Gustavo Monroy: Religion and suffering combine with artist's own image in latest work
Expulsión de Paraíso (Expulsion from Paradise), the latest exhibition from Mexican artist Gustavo Monroy, is a striking combination of religious imagery and self-portraiture.
Inaugurated Wednesday in Mexico City’s Centro Cultural de Bella Época, the show features 10 paintings by Monroy that present human suffering next to images of the artist himself -- in some cases, no more than a disembodied head -- set against bleak, sandy backgrounds and landscapes.
Speaking in the left-leaning newspaper La Jornada, Monroy says that he doesn’t see the realities of today’s world reflected in much of Mexico’s contemporary art. If that’s something he’s tried to correct with this work, it wasn’t immediately evident how his paintings of bleeding saints and headless bodies reflect real life.
But could it be that Monroy's images of suffering innocents and heads without bodies refer to Mexico's current inner tumult? Just walking along the streets in Mexico, you're accosted by horrifically violent newspaper front-page photos, and headless bodies have turned up with regularity here as President Felipe Calderon continues to wage war against the country’s powerful drug cartels. More than 5,000 people were killed last year in drug-related conflict, and Mexico and its innocent civilians are hurting. Violence is part of the everyday reality of those living in Mexico, whether in their immediate environs or the media they’re exposed to.
The cost to innocents of such a violent environment is what one could see reflected in Monroy's work, which serves as an example of how the violence in Mexico is filtering down into art and popular culture.
Take a look at some of his images presented here, and make up your own mind about what he’s trying to say.
-- Deborah Bonello in Mexico City
Photos: Paintings from Gustavo Monroy's Mexico City exhibition Expulsión de Paraíso (Expulsion from Paradise) in Mexico City’s Centro Cultural de Bella Época. Deborah Bonello / Los Angeles Times. See more on Flickr.