Sunday, October 26, 2008

Surreal Sights in the City - Alebrijes

Turn the corner in Mexico City and you are never quite sure what you will find next!! Nipping out to the bank yesterday, I found that over a hundred giant fantastical creatures had suddenly moved in and taken up residence in my neighbourhood on the stretch of Reforma between the Diana Fountain and the Angel Monument.

Made of papier mache with exquisite use of colour, design and imagination, these creatures are gigantic versions of the folk art alebrijes normally crafted from wood originating in Oaxaca.

Created by local artisans and organised by my favourite museum in DF - The Museum of Popular Art (Revillagigedo 11), these creatures form the annual "el Desfile de Alebrijes Monumentales" and are only staying here until November 2nd. The aim is to promote and find a wider audience for Mexican Folk Art. Don't miss this magical feast for the eyes!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Patzcuaro - Day of the Dead

Patzcuaro in the state of Michoacan is considered to be the most special place in Mexico to witness the Day of the Dead celebrations and festivities. Next Friday evening I will be heading up there to partake again of this festival held on November 1st and 2nd each year.

Truckloads of marigolds flood the town in readiness for the decoration of loved ones' graves at the cemeteries on the 31st October. That day the town is buzzing with families gathering armloads of flowers to begin the process of honouring the Dead. Patzcuaro is a five hour bus journey from Mexico City from either Terminal Norte or Poniente.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Reforma - an outdoor art gallery

Mexico has always been an inspiration for artists, and Mexico City has always been a wonderful place for art lovers. Art is publically displayed with great pride throughout the city, and one gallery which is high on the list of places to visit if you love photography is "las Rejas de Reforma".

Every few months a new exhibition is mounted, and as you stroll along Reforma towards Chapultepec Park, it is easy to admire the latest photographic display. At present the exhibition is "Lacandones en el mundo moderno" - an exploration of the changing way of life of the indigenous groups who live in Chiapas State in la Selva Lacandona. Also currently on display is a wonderful exhibition of recent bronze sculptures by Leonora Carrington.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Meet Jag Sanchez - Jardin del Arte

A relative newcomer to the art scene in Mexico City, Jag Sanchez has been exhibiting at Bazaar Sabado and the Sullivan Jardin del Arte for the past 4 years. His bright abstract canvasses with his trademark yellows, reds and oranges are hard to miss, and he has already had exhibitions both in Mexico, such as Real de Catorce and Europe, most recently in Amsterdam.

His style has changed and become more flamboyant over the past two years, but I have 4 paintings from his original "Contemporary Life in DF" series ; indeed I chose my current apartment on the basis of the need to hang these paintings, and they subsequently dictated the colour scheme of " El Palacio Rojo". He is a very friendly guy, and always has time to chat at the Sunday Art market. Find out more about his work at www.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Meet Victor Uhthoff - Jardin del Arte

One of my favourite places to visit in the city is the Sunday Art market near where I live. Most of the artists from Saturday's Bazaar Sabado are there, but this Jardin del Arte is a lot more low key and local, with a serene and tranquil atmosphere. Art classes take place under the trees, and artists sit playing chess and dominos in a quiet, leafy setting. They have time to chat, and over the past few years, I have got to know quite a few of them, and bought quite a lot of their work.

One of my favourites is the work of artist Victor Uhthoff Lopez who, for the past 24 years has exhibited here, a distinctive style of postexpressionist paintings with a definite hint of surrealism. All his work is inspired by Mexico City, and on my walls, I have the Jazz Club triptych inspired by Papa Beto's - a long established Institution in my neighbourhood, Colonia Cuauhtemoc.

Prices are both reasonable and negotiable, and you can get paintings framed instantly on one of the surrounding framing stalls which also sell all manner of art equipment and supplies. The Jardin del Arte is only open on a Sunday and is located at Rio Panuco and Sullivan. The best time to go is between 11 am and 3pm.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Skeletons for Sale

As the Day of the Dead Festival approaches ever closer, street vendors start to take on a more morbid and macabre appearence, as their stalls get stacked with grinning skulls and life-size papier-mache skeletons.

Skeletal iconography, indeed, manifests itself in a whole gamut of candy coffins, sugar skulls, ceramic catrinas, and chocolate cadavres. Such skeletal imagery is such a common sight on the streets of Mexico City, that it is just naturally integrated into the rhythms of the place.

In fact, there is nothing morbid or macabre about it. Death is simply accepted as part of Life.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Meet the Locals - surreal sights in the city

It was impossible to walk past this stallholder in the Sullivan Street Sunday fruit and veg market without asking the question why? The answer was very simple. Apparently it is a very effective cure for a bad headache. She was very happy for her picture to be taken when I told her that she was the first person I had ever seen wearing a piece of lettuce. "Don't worry" she told me "I won't be the last". Just one of those surreal sights on the streets of the Big Taco which confirms Mexico City as the true home of magic realism. What surreal sights have you seen on the streets of a city??

Earthquake Warnings

The streets of Mexico City are awash with a whole array of different things for sale from local street vendors. As soon as the traffic stops and jams begin to form, out come the vendors working the queues, selling ordinary stuff you might expect, like snacks, drinks, phone cards, toys, balls, musical instruments, but the realm of surrealism is soon entered with the regular appearance of my favourite street vendor - the hat stand vendor. Crafted from wood, the hat stands are at least 2 metres tall, and before I leave Mexico City, I am determined to purchase one just to see if there is any possibility of fitting it into any car or taxi!

The street markets and impromptu tianguis ( Aztec word for market stall ) also sell a host of products many of a folk art nature. These cute little painted wooden tortoises are not purely decorative and ornamental in nature, but serve the purpose of being very useful earthquake warners. As the tremor begins, so they begin to tremble, and their heads begin to nod. Many people have them on shelves in homes, offices, shops, and businesses. Last month Mexico commemorated the 23rd anniversary of the most devastating earthquake to hit Mexico City in 1985. These little objects are not just little fandangles!!

Friday, October 3, 2008

Festivals in Mexico - Day of the Dead

Mexico is beginning to prepare for Day of the Dead, a festival in which ancestors and relatives are honoured with a series of traditions and rituals. One such tradition is to carry out an all night vigil on the night of November 1st in the cemeteries. It is believed that the spirits of the dead return and consume the spirit of the food and drink taken to the graveside. Families then share and eat the actual food, which is always the loved one's favourite, as a way of feeling close to those departed. The ritual is a celebration involving the whole extended family and children are not excluded. Sometimes mariachi bands will come and play as well. The graves are elaborately decorated during the day with marigolds, incense, candles, and sand paintings. These two images show the cemetery on the island of Janitzio by day, and the cemetery at Tzintzuntzan by night, both near the town of Patzcuaro in the State of Michoacan. It is a festival absolutely unique to Mexico, and more images will be posted on my return from Patzcuaro this November.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Meet the Locals - Policemen in Ponchos

It is often difficult for those who have never lived in Mexico to appreciate the fact that ponchos and sombreros are not at all the rather tacky and jokey souvenirs of a tequila-fueled beach holiday, but are indeed a part of ordinary, everyday life both here in Mexico City and elsewhere in the country. They are the outfits of dedicated mariachi bands, the ordinary dress of working people, and as depicted, here the uniforms of police officers working in the city. These two guys are part of the mounted police force who patrol the Alameda park in the Centro Historico district of the city. As it was a nippy and grey, chilly day by Mexican standards, one was wearing the regulation police poncho in addition to the standard sombrero. Just a typical sight on the streets of the Big Taco.