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"Demian Flores: Sparkling Syncretism"
2001-11-08 until 2001-12-01
Galeria Casa Lamm
Mexico City, , MX Mexico

From the very start, the art of Demián Flores (Juchitán, 1971) has been expressing the complexities of cultural mestizaje. In his constant commuting between Juchitán and Mexico City he has woven an intricate network of references and analogies between the istmeña tradition of his homeland and the urban environment where he grew up and became an artist.

As a hybrid product, his work reflects his concerns about the survival of Zapotec roots in a world increasingly homogenized by an all-encompassing globalization.

His recent paintings chronicle a reality that is pervasive nowadays in Mexico: the loss of identity resulting from a media invasion. If during the 16th century the Spanish and Mesoamerican cultures fused through the systematic destruction of the Indian past, ever since the middle of the 20th century we have witnessed a different sort of colonization. It has been achieved by a relentless bombarding of images broadcast from the Western cultural centers towards its periphery -specifically from the United States to the south. Besides the overwhelming effect of electronic media on the most remote areas of Mexico, in regions like Oaxaca there has been a profound infiltration of American culture via the innumerable migrant workers that travel north of the border in search of better opportunities. They frequently return entranced by the mirage of the American Way of Life.

Demián is himself a migrant to the country's capital, and has become a sharp observer of these socio-cultural phenomena. In his recent works he brings about a visual synthesis of what he sees as a road to alienation and an identity crisis. The acculturation processes by which Oaxacan communities get westernized strongly impress Demián. In fact, he has been the only artist to dwell on these topics. Perhaps for that reason, keen critic Robert Valerio called him the young dissident of Oaxacan art. From the outset, Flores developed a personal style based on expressionistic drawings.

In previous works, Demián was already scrutinizing the ways in which Zapotec culture expresses itself and communicates meaning. He was already transforming Indian imagery as an expression of syncretism that has been gaining strength in the people's way of portraying themselves. At this point, his iconic repertoire includes images emblematic of the pre-Hispanic past and of local and imported popular culture. With those images he constructs a pointed synthesis of expressive forms and techniques that give shape to his very own perceptions of time and space. He thus features the dilemma of assimilating foreign elements and deforming local forces through a dialectic process of alienation and appropriation. In order to do this, he employs an urban post-pop language and makes use of the mechanical procedure of serigraphy-transposition onto the canvas, which is a technical variation on what Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein did as founders of Pop Art.

Demián mixes shock images and, through iconic deconstruction and decoding, he poses the relevance of cultural symbiosis. This confrontation of images that gain power in the synthesizing process simultaneously addresses the perceptive and the conceptual orders. Demián has completely abjured the formal saturation that characterized his previous work, a horror vacui that emerged from the juxtaposition of superimposed scenes in an infinite series of translucent layers of painting. He has evolved from a Baroque style to a sort of sober minimalism. According to the artist, the way in which space is organized in these canvases directly alludes to Monte Albán, one of the best laid-out cities in Mesoamérica. His compositions are now open and airy, and his fine, elegant and almost ethereal figures float in a space devoid of reality, over a background totally covered in golden hues that generates eerie feelings similar to those experienced in mystical trances.

In all these paintings, metaphors work as conducting threads, while all the same time referring to ancient traditions. Gold, considered the most precious of metals due to its solar, regal and divine character, is a sign of absolute perfection. It is worth remembering that in pre-Hispanic mythology it was the gods' excrement, fertilizing the earth as it fell upon it, and thus helping along the continuance of the cycle of nature. The colonial culture of the New Spain was itself branded by golden sparkles. It gave great impulse to the creation of wood altarpieces covered with gold leaf, and of estofados -multicolored gold-burnished wood figurines-, as sublime offerings to God. Gold also makes us think of Monte Albán's treasure: the richest legacy of gold jewelry handed over from our pre-Columbian past. The sparing use of elements and the absence of color give additional depth to Demián's works, whose strength lies in their series of images distributed in arbitrary planes that are oblivious of perspective or scaling.

The pictorial discourse of Demián Flores has become more concentrated and focused. His voice is intent and direct, and his images are purposeful and convincing. He confirms Robert Browning's dictum: Less is more.

- Germaine Gómez Haro


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