Dienstag, 24. Februar 2015

Alebrijes of Oaxaca

(etcetera23 on ART Tour)

Alebrijes of Oaxaca

This Time, my Art-Travel brought me to Oaxaca in Mexico. Oaxaca is about 6 hours south of Mexico City and has a pretty famous worldwide recognized and creative artisanal crafts scene. From hand stitched textiles to black and green clay pottery, you can find a lot of other things here. One of them is a really interesting Art form. The “Alebrijes”.  All kind of real and surreal animal creatures painted in strong contrasting colors with intricate designs. Originated from the Mexico City artist Pedro Linares Lopez, who started making paper maché figurines of weird and abstract animals, after some intense hallucinogenic dreams in his sick period when he was 30 years old. In my opinion he might accidently took some LSD or ate some of the “wrong” mushrooms, because when you see his creation he must had his dreams of his life, which also went to some screaming alberijes nighmares. But his Art went famous through whole Mexico. In the 80-s, the Oaxaca artist Manuel Jiménez got influence by Lopez´s  art, after an arranged Mexican art craft workshop, set up by the filmmaker Judith Bronowski. The Oaxacan Valley was already known for the established wood animal carving scene and Jiménez adapted some designs to his works. The Name “Alebrijes” got adopted too. 

Now over 150 families in the villages of Arrazola, Tejalapan and San Martin Tilcajete can make a living of this fascinating and different copal wood art.

 I went 23km south of Oaxaca City to the tiny village called Tilcajete, to have a close look at some of the studios. First I got a little overwhelmed by how many shops are lined up next to each other. I went through a zick zack through the empty streets of Tilcajete. It was in the middle of the week and a random afternoon. I guess some tours might come through here in the morning and it probably quite busy here on the Friday market and on the weekend. The emptiness of the village gave me more opportunity to see how the families work, gave me more time to talk to them and have a closer look the artworks. Most of the owners and artist where really chill out and gave me full tours through their workshops.

They showed me carving techniques of the “wet” copal wood. They actually called it wet, but it meant it was freshly cut and not dried out. The wood type is very soft. The mass production pieces are made from big flogs and some really special ones are from random weird grown tree branches.
After the carving process, they are going to be dried in ovens, to kill all the insect eggs. Some of the families only had gas-household ovens. 

Usually the pieces crack in the drying process. The next step is filling the holes and sand down all uneven spaces.

After the priming, basic coloring and drying again, the fine colorful artworks will be painted on. In the earlier times the used aniline paints, but these days the most artist use acrylic paints.

From family to family they use different techniques of modern and traditional art pattern. Even untrained eyes can spot the qualities differences. I was amazed of some of the really fine patterns of some of the figures.

Some studios only had a few piece to show, because they specialized on custom design works, which take sometimes several month to finish.


 A few of the studios exhibited also award priced pieces, which were incredible. These pieces took even years to finish. 

all copyrights by www.etcetera23.com

Sources and more information about Alebrijes:

Efrain Fuentes y Silvia
Av Oriente San Martin Tilcajete Oaxaca
(efrainfuentesartesaanias (at) hotmail.com)

Nestor Melchor
Calle Tanque de Aqua No.3 S.M. Tilcajete Oaxaca
(smtilcajete (at) gmail.com)

Victor Fabian
Calle Tanque S.M. Martin Tilcajete Oaxaca


Februar 2015

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