| In English, the word "pop" has many meanings and associations.
It can be a nickname for your dad, a soda, something of the
people, or the sound of something exploding. Does "pop" carry
all these associations for the Mexican audience?
Yes, in the US the term "pop" is certainly a broad term
that can encompass everything from popular culture and kitsch
to nostalgia and fine art. I think in Mexico, the term "pop"
is perhaps linked even more closely than in the US to the
idea of mass culture than mass production.
Because of Mexico's colonial history,
indigenous population, revolutionary past, communist/Marxist
affiliations, etc., Mexican popular culture denotes
a culture that is specific to that country's formation
and identity. So when I think of "Mexican pop," I tend
to think of the art of craftmaking, pottery, weaving,
flea markets, and those kinds of popular references
seen throughout Mexico.
Of course now, with an increasingly "globalized" world
view, "Mexican pop" is absorbing our ideas of "pop"
in ways that account for the inclusion of Mexican telenovelas
and comic books, popular wrestling (lucha libre) heroes,
and comedians such as Cantinflas, an icon of Mexican
||Aztec Pyramid, by Einar
and Jaimex de la Torre
What was happening in the Mexican art world throughout
the 60s when the Pop Art movement was emerging in The US and
Miki We must first account for the economic and political
situation in Mexico that is constantly shaping the country's
cultural tone. By the 1950s and 1960s, people had grown weary
of the revolutionary rhetoric generated by the PRI since the
days of the revolution in the early 1900's.
The generation before artists of the 60s were focused on
celebrating the glorious past and indigenous heritage of Mexico
and establishing a unique identity for itself through the
representation of popular culture. So, we have artists like
Rivera, Orozco, and Siqueiros, etc. characters whose reputations
reached monumental proportions. The artists after that called
themselves "La Ruptura" or the rupture - artists who wanted
to internationalize Mexican art and look for other, more spiritual
and transcendental ways of making art that did not rely on
didactic, figurative, and historical matter.
These artists-like Tamayo, Gerzo, and Cuevas-grew weary of
past generations and sought to re-define their styles. Of
course, this was a conscious and political act so in engaging
this dialogue between past and present, Mexican artists from
the 50s and 60s were not so interested in "pop."
Does Mexican Pop art cosy up to commercial imagery with
the same abandon as its American counterpart?
Miki Um, I would say yes, most certainly. One of the
defining characteristics of Mexican (Latin American) art is
that it is born out of hybridity. Like the mestizo culture
that makes up most of Mexico's population, the sense of absorption,
fragmentation, adaptation, etc. is pervasive. There are so
many sources from which to adopt-whether it be Spanish colonial
art, Aztec or Maya imagery, Revolutionary posters, the inundation
of visual imagery in crowded metropolises like Mexico City
that responds to a large illiterate population, etc. These
diverse and disparate influences have always shaped Mexico's
identity and will of course filter into the field of visual
Which Pop cultural forms dominate the field in Mexico
today? Any thoughts on why they do?
Miki Well, as I mentioned before, there will always
be the historical references that I've named above. And yes,
there are telenovelas and lucha libre people too. More and
more, the borders between the US (and the rest of the world)
and Mexico are becoming blurred and things filter back and
forth. So kids (and adults like us!) are as taken by the phenomenon
of Pokemon, the Teletubbies, the Matrix, and Nintendo as much
as anyone else.
There has always been this weird pop culture feedback
loop along the US and Mexican border. We've all seen evidence
of it; ceramic figures of Bart Simpson and Tweety Bird, black
velvet paintings of Elvis and the like. How do the artists
who make these popjects motivate? How do they see themselves
in relation to their peers and other artists at large? Have
any become "famous?"
Miki Specifically, there are artists such as the brothers
Einar and Jamex de la Torre who not only borrow from this
blurred line of Mexico/US but live it. With studios on both
sides of the borders as well as having a Mexican and European
heritage, the artists only practice their lived experience.
They use the fine art of blown glass methodologies and incorporate
pachuco stylistics, catholic imagery, sexual and vulgar street
language to produce a truly hybrid art. It is close to the
Chicano style of "rasquachismo" a term coined by the art historian
Tomás Ybarra Frausto to describe a kind of underdog mentality.One
that consciously borrows from everyday life and utilizes a
"make-do with what you have" kind of stylistic.