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Episodio by Estrella Carmona and 7102 Fantasma Semiótico SCituacionista

Posted on 29 May, 2018

María Eugenia Garmendia Carbajal and Edwina Moreno Guerra
 
 
Estrella Carmona is one of the artists under consideration within our research project at Cenidiap: ‘Representaciones Apocalípticas, Catastróficas y Silentes en el Arte Pictórico Contemporáneo Mexicano’. We visited two exhibitions of her work: a solo show at Museo de Arte de la Secretaría de Hacienda y Crédito Público, and a collective exhibition at Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil.

 
 
 
Episodio, 4 de abril, 2018
 
The paintings by Estrella Carmona Ronzón (Veracruz 1962- Mexico City 2011) shown at Antiguo Palacio del Arzobispado belong to the Pago por Especie collection, a program that allows artists to pay their taxes with some of their own works. These are large paintings, in an Expressionist style, with a limited palette, influenced by Orozco’s murals and Siqueiros’ dynamic perspective. The artist herself would add Emil Nolde and James Ensor to this list. Her work has been associated with the Mexican Neo-Figuration movement. It shows her disenchantment with the Industrial age, criticizing its dehumanizing processes and portraying an apocalyptic vision of the arms race.
 
 
These ten paintings revisit her postmodern themes, displaying monstruous machines in a linear narrative established by the curator. There are huge cannons, imposing machines with dehumanized mechanisms, weapons of mass destruction, factories, pipelines, industrial estates. These images project violence and oppression; they portray devices produced to destroy the human spirit, humanity itself. A postmodern apocalypse, highlighting the disenchantment with machines and technological advances, through her use of color, her aggressive brush-strokes and an extraordinary use of perspective.
 
 

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Inside of the exhibition.

The works are shown in a single rectangular room. There are many affinities in terms of colors and formats. It seems as if it were a graphic novel, with huge images and no texts, narrating the current state of the world and the generalized fear of a nuclear war, filling us with awe and admiration.
 
 
Carmona’s work forcefully indicts mankind’s warmongering stupidity and machine-induced dehumanization, specifically in terms of weapons of mass destruction that can wipe out our species. Her daring perspectives highlight the size of these objects, such as the huge soulless weapons in Terminología militar II (1999).
 
 
Her inclusion in the exhibition 7102 Fantasma Semiótico Scituacionista, at Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil, seems paradoxical at first, since it is supposed to be a show of works made especifically for this event by living artists. Carmona’s paintings depict an apocalyptic revolt of the machines, as can be seen in her artist’s books: Los Iluminados X (1994), Fábrica de lo absoluto I, III, VI (1994), De la entropía (1995), Mito, magia y religión (2006), and particularly Robots, cyborgs y el devenir del hombre máquina (2006-2007) and Robots (2007), displaying with small-format pencil drawings the evolution of the human figure towards some sort of futurist cyborg-like machines.

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Estrella Carmona, Terminología militar II, 1999.

 
 
It is very interesting to see two stages of her work, with her increasingly apocalyptic vision of the fafte of mankind. She once said that “every visual discourse must have a philosophical support”. Let’s recall that she studied Philosophy at Claustro de Sor Juana (1981).
 
 
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Artist’s sketchbooks.

Estrella Carmona died on May 9, 2011. On May 6, 2012, art critic Raquel Tibol wrote in Proceso:
 
 

Which war, which aggression, which threats, which destruction did Estrella reference in the 50 paintings or so that she produced between 2001 and 2010, which will be on display now? All those that made peace-loving humanity dispair during those ten years, when the evolution of technology and science, and the renovation of industry, were placed at the service of the strong against the weak; of the powerful against the defenceless; of the domineering against the dominated; of the moneyed against the pauper; of the vile against the caring. Her images are an impulsive scream, with which she tried to shock in order to awaken awareness, indignation and -why not?- rebellions against the ewvil that reproduces itself at a frightening cybernetic pace, in increasingly dehumanized, robotized configurations.

 
 

Both of these exhibitions confirm her artistry, her vigorous brush-strokes, her vibrant colors, her post-industrial themes. This is a good sample of the work of this artist, who died a day short of her 50th birthday.
 
 
 
7102 Fantasma Semiótico Scituacionista, 20 de abril, 2018
 
7102 Fantasma Semiótico Scituacionista, April 20, 2018 A complex collective exhibition, in terms of curatorship, museography and title. It was the brainchild of the museum’s director, Guillermo Santamarina. A visual chaos confronts us. There doesn’t seem to be a common thread uniting all these different ways of approaching creation. It’s as if it were a contemporary art prize exhibition lacking in funds and space. These are important works, but at first their juxtaposition is confusing and disconcerting.
 
 
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One wonders why there are works by Estrella Carmona and Melecio Galván, who are deceased. Why is there a video showing a remote control car arriving at a mosaic installation, right next to Melecio’s masterful drawings? Or Berta Kolteniuk’s abstract paintings next to the small-format drawings and paintings in Estrella Carmona´s artist’s books, which denounce the post-industrial age of weapons of mass destruction and cyborgs? Santamarina was aiming at creating this sensation of confusion, catastrophe and chaos. This is his last show as curator and director of the museum. He’s moving to Cuernavaca to engage in personal projects.
 
 
Things become clearer if one carefully reads the leaflet that accompanies the exhibition. There, Santamarina explains his reasons for the exhibition and its intriguing title: 7102 Fantasma Semiótico Scituacionista,
 
 

an allegory of the transposition by geological imperative in a severe cycle in the structure of alleged certainty, which in 2017 changed into this other abstract category, as improbable, in a metaphorical connection with the concept of Art in the age of Non-Future […] paradoxically, today, in this conflictive present, art communicates its being the universal language of mankind; mankind expresses itself as it pleases; art is free by nature; therefore, everything is art. The future will show this age as a generator of great works; but the present enslaves us in a thick fog that prevents us from seeing our artistic environment clearly. There is so much of everything that everything spreads without a concrete direction: towards a Non-Future.

 
 
Interviewed by Sonia Ávila for Excélsior, on February 1, Santamarina said that “it isn’t an exhibition of struggle or protest in a negative sense, but rather a melancholic one, of a fractured moment unable to discern a future”. His idea is to generate individual awareness of the political, economic and social situation in the city, made evidente after the earthquake on September 19, 2017.
 
 

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Estrella Carmona’s sketches.

The exhibition shows 120 works by 15 artists, Dennis Miranda, Berta Kolteniuk, Estrella Carmona, Alexis de Chaunac, Cisco Jiménez, Melecio Galván, Laureana Toledo, Cristian, Franco, Rodrigo Sastre, Víctor del Moral, Santiago Merino and Sebastián Roque, among them. These artists work with painting, drawing, sculpture, object art, collage, and video, to depict our current convulsive time. One of the works that impressed us deeply was El saco (2017) by Berta Kolteniuk, part of her series Pintura Blanda, under the concept of expanded painting. The caption says it was “especifically designed to make interactions and to enable it to be worn on the body. Made with 4 gallons of acrylic paint, left to dry for three months”. The work is placed over a table. Next to it there is a mirror. One is instructed to take the coat, put it on and admire oneself on the mirror.
 
 
Other interesting pieces in terms of technique are the mixed works on capsuled paper in acrylic sheets by Dennis Miranda, giving rise to phantasmagorical figures.
 
 
There are many enjoyable works. It’s a matter of understanding that the complex and chaotic museography surrounding them is a key ingredient of the exhibition.
 
 
 
 

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