of the doubtful period it crosses today.