Radical artistic wealth blossoms in the southeast; in the Muy Gallery, a show

Located in the coleto [1] barrio of Guadalupe, the space is a living museum and supplier of plastic work of creators from Chiapas indigenous communities // It exposes and sells the work of painters, potters and photographers, such as Maruch Méndez, PH Joel and Marco Girón.

▲ The image to the left corresponds to a piece by the Tsotsil artist P.T’ul Gómez; to the right, works in process in the Muy Gallery’s workshop, in San Cristóbal de Las Casas. Photo: Justine Monter-Cid.

By: Hermann Bellinghausen

San Cristóbal de las Casas

The Muy gallery (root of the Tsotsil word meaning “pleasure”), established in an old house in the coleto neighborhood of Guadalupe, beautiful and rustic, is a container and a supplier for the plastic work of artists from indigenous communities in Chamula, San Andrés, Tenejapa, Ocosingo, Huixtán, Las Margaritas, Rayón and other municipalities. About twenty painters, sculptors, ceramists, embroiderers, photographers, engravers, videographers or digital creators of Tsotsil, Tseltal, Zoque, Tojolabal and Chol origin are represented by Muy. They frequently create here, in the gallery workshops, their paintings, clay works, installations.

It is a living museum and a school where tradition and contemporaneity, even avant-garde, go hand in hand and produce pieces of the imagination that do not need to ask permission to be considered Art. They participate in the indigenous awakening of Chiapas, which in the past 30 years has produced literature and revolution, painting (mural and easel) and cooperatives, a curious mixture of the communal and the personal.

In the last quarter of the twentieth century, the encounter of the traditionalist indigenous peoples of the Highlands of Chiapas with a sudden cosmopolitan modernity and of all Mexico, often enlightened, via tourism, and also, paraphrasing Maurice Ravel, for various noble or sentimental causes, had a great cultural effect. Over time, rebels, liberationists, writers, artists sprang from the mist of the mountains and the green curtain of the jungle. The invisible ones became visible.

A couple of rooms for the exhibition and sale of the work. Muy artists’ work offer a sample of the pictorial wealth and radical craftsmanship that is taking place in these regions of the southeast. Some self-taught, others formally educated and even professionals, born between 1957 and 1997, have in common the undeniable condition and aesthetic commitment of the artist.

Crossing a small garden is the large room for temporary exhibitions, this time with numerous pieces of clay, ceramics and sculpture by P. T’ul Gómez (Chonomyakilo’, San Andrés, 1997) and other potters. Some pieces seem to have just come out of the ground, in others a rereading of Picasso, Soriano or Toledo appears. All together and scrambled. High-flying pottery.

Darwin Cruz, Muy Gallery.

On one side, with the guidance of Darwin Cruz, another artist of the house, a Chol originally from Sabanilla (1990), La Jornada visits the tumultuous workshop-cellar of the artists, where the chaos of figures and objects seems to come alive. Cruz shows his own finished or in-process work, sculptures and prints. His painting, which is not here, portrays a tremendous reality. There are also works in progress by PH Joel (Francisco Villa, Ocosingo, 1992), anthropologist and ceramist between the neo-Maya and the phantasmagoria of a dream of gods and cyborgs.

Explosive and refined proposals

The list of artists represented by the gallery is wide and varied. There is the painter and potter Maruch Méndez (K’atixtik, San Juan Chamula, 1957), with an original “innocent” power. Juan Chawuk (Tojolabal from Las Margaritas, 1971), renowned painter, who has exhibited abroad, stands out for a painting, sometimes a mural, loaded with provocative eroticism and irony, not far from the tragicomic realism of Raymundo López (San Andrés Larráinzar, 1989).

Saúl Kak, Muy Gallery.

Also known are the painter Saúl Kak (Nuevo Esquipulas Guayabal, Rayón, 1985), who adds to his explosive and expressive work an environmental and cultural activism in the Zoque region, and Antún Kojtom (Tenejapa, 1969), with a characteristic, neo-figurative, post-cubist style, sober in color, intense in its representation.

Maruch Sántiz (Cruztón, 1975), with extensive experience, was one of the first indigenous photographers in Mexico, with “portraits of things” who knew how to speak. His “little brother” Genaro (Cruztón, 1979) from a very young age followed in his footsteps and today is an elegant photographer of nature and detail.

The linguist, university teacher and translator Säsäknichim Martínez Pérez (Adolfo López Mateos, Huixtán, 1980) has developed a bold practice of photo and video, as well as textile intervention. Cecilia Gómez (Chonomyakilo’, San Andrés, 1992) seems closer to the “craftsmanship” of embroidery, but with a radical free touch.

They are joined by Gerardo K’ulej (Huixtán 1988), who makes spatial and sculptural interventions of inexplicable balance and refined sobriety, and Marco Girón (Tenejapa), experienced photographer and web designer.

Kayúm Ma’ax, Muy Gallery

Another realist painter is Carlos de la Cruz (San Cristóbal, 1989), who transitions naturally from coal to mural. Manuel Guzmán (Tenejapa 1964) practices the wild expressionism of a Kandinsky votive offerings painting. Somewhat predictable, and notable however, is the Lacandón Kayúm Ma’ax (Naha, 1962); he is related to the Amazonian painters of Ecuador, and like them he portrays dreamlike landscapes that replicate from here the customs officer Rousseau .

This tour closes the interconnectivity of the writer Xun Betan, Tsotsil of Venustiano Carranza and also a member of the Muy gallery, founded by John Burnstein, and currently directed by Martha Alejandro, originally from the Zoque region.

[1] Coleto is a word used to describe residents of San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, who believe they are direct descendants of the Spanish invaders.

Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Tuesday, January 24, 2023, https://www.jornada.com.mx/2023/01/24/cultura/a03n1cul and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

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