Why do I like photography? Why that and not some other expression of creativity? The answer is simple. I can’t paint to save my life. See above. Yet I am better at painting than singing, playing musical instruments, dancing, acting or any other form of artistic creativity. So I take photographs. It’s easy. Let the camera and computer do the hard work, and then pass off its produce as my own. Continue reading →
I’m not the arty type really. My interests lay elsewhere, although I guess one of my favourite past times, photography, is art related. But in Mexico City art is difficult, if not impossible, to avoid. And it’s really very easy to quickly develop an appreciation of the paintings and monuments, and a fascination of the history of Mexico’s famous muralists.
This weeks random post comes from March of 2006, less than a year into my Mexico adventure. I freely confessed my artistic ignorance in a post entitled simply ‘Diego Rivera‘. And whilst I’m still not an ‘arty person’ at heart, I’ve since learned an awful lot more about Diego and his contemporaries.
Rivera’s monumental museum Anahuacalli is not the best place to go to see Rivera masterpieces. For those, you’d go to the National Palace, Bellas Artes, the Rivera museum next to Parque Alameda and elsewhere in the Centro Historico. But Anahuacalli is a ‘must see’. Set a little bit out of the way in Coyoacan, it doesn’t get the visitors in the numbers it deserves. The exhibits on display are very special, and there are some very early and very unique pieces of Riveras own work on display.
And then there’s the building itself. I will go again one day. Till then, I have my photos…
I’ve been to this museum many times before, and have existing posts about it. But I’ve never added it to my fancy pants Bing map, and it’s worth putting up there. So now it is – map no. 34. It’s a nice place to head on a Sunday. There’s a goodly collection of paintings by Rivera, Siqueiros and the gang.
San Angel, the town it’s in, has some nice quiet streets, parks, markets, convents and restaurants. The prices can be exhorbitant. Or worse – we went into a few little stores peddling traditional painted boxes and alebrijes that were marking up the retail price by as much as 1,000%. Some nice wooden boxes that can be had for a few hundred pesos elsewhere had tags on them demanding 8,000 pesos. Rip off? Virtually criminal….
My search for famous murals, or even less than famous murals so long as they have been painted by famous muralists, has taken me across the city, from north to south, east and west. And Tepito. Sort of. But today’s trek takes some beating. I visited the Monumento a la Raza yesterday, and went on to the nearby hospital as I’d heard there were murals there by Diego Rivera and Siqueiros.
I wandered around this massive hospital but could find nothing. So I asked a chap at the gate. He pointed inside. Oh dear. But I’d come so far, it seemed silly to give up now. So in I went, for a good wander until I found them. I have to confess, it feels a bit creepy to be a tourist wandering about an extremely busy hospital, stepping over the sick, pushing past the elderly and infirm, and hiding the sight of the dismembered with an outstretched palm!
But I have few morals when it comes to photographing murals. I ploughed on regardless, oblivious to the odd looks I got, and eventually found the right room. Now there are supposed to be murals by Rivera and Siqueiros, and I found only one. Did they work together, or was there another I missed? And if the latter, which of the two gents was responsible for this one?
If I were to use my artistically challenged eye to guess, I would lay responsibility firmly at the feet of Rivera. It looks so much like his style of bold yet sometimes simplistic painting. And yet there are touches, here and there, of the more sophisticated, futuristic and stylish artwork I’d associate with Siqueiros. Someone who knows will hopefully stumble along and tell me. The photos, and the short video which is embedded below, are all on Flickr – click here.
My continuing search for hidden gems has, after a forum request for hidden gems I haven’t yet found, turned up another little treasure. In a fairly non-descript street, slightly off the beaten tourist trail stands a fairly non descript building. Although, it has to be said, more people venture through this once seedy and slightly risky part of the Distrito Federal these days than just a year or three ago. The Sunday ciclothon route goes past this building most weeks.
But you perhaps wouldn’t stop and venture inside unless you knew what to expect. You’d be far more likely to stop and venture inside the Church of La Nuestra Señora de San Loreto, which sits on the very next block. And so you should by the way. It’s one of the most fabulous interiors of any religious structure in the city.
But back to the mercado in question. Bland it may be from the outside. And it’s steel and plastic 1930’s interior construction is nothing that would particularly catch your eye either. What it does have to offer visitors though, are huge murals painted on the walls and ceilings at the many points of entry into the market place. Are they by Rivera? Orozco? Siqueiro? No, I don’t think so. They decorate palaces when they aren’t busy constructing artistic monuments to themselves.
The murals in this market were painted by students. But before you lose interest, they were students of Rivera, working under his supervision. And jolly good work they did too. I’m sure Diego was impressed. Although artists do tend to be a bit temperamental, so maybe not. Anyway, the mercado has now duly been added to my Bing map as place 32, and the photos are here on Flickr. You can read more about the mercado on Wikipedia.
The walls of Mexico City, outside the Centro Historico, are almost completely covered with graffiti. Not just walls. Anything that has a big enough surface to take a lick of paint from a spray can is fair game. Some say that offenders should be shot. I personally feel that that is going just a little too far. A severe public flogging would suffice in my opinion.
And yet. Some of the graffiti is actually rather good. Perhaps, given that Mexico has produced muralists such as Diego Rivera, Orozco, Siqueiros and others, this shouldn’t be surprising. I took two photos today. The one on the left – should I call it graffiti, or a mural? Or a gramural? There, a new word. I lay claim to it. Gramurals.
It’s a political painting, very much in keeping with the traditional theme of the famous Mexican muralists. Whether you like the message or not, it’s an expression of an ideology that is quite eye catching. The photo on the right? Whoever created that, and I’m sure more than one person is responsible, should be placed in stocks in the Zocalo for the weekend.
But do any of these works further the careers of these artists? Or is the best they can hope for a job with a political party, painting logos on walls – another pretty common sight in DF. Will one of them break through and become the next Orozco. Or perhaps even a Mexican Banksy?
I posted a piece about the Haiti earthquake last week, and mentioned (at length) the earthquake that devastated Mexico City in 1985. I included a photo of a monument put up at one end or Alameda park, marking the spot where a hotel came down, killing many of those inside the building. I looked around the net for more info on that hotel, and discovered that behind the park is a small museum, Museo Mural Diego Rivera. All these years I’ve been living in Mexico City, all those times I’ve walked past that spot, and I’ve never once noticed it.
It is, in my defense, a fairly plain and innocuous building. Not a place to catch your eye. From the outside, anyway. On the inside…that is a different matter. It houses a huge mural, one of Rivera’s finest. One I’ve seen images of many a time. But never the real thing, till today. I parted with the 15 peso entry fee, paid an extra 5 pesos to allow me to use my camera, and checked it out. The (rather poor quality) panoramic photo I took of the famous mural is below. It was previously housed in the destroyed hotel, and was one of the few things salvaged, restored and put back on display. The photos I took can be seen on Flickr by clicking here.