The source of remarkable vitality of contemporary Mexican painting lies in the influence of its traditions.
Even in the most cutting-edge or abstract works, tradition plays a powerful role and remains the underlying foundation from which contemporary tradition springs.
The imaginative use of myth in pre-Hispanic art, sophisticated use of color in indigenous folk art and surreal cultural tradition are seen in new works.
Bond Latin Gallery in San Francisco has put together an extraordinary exhibition of 17 Mexican painters whose work exemplifies these influences. The show is notable because within genres it covers — abstract, figurative, portraiture — there is a wide variety of painting styles.
When European Surrealism founder Andre Bretón attempted to bring Surrealism to Mexico in the 1940s, he found Mexican culture and art to be naturally surrealistic.
Robert McDonald, Bond Latin Gallery owner, says, “Mexican culture has a natural sense of a bridge that travels back and forth between the known and the unknown, not in a Freudian sense, but in a mythic. As a result, a vibrant imaginativeness and a distinctive color sensibility have come to characterize the best of Mexico’s contemporary tradition.”
Oaxacan painter Alejandro Santiago’s work has a nightmarish intensity. Crude, violent abstract forms mix with splashes of color and strange, dark faces, which seem to appear spontaneously.
Forms and color erupt from the canvas, which doesn’t look like it has been painted. Santiago’s work suggests a primitive shamanic ritual.
On the other hand, quiet fantasy, staid imagination, unique juxtaposition of elements and a psychological color sensibility characterize Oaxacan painter Rodolfo Morales’ work.
An Adán Paredes abstract wall relief demonstrates, succinctly, how utilizing pre-Hispanic influences in novel ways has prompted unique originality seen in many pieces in the Bond Gallery show.
Works by more established painters who began the contemporary tradition — David Siqueiros, Carlos Mérida and Diego Rivera — hang comfortably with the younger moderns.
IF YOU GO
17 Mexican Painters
Where: Bond Latin Gallery, 25 Post St., sixth floor, S.F.
When: 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday; 10:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Thursday-Friday; closes Dec.15
Contact: (415) 362-1480; www.bondlatin.com