Mexican art is some of the best in the world.
However, recognition and appreciation in North America is almost non existent, unlike Europe, where Mexican art is eagerly collected and shown in major museums and art galleries.
Alejandro Santiago is one of my favourite Mexican artists.
He used color and expressive forms to convey both his imagination and spiritual views.
Santiago – arguably one of Mexico’s greatest artists.
His international acclaim widespread.
His art powerful, mesmerizing.
Santiago was born in the state of Oaxaca – a hotbed for many of Mexico’s greatest artists – in Teococuilco, a village of about 1,100, 40 miles from Oaxaca City.
It was in Oaxaca City that Santiago studied at a local art school, eventually taking classes at another art school, named after the renowned internationally-acclaimed Mexican artist Rufino Tamayo.
There he received a scholarship and decided to become a painter.
In 1985 Santiago had his first exhibition at an art gallery in Mexico, from which the Rockefeller Foundation acquired three of his works.
Four years later – 1989 – he received an American scholarship allowing him to travel throughout the U.S. sharing his experiences as an artist at universities and art galleries.
In 1993 he had a show in Brussels, then Paris, reinforcing his reputation as a major artist.
In 1996 he returned to Oaxaca City, establishing his studio on a ranch.
It was here that he created his most important and monumental work.
It took him two years to complete – sculptures of 2501 Migrants, a symbolic homage of the thousands of souls of his countrymen that had left his home town of Teococuilco – each one died trying to cross the border into the U.S.
The 1 in the total number of 2501, a signpost that there always was one more migrant leaving, one more dying.
The clay life-sized figurers, each four feet, four inches tall, weighing 150 pounds, depicting the harsh lives of migrants.
Inspiration for the project came in 2001, returning home after a after a three-year stay in Paris. He was struck by the empty streets of his hometown, Teococuilco.
Two years later – 2003 – Santiago decided to experience what it was like to cross the U.S. border illegally. With the help of a smuggler in Tijuana he tried cross into the U.S., only to be caught and returned to Mexico.
He was struck by the thousands of crosses put on the corrugated wall marking the border by activists to represent those who died trying to cross. .
The complete collection first was shown in 2007 at the Universal Forum of Cultures in the northern Mexico city of Monterrey.
The first paintings I saw by Santiago was at the Bond Latin gallery was in San Francisco. Upon seeing it I was awe struck and bought it.