Postcard from Oaxaca, Mexico: ‘Nobodies’ populate walls

Above: Detail of “Los Nadies,” or “The Nobodies,” woodblock print murals by the Colectivo Subterraneos in the Xochimilco barrio of Oaxaca

Existimos, porque resistimos. Por los oprimidos, por los invisibilizados, por aquellos que quisieron enterrar, los subterraneos, existimos.

We exist, because we resist. For the oppressed, for the invisible, for those who wanted to bury, the underground, we exist.

Artist Statement of Colectivo Subterraneos

The one-story building at the corner of Calle Jose Lopez Alavez and Calle Bolanos Cacho, Barrio de Xochimilco, was a deep burnt red color until a team of enthusiastic artists armed with rollers gave it a new coat of deep pink this fall. They quickly papered the rough stucco canvas with a series of large, exquisitely detailed woodblock prints the young artists created as part of Colectivo Subterraneos.

The Colectivo views itself as a “school where they train for graphic and pictorial insurgency….” Art emerging from the Colectivo workshops make strident political statements, even more biting than the graphics of Jose Guadalupe Posada who died a century ago. Those relating to slavery, for example, are as brutal as the “Los Caprichos” and “Disasters of War” series of prints by Spain’s Francisco Goya (1746-1828).

Presumably the whole pink project was executed with permission from the property owner, but many of the images that will be included in subsequent posts seem vigilante. Although the city of Oaxaca cultivates its reputation as a major center for traditional printmaking, the placement of the Colectivo’s prints plastered on walls throughout the historic center hint they often are lacking any formal approval. The Colectivo proclaims: “The streets are ours, somewhere in the city of the Resistance, Oaxaca, Mexico.”

Giving visual voice to social ills past and present, the talented artists continue to garner attention far and wide. Opinions of the offended “unwoke” be damned, the group’s works were showcased in a major exhibition in the newly opened Alvaro Carrillo Cultural Center in Oaxaca and this fall in the Penticon Art Museum in British Columbia. Reviewing the Penticon show, Gord Goble wrote for Penticon Now:

While it’s terrifying. It’s beautiful. It knocks you over the head with its subject matter, its colossal scale and its portrayal of man’s inhumanity to man and to the planet.

With that background in place, here are some of the noble-looking “Nobodies” found on this corner in Xochimilco – bodies scrambled in a mix-and-match fashion.

And of all the noble figures depicted on the walls, the pig’s head featured at the top is the only “no body.”

To view the cooperative efforts involved in the installation of this project, visit the Colectivo’s Instagram site.

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