Art in Review: Killing Me Softly

Roberta Smith
The New York Times
August 19, 2005

Killing Me Softly

Ramis Barquet
532 West 24th street, Chelsea
Through Sept. 3

Given the profusion of artists with exceptional drawing skills and of exhibitions devoted to their, efforts, this beautifully installed show of drawings by 31 Mexican artists feels a tad routine. But it proves that Mexico has no shortage of drawing talent and introduces many artists, who, like their counterparts elsewhere, consider no style, source or technique beyond their reach.

The most familiar name may be Germán Venegas, a veteran of the 1980’s movement known as Neo-Mexicanism- which was evidently a version of Neo-Expressionism; he has an alternately rough-hewn and deft way with brush and ink. A 1984 drawing of Christ and a lion evokes the woodblock images of posada. More recent works seem to portray Budai, the bald, round-bellied itinerant monk of Chinese painting, and reflect the artist’s conversion to Buddhism.
Among the show’s other standouts, Humberto Duque’s habd-drawn video animation “Dramamin” is a colourful tour de force of mutating landscapes and exploding heads that narrates a bad cold, a bad trip or both. Luis Carlos Hurtado’s hand-written account of his adventures in the Yucatán is illuminated with a sequence of small, wonderful overlapping landscapes.

Erik Vázquez lavishes attention on a single outdoor vista, in ink, achieving an obsessive, almost fantastical update on the European landscape tradition. Miguel Angel Estevez work with a similar density in pencil, crowding the paper with Mayan heads and religious personages from around the world in his “Man Creating Many Gods and God Creating Many Men, II.”

Gerardo Monsiváis creates his own coloring-book page and then fills it in to delirious effect. Luis Felipe Ortega keeps things sweet and simple in “Boat,” enumerating what seems to be a pebble-covered cove with the utmost care. In contrast, Gilberto Aceves Navarro takes the opposite tack, depicting a girl and the surrounding space in whiplash scribbles that resemble live wires.