There’s a compelling, pleasingly profane exhibit running for two more weeks at the Museo de las Artes (the University of Guadalajara’s modern art museum), featuring a generous pirate’s booty of collaborative canvases authored by veteran Mexican artists Juan Carlos Macias and Victor Hugo Perez, two men with wildly contrasting aesthetics.
Like cheese with seafood, this aesthetic union’s success would, perhaps, be viewed with skepticism in traditionally minded quarters, but is all the more triumphant for actually achieving lift off and orbit in the artistic firmament.
The show is called “Hembra,” which is a species-non-specific term in Spanish meaning “female.” Unlike so much modern art, the show’s name actually relates to its content, with every canvas – the vast majority done in charcoal and graphite – featuring one or several member of the distaff.
But while the “hembras” depicted are more specifically members of that special aristocracy (homo sapiens) busy for the last few millennia having its way with Earth as if she were a village peasant’s daughter, they seem to embody an elemental, almost feral, ferocity that transcends species. They’re more like latter-day maenads, the unpredictable, violent, sensually inclined consorts of Dionysus in Greek myth.
While the notion of two or more visual artists fusing their distinct sensibilities and aesthetics on the same surface has had many previous iterations – the one that most quickly leaps to mind is the Warhol-Basquiat team-up during the 1980s – collaboration doesn’t often occur. Of all the arts, the visual arts are probably, together with fiction writing, the most solitary, requiring very little compromise or input from other creative persons, so peskily omnipresent if you work in film or music. So it stands to reason that not many painters would welcome another sentient being into their monastic creative cloister.
But a video installed in the second room of this sprawling, eight-room show of Macias and Perez shooting the shit over beer and cigarettes suggests an easy familiarity and looseness between the two that it’s tempting to assume extends to their working relationship. Whether or not their charcoal-stained studio sessions (which lasted from December 2015 to February 2018) were shot through with tension – which can both thwart and stimulate artistic endeavor – evidence of their collusion’s success stares you down boldly from the exhibition’s myriad canvases, an affirmation which also begs the question: why don’t more artists join forces with their fellows?
Especially artists with such divergent styles. While both Gen-X Tapatios with a taste for the subversive, Perez’s work owes a debt to, among others, Basquiat and cubist-era Picasso in its deliberately flat, child-like bent and, as is the case with the former, liberal use of words. Macias’ work, meanwhile, is plump and three-dimentional, sensual and classically figurative. These two approaches, rather than clashing, bind together beautifully, an expressive achievement greater than the sum of its parts.
Theirs, then, is a combination that shouldn’t work, according to aesthetic dogma, but nevertheless achieves a mysterious, unexpected synergy.
“Hembra” is a show to luxuriate and get lost in, but perhaps not for those without a taste for the defiantly debauched. It ends June 17, so waste no time in attending before it moves on.
And to compare and contrast the artists’ respective oeuvre, go to victorhugoperez.mx and juancarlosmacias.com.
Another show in the same museum, running until August 15, is also well worth a trip. That exhibit, by Zacatecas artist Rafael Coronel, will feature in a future article.
The UdG museum is located at Avenida Juarez 975. It is open everyday except Monday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Entrance is free.