Art exhibit expresses Mexico today

Cutting edge works by some of Mexico's leading modern and contemporary artists are featured in SF State Fine Arts Gallery's spring show, "México: Politica y Poética," running Feb. 17 through March 24. Examining aspects of 20th and 21st century Mexican life, the exhibit coincides with the 200th anniversary of Mexico's independence and 100th anniversary of its revolution.

A photo of the Gonzalez work

“The Trench” by Máximo Gonzalez (2003) watercolor on out-of-circulation currency. Private collection, Mexico City.

"This is not the folkloric variety that we think of when we hear the term 'Mexican art,'" said Professor of Art Mark Dean Johnson, who co-curates the exhibit. "The work we have selected is more about contemporary social and political's edgy."

The show includes a variety of mixed media works utilizing commonplace articles of modern life to illuminate the social and political issues of 21st Century Mexico. Máximo Gonzalez uses out-of-circulation Mexican currency as his watercolor canvas. Ilán Lieberman's "Lost Children," was created with missing children advertisements. The focal point of marcelaygina's "Recovered Objects" is clothing lost or left behind at a Rio Bravo crossing point to the U.S.

Other featured contemporary artists include Francis Alÿs, Carlos Amorales, Miguel Calderón, Daniel Guzmán, Dr. Lakra, Moris (Israel Meza Moreno), Gabriel Orozco and Jaime Ruiz Otis. The show includes modern work by Mathias Goeritz, José Guadalupe Posada, Alfredo Ramos Martinez and Eduardo Terrazas.

Click below for more works from the exhibit.
  • A painting by Francis AlÿsFrancis Alÿs
  • A painting by Gabriel OrozcoGabriel Orozco
  • A painting by Jaime Ruiz OtisJaime Ruiz Otis
  • A painting by Teresa MargollesTeresa Margolles
  • A painting by Edward TerrazasEdward Terrazas
Francis Alÿs

The exhibit also coincides with the Mexican Olmec ancient art exhibit at the de Young Museum in San Francisco, and the two institutions are collaborating on public events. These include a Feb. 20 panel discussion on contemporary art and culture in Mexico followed by a festival of avant-garde and ethnographic films from Mexico organized by Assistant Professor of Cinema Tarek Elhaik and visiting film scholar Jess Lerner, titled "¡Soy México!" An exhibit of contemporary video works at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts will also complement the exhibit.

Opening day of the exhibit on campus includes part one of the "¡Soy México!" film festival and a discussion on contemporary art and politics in Mexico with a panel of scholars including Associate Professor and Chair of Raza Studies Teresa Carrillo and Professor of Raza Studies Roberto Rivera.

Co-curators of "México: Politica y Poética" are Johnson and Sharon Bliss of SF State's Fine Arts Gallery, Julio Cesar Morales, adjunct curator at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco and Bera Nordal, director of the Nordic Watercolor Museum in Skärhamn, Sweden, where the show will travel later this year.

An International Center for the Arts (ICA) event, "México: Politica y Poética," was made possible through support from The Mexican Consulate of San Francisco, Aeromexcio, Mexico’s Secretariat of Foreign Affairs, Fundacion/Coleccion Jumex and SF State's Office of Research and Sponsored Programs, Instructionally Related Activities Fund.

The SF State Fine Arts Gallery, located in the Fine Arts building, is open Wednesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free. For more information about "México: Politica y Poética" and the events linked to it, visit or call (415) 750-3600.

-- Denize Springer