#54, March 2008
Chupacabras: The Myth in the Era of the Internet
Myths and legends have always been a vehicle by which civilizations have gained understanding of themselves and of other things. Studying them implies a stirring up of its deeper cultural mechanisms. In the era of the Internet, that resonating chamber in which rumors spread at light-speed, urban legends can be offered to everyone for examination, like an animal going under the scalpel of sociologists, anthropologists, and above all artists
The exhibition, "Chupacabras (Artists Reinterpret the Myth)", presented at the National Museum of Mexican Art offers a reinterpretation of this legend by a group of young Chicago artists that during the 1990's spread throughout Latin America, and which apparently originated in Puerto Rico. The entity, ubiquitous and monstrous, the Chupacabra has been seen stealing chickens, and attacking livestock like goats and cattle. Resulting in peasants everywhere losing a good night's sleep..
It was to be expected that the majority of these artists would opt to apply a political metaphor. Like the Judas figures that are burned during Holy Week, dressed up as Uncle Sam or some corrupt government official, they provide a catharsis for people. Here the Chupacabra takes on the form of George Bush (in the oil painting by Antonio Pazaran), the former president of Mexico, Carlos Salinas de Gortari (in the collage by Salvador Jiménez), multinational companies (in the painting of Patricia Acosta), and of NAFTA (Ricardo González), etc. Diverse leeches of society, represented in diverse degrees of fortune from the obvious to the proactive.
Two works that are real standouts are, "My Chupacabras Escaped", a digital image on fabric and decal by Miguel Cortez and "Chupacabra Gothic" by Judithe Hernández. The first one is a fresh and imaginative play on urban imagery and the physical limits of the space of the work. Slippery like the myth, out of its setting, Cortez's Chupacabras is a decal glued to the wall that mocks the rectangular margin of the work, leaving an empty silhouette where its image should be.
The second is an allusion to "American Gothic", a painting by Grant Wood that has attained the level of icon. His portrait of the quintessential of the spirit of Midwestern America has been parodied a thousand ways. Hernández's work, an exquisite pastel on paper, features the figure of a goat and a man dressed as a politician or Wall Street executive with his head covered by an American-like flag. The figures are united by a blood transfusion that drains the blood of the poor quadruped, while filling in the red stripes of the flag. In the background, bordered by a prodigious blue, is the immensity of the fields where immigrant workers labor (giving their life's blood). It is in this work that the political background is most solid and of the greatest breadth: the humor, reflection, and formal resolution are united in a truly skillful manner.
Also interesting is "San Chupa", a mixed-media work by Juan Compean. It alludes to the tradition of religious stained-glass windows and its line quality recalls the engravings of Leopoldo Mendez.
As it has happened in other exhibitions at this museum, one would like to see the same care given to the Spanish texts that are given to the English texts. However, this group exhibition is definitely worth making the effort to see and to choose the work you like the best.