Demian Flores Cortes - Museo de la Ciudad de México

José Manuel Springer | ArtNexus | Feb 2001

Museo de la Ciudad de México

Last Sunday I went to the wrestling matches. The Museum of Mexico City had been turned into an arena. The sign announced a confrontation between the strategies of rope tying and the graphic arts. Popular sensibility and catharsis. El Brazo de Plata vs. El Shocker, alternating with the engravings of Demian Flores Cortes. The crowd crammed together to observe the struggle on the patio of the palace of the Marquis of Calimaya.

The popularity of wrestling is not gratuitous. In this show, a mix of myth and ritual, there is a concentration of fantasy, confrontation between good and evil, strategy, and brute strength, with a visual baroque style. The treatment of wrestling in art has come to form a subgenre of the arts which is found on a par with the portrait, the nude, or still life. As in wrestling matches, the visual arts also have their technicians and their yokels. Demián Flores (Juchitán, 1971) is one of the most elaborate technicians in terms of expressing a form of life framed by the ring.

With the very elaborate and steady hand of a drawer, Demián portrays the ubiquitous gladiator with his corpulent figure, who is none other than the representative of the popular spirit of wrestling. The fifty engravings exhibited summarize the ideology of the wrestler: don’t allow yourself to be beat, prevail over the enemy, and accept defeat with dignity. The abundant masks allow them to maintain anonymity and they facilitate the exchange of identities. Elegiac victory and tragic defeat are only the parameters in which life moves. Each match is a staging of the conflict, and each key a form of overcoming that conflict.

The exhibition attracts attention on account of its graphic sleight-of-hand. The work is a compendium that displays how graphic art has become an essential element of the visual arts of the last decade. Typographies without skates, old entertainment sections, drawn, painted, and cut-out texts, newspaper collages, are all combined with artistic techniques: xylography, dry-tip engraving, and serigraphy. Demián is elegant in his stroke, sober in his use of black, white, and red, agile in his statement, and convincing in his impression. His work is a way of seeing with the media offered by the graphic communication related
to this kind of spectacle.

Without changing its meaning or falling into ironic paraphrasing, the engravings turn wrestling into a squandering of plastic forms. Artistic values are associated with the carnal figure of the wrestler, his ballet of movements, and the theatricality of his mask. Hidden behind the drawing, which is sometimes dense and other times sparse, we find other signs of a mythical past tenuously shaped: rabbits, pre-Hispanic snakes, floral details.

Those intermixed references make us think of the fusion of our small ideals, which form part of our individual being. Who has not at some time felt like a wrestler, an anonymous hero, knocked down by custom, with victories fixed by force of circumstances? And who has not risen to the throne of victory, enjoying the accomplishments of heroes as if they were one’s own? Wrestling is a metaphor of life in common.

In the parallel exhibition that Demian Flores is presenting in the gallery at the El Aire art center, the wrestling discourse has been treated through painting with an economy of media, but without the same effectivity. For my taste, these works lack the force and clarity that the graphic work attains.

Taking the comparison a little further, we could say that Demian Flores is a technician in graphic art and unrefined in painting. The paintings have a more claustrophobic and aestheticized atmosphere than the graphic pieces. They combine dripping and splattering with the use of stencils and graphic signs. They do not have the sense of movement of the drawn images, and they give the idea of patterns printed on the canvas. There is a bad aftertaste of Juchitán painting in Demian Flores’s work. The taste for earth colors and pastel tones which translates into the celebration of the vital: the accumulation of narratives and the repetition of plastic motifs as a form of capturing the continuity of life, the popular anecdotal tone of the themes, and the absence of formal compositions which give an informal tone. These elements have been woven in a very sure way with the theme of wrestling. In his work, there is no hackneyed magic realism,
bestiality or zoophilia which characterize so many artists from Juchitán. After seeing both shows, what sticks in my mind is that feeling that is found in the crowd that regularly attends wrestling matches: oblivion of the tragic sense of life, the banalization of suffering as a need, the ephemeral character of the
misfortunes and falls, and the solidarity with those who have made of the blows and falls a form of life.