Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Monterrey and the Art of Julio Galan

When I woke up this morning the sky was overcast with low clouds, perfect weather to get out early to explore the city. The plan for the day was to visit the museum for contemporary art, the Marco, and to maybe walk around a bit on the Macroplaza, the central square of Monterrey. Getting into the city was much better today than yesterday. Traffic was light and I was in town within 15 minutes.

After I parked my car next to the Marco, I decided to first take a leisurely stroll down the Macroplaza before the heat of the day descends and become intense. I stopped to take some pictures at the Neptune fountain, and then walked further until the Justice Palace where a graduation ceremony was in progress, I presume a group of new lawyers. Who else will have their graduation ceremony at the Justice palace except lawyers? Although I have never been to the museum inside and it was open today, I decided against it because all the comments would probably be in Spanish and totally useless to me. From the plaza I saw a church tower, which didn’t look to far away and headed in that direction. Well, although not too far to walk it was farther than it looked and farther than I wanted to walk. Nevertheless, the tower reminded me a lot about Italy because of its similarity to towers next to Italian churches. After taking some pictures of the church I headed back in the general direction of the Macroplaza, zigzagging my way until I got to a small plaza just off Padre Mier Avenue, where I stopped to buy a bottle of ice cold water, sat down on a bench for a rest, a cigarette and some people watching. The sun was now doing a fine job of burning off the low clouds and the heat was intensifying. And I was kind of tired too.

After my rest I went to the Marco museum. The museum now has a permanent exhibition of Mexican artists in the Sala Mexico, which was the prime reason for coming to the museum today. However, it was the exhibition of
Julio Galan, a neo-expressionist painter, who grew up in Monterrey and one of the great Mexican artists of the so-called “Great Change” generation that became the highlight of the day. I started off viewing the paintings in the Sala Mexico, which were all oils painted in the first half of the 20th Century, the period that Carlos Monsivais, one of Mexico’s foremost journalists, describe as the Revolution and Revelation of radical change, a period of great transformation of literature, arts, music and theater. I was not allowed to take pictures, but I did sneak in a few. A trick I learned in Italy.

However, that was not possible in the Galan exhibition because there were too many museum employees looking out for just that, no picture taking. To me his paintings is very similar to those of Frieda Kahlo (the other great Mexican artists) – bright, autobiographical (the artist appears is most of his own paintings), surreal and multi-facetted. They also both spend some time in New York, which affected the work greatly. He hated it that he was compared to Kahlo, and always said that critics that does that don’t know and understand his art. They both painted pain and suffering. Kahlo’s physical and Galan claimed his was psychological. Both were very sickly persons, and Galan died in 2006 at a relative young age of 48. However, there is a difference in their art. Galan excelled at using mixed media, where Kahlo painted mostly in oils. I also find Galan’s paintings more chaotic than Kahlo’s. But then, they lived in different times and Galan was exposed to modern, pop-art of the likes of Andy Warhol and many more. However, I did enjoy his paintings today. It made up for the Frieda Kahlo exhibition I missed in September here in Monterrey. So until I get another opportunity to see Kahlo’s work for real, I will have to appreciate it from photos.

After the Marco, I walked across the street to the Metropolitan Cathedral for a look inside. I have seen the cathedral on previous visits just from the outside. Well, I missed nothing. There is no artwork worth mentioning. Because of its proximity I decided to take a stroll through the Barrio Antiguo and stumble upon a flee market selling junk and the State Museum of Popular Cultural art, another museum one could give a skip.

Upon my exit from the central zone I missed my turnoff onto the highway and ended up in bumper-to-bumper traffic, no idea where I was going. I could only hoped for an opportunity to turn northeast, I think, again in the general direction of my hotel. That happened when I came to a dead-end where I had to turn left, and eventually ended up on the highway on the “other side of the river”, on Avenue Morones Prieto. I have been on this road before but then others were driving, but I knew there were several roads that cross over to river (which is really a dry river bed) I just had to find the one that would best meet up with Avenue Miguel Aleman. I study the map I had with me while driving and eventually crossed at Avenue Azteca.

At the Sierra Madre Brewing Co., a restaurant that makes food best described as Americana, I was back in familiar territory because it is only a mile or so from my hotel and have been to the restaurant on many previous occasions, I had a small Mojave Chicken salad and a large beer. The spicy chicken was well offset by the cool, creamy blue cheese vinaigrette...and the beer was most refreshing.

All in all it was a good day of exploration and education.
For more on the MARCO and a view of the paintings on display click here.

The Metropolitan Cathedral of Monterrey.

On the ground floor of a building across from the MARCO and the Cathedral a big band played Latin American music and mostly older folks were dancing their pains away.

Certainly the highlight in the Sala Mexico was this painting of Saturnine Herron "Our God's", oil, painted in 1918.

The oldest part of Monterrey, the Barrio Antiguo, the old neighborhood.

In the Flea market I saw this novel way of lighting one's life, candles in eggshells.

Julio Galan Paintings.

More Julio Galan
And more Julio Galan

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