Saturday, 30 October 2010

Dreaming of Mexico: Daniel Lezama

The above painting is by Daniel Lezama called Cita bajo el volcan, 2009 and is influenced by Malc' masterpiece.

Daniel Lezama showed some extraordinary new works at Zona Maco 2010. This series shows highly stylised encounters between colonial/literary and Mexican archetypal/mythological figures, combining beautiful facture with potent symbolism. Characters such as Malcolm Lowry’s fictional Geoffrey Firmin (from Under the Volcano), explorer/artist J.M Rugendas and other ‘nomads’ are depicted in complex allegorical tableaux. Lezama is highly articulate about his work, and his website is worth a visit

The first impression upon encountering Daniel Lezama's large canvases -some of which are veritable "salon machines" where the human figure is close to life size- is a clear-cut formal reference to pictorial tradition, from Great Masters to Mexican Nationalist Nineteenth Century painters. The second impression immediately snaps the audience back to its own time and place: the events portrayed are current, the dramatic fiction is narrated in everyday scenarios. The third impression is far more complex: we are confronted by a polisemic staging that opens the way to multiple levels of interpretation and social and artistic reference.

A unique combination of virtuoso painterly technique, disregard for formalism, and the decisive appropiation of subversive theme and discourse casts Daniel Lezama into something of an exception in Mexico's vibrant visual art scene, where on one hand the late-modern painterly tradition frowns upon direct reference to local subject matter, and on the other, the cutting-edge �lite revels in globalized aesthetics. His recent success has invited many critics and curators to reassess standing clich�s on the international positioning of Mexican painting, and has challenged the severe self-imposed limitations of the local painters' fraternity. From the start of his professional career in 1995, while still a student at the National Visual Arts School, Lezama has traveled off the beaten path, developing a painterly discourse that directly assumes its contemporary standing and places itself squarely in the sights of the international art distribution mainstream.

The exhilarated response of audiences is partly the result of the indisputable emotional impact of his work; Lezama has undertaken the task of unmasking a form of reality that has been mediated and prettified by the sophisticated devices of social representation, and puts a passionate visual memory to work by inventing images: the realism that defines his paintings has no frame of direct or mediated reference whatsoever.
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