The race of Leonora Carrington It was resistance. The British painter, who settled in Mexico in the middle of the 20th century, worked all her life to show surrealism through her paintings, engravings, textiles and sculptures. Seven years after his death, the largest exhibition of his work has met in Mexico at the exhibition Magic Tales. First, at the Museum of Modern Art in Mexico City – where he stayed from April to September – and from this Friday at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Monterrey (Marco). "This exhibition is important not only for its volume, but also because it could be arranged thematically," explains EL PAÍS Gabriel Weisz, son of the artist.
More than 200 pieces show the artistic evolution of Carrington, a winding road that in Mexico found its first barrier: the Mexican muralists. The English painter arrived in Mexico in 1942, after leaving a troubled Europe and after passing through New York, and with the tools to capture the surrealism in his works. Weisz (Mexico City, 1946) points out that both his mother and the Spanish Remedios Varo suffered, in those early years, the veto in art galleries and circles frequented by David Alfaro Siqueiros and Diego Rivera. "The muralists made his life very difficult and it was a continuous struggle to show his stuff. They were envious of what Leonora and Remedios were doing, they thought that the place of artists had to be only Mexico and that Mexicans could only make art. It was discrimination, malinchismo and machismo, "he says.
The episode that made these differences clear was that of the mural for the Oncology unit of the National Medical Center, in 1950. Carrington worked on a project to translate his dream vision into the walls of the center, but finally the Mexican government opted for the proposal of Siqueiros: Apology of the future victory of medical science against cancer. "These muralists had to museums and galleries forbidden to show the work of Leonora," accuses Weisz. Carrington's imaginative world came to a mural 13 years later, when he painted The magical world of the Maya for the National Museum of Anthropology.
The large-format canvas, which is displayed in Magical tales, was one of the most challenging projects of the painter. It shows his vision of the beliefs of the indigenous peoples of Chiapas. Weisz recalls that his mother packed her bags to learn about Mayan culture first-hand. "It was a very big project and it took a while in the research process. He had to soak up a lot of Mayan culture and Popol Vuh and he went to Chiapas to see how the people lived. He had a lot of research behind him and did a lot of sketches on that trip and then he turned them on the mural, "he says.
Carrington had his first exhibition in Mexico in a furniture store in 1950 – the Clark Decor Gallery – according to this newspaper in an interview in 1993. For his son, that era was exactly what permanently defined the painting of the British. "It has to do with the amount of pictorial experiments she had throughout her life, the more she experimented, the better she became as an artist. At the beginning he was looking for himself as an artist to be able to handle his language well, "he says. The fairy worlds, their memories and their particular vision of the world stirred the artistic scene of the time. "When surrealism was being presented there was a very strong reaction, people did not consider that to be art," adds Weisz.
With the perspective of time, the situation has changed: some 320,000 people admired the work of the Surrealist in Mexico City. The pieces, gathered from various museums and private collections of the world, will remain in Monterrey until February 3, 2019. Weisz, meanwhile, prepares his memoirs around Carrington to join the assessment of his work. "Leonora's painting can make a big difference in the way we imagine things, but the imagination must have some imaginary culture, this only comes from the contact that one can have of artists who imagined worlds," he reflects.