Mexican Pulp Art: The Wall Street Journal

Mexican Pulp Art:
The Wall Street Journal
2016-12-29T19:52:25+00:00

Project Description

Hyperallergic-Mexican-Pulp-art-1.5‘Pulp Drunk’: ‘Mexican Pulp Art’

by Ken Johnson

February 26, 2015 – “Pulp Drunk: Mexican Pulp Art,” an exhibition of original paintings made for the covers of paperback novels of the 1960s and ’70s, is a hoot. It’s also psychologically and sociologically resonant. Most were done in tempera paints on cardboard by unidentified Mexican artists, who vividly pictured primal fantasies and anxieties dressed up in midcentury garb.

The cast of characters includes desperate men, curvy women in form-fitting clothes, extraterrestrials, dinosaurs and run-amok robots. The paintings, in a simplified realist style, depict events including, according to the gallery checklist, “Maid interrupting little green alien attack,” “Sleeping woman being possessed by spirits” and “Gorilla grabbing scared woman.” While most of these images are predictably and comically conventional, some are truly weird, like the one in which a man’s head has escaped from a painted portrait into three dimensions and, for no clear reason, is threatening another, terrified fellow.

The value of these paintings isn’t to be found in their aesthetic sophistication or refinement. This is truly art for the masses, as kitschy as it is amusing. But there’s something deeper, which has to do with the genre they were created for: unrepentantly sexist fictions involving all kinds of criminal and supernatural occurrences. Unvarnished by society’s mainstream public morality, these images have a kind of authenticity resembling, in some ways, that of Outsider art. They expose the throbbing id of the collective unconscious, which is why artists like the Pop-surrealist Jim Shaw and the Pop-conceptualist Mike Kelley found so much inspiration in this sort of psychoanalytically combustible material.

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