Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Bang Bang y Bling Bling

The Festival of San Pedro here in Tlaquepaque begins on June 12th and is celebrated nightly until the 29th. I had read about it, but didn't put two-and-two together when I was woken by random loud bangs at 2am. Fireworks, I'm presuming, though I couldn't see them. It's so quiet here at night that they seemed especially loud, and someone nearby seemed to have a bumper crop and was in a particularly celebratory mood.

I visited the Museo del Premio Nacional de la Ceramica Pantalenon Pareduro this morning. It's considered the largest museum in the area of traditional Mexican ceramic art. I lucked out in meeting a guard that took me through the whole museum explaining the regional differences. The collection is very impressive- each piece is a winner of a previous years' national competition. As it happens, this week is the judging of this years competition and many of the competing artists are in town.

They had work from the nearby state of Michoacan, which is identifiable by it's figurines, images of death and devils, and bright colors. Also represented was work from Oxaca, which is fired in presumably a reduction kiln and is all black in color. The details were amazing. Also from Michoacan was the tradition of large elaborate pineapples that function as serving vessels for drinks. Most notably was work by an artist named Avalos Guerrero Abel, whose hand-built, intricately carved vessels were innovative and very impressive. He pushed the media to a level I haven't seen before. My friendly guide mentioned that she had met him for the first time the night before and she was gleeful like a schoolgirl. She told me that he had adjusted the lighting on his pieces as if he were a god descended from the heaven providing light for crops. I was touched by her appreciation for the work and the artists- it's fantastic to be in a community that holds such reverence for it's craftsmen.

Afterward I took a bus into the central district of downtown Guadalajara, whose charms are not immediately visible. It's very big, crowded, loud and dirty. However, the focus on public art and appreciation of it is visible everywhere if you look for the layers beyond the advertising, which is impressive for a city of its size.

I came across a temporary wall with art on it, covering up another mural underneath. I couldn't figure out exactly what was going on (why the first paintings were covered up) but the state of decay and the amount of interplay of the people that put those holes there was intriguing.

In some ways, Guadalajara reminded me of Calcutta, except the two cities have very different histories and are on different trajectories.

I had read about a famous place for pork tacos but never found it. My search took me to an area full of jewelry shops. On one side were the real deal shops, replete with many police officers standing around with big guns. On the other side was a newly built multi-layered mall that had all the cheap shiny bling bling things (and a public bathroom!).

I went to the highly recommended Cultural Institute, whose permanant collection is focused on Orozco, a painter and muralist who was active from the mid 20's through the 60's. His work was very interesting, and they provided a lot of insight into how he was responding to politics and the world around him as his work progressed. The center of the Institute was a series of very large murals painted in a church-like building. He was exceptionally talented, and if you ever get to Mexico City, be sure to look up some of his many public murals there. His work got increasingly dark as time went by- he moved away from realism and his work became more abstract, and often violent to reflect what he saw happening in Mexico. I particularly liked this passage from a grouping of his 1945 work called 'the Truth':

"The pathology of human condition that he depicts in this series is grotesque and abhorrent. Tyrants, matrons, buffoons, devils, headless women covered in mud, jackals, scorpions and other 'fauna' are used by {the} creator to "clarify more the words of the tribe," specifically one, the word 'truth,' which has been so degraded and perverted. From that muck and purification, the artist suggests a redefinition of this essential term- to fix the word, Confucius would say- so that we may again understand each other as a society and civilization."

That, a bus ride back and a nap find me ready to seek out some small place nearby that has reportedly transcendent guacamole and margaritas. The sun is setting and the bang-bang of fireworks are starting. This is my last night in Tlaquepaque- tomorrow: to Talpapa in the mountains.

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