If you are a fan of Mexico like I am, do not miss this new show at Institut Culturel du Mexique where Eduardo Zamora (b.1942) is showing his latest paintings including “The Elephant’s strike in Paris” painted last year. They are a mix of religious and erotic images (far from his earlier abstract works) set in a poetic rural landscape with the Mexican sense of illusion and darkness of life. His world is immediately overpowering and for a half hour you live in a different atmosphere, almost feeling the warmth of the country while you know that all of these canvases were painted in France from memory.
Zamora was born on the Texan border in Nuevo Laredo and trained at UNAM in Mexico city. He travelled to Madrid at 16 and toured around Europe. He was back in Tepoztlan at the time of the 1968 contest movements and worked as a copyist of Diego Rivera and Jose Clemente Orozco’s frescoes. His work is very reminiscent of the surrealist fantastic paintings by Leonora Carrington. After winning a scholarship to study in Cracovia, at the Academy of Graphic arts, where he met his French wife Françoise Passot, he decided to move to Paris with her after spending some time in Mexico. There, he became one of the most active latino American artists and created the group Magie-Image with Saúl Kaminer, an architect who was a close friend of Roberto Matta. He has lived in Paris and Burgundy since.
When I asked him over the phone what he meant by “Laundry washing” at the Virgin’s, he described angels cleaning the Virgin’s house and himself lying drunk on the bed. He also said he did not always have an answer to what his canvases were all about. He is not religious but because of all the religious cultures of Mexico, he is naturally inspired by stories from the Bible and from the Indians.
Most works include a couple in love (he admits to being genetically faithful to his wife of fifty years), but there are two “St Antony’s temptation”, where the saint is living his hallucinations which are quite intriguing as well as “The Encounter with the Devil”, a very surrealistic vision. In the “Hand of God”, painted after his son died at 27, the hand belongs to a gorilla. I enjoyed the “Taxi”, painted in 2022, of a giant man hailing a tiny taxi running way below him. This is such a frustrating daily act in Paris nowadays… A painting of emigrants representing them in an enclosed path with their suitcases and observed by the public, and tree branches on their back is very actual also.
So what unites the different themes of vernacular life and more mystic images is the style full of animals and objects, flying angels and fishes and the sizes of characters. A tiny sardine will be flying over a large dog in Burgundy while large elephants invade Paris. The sardines are an allusion to grilled sardines over lunch with his in-laws who have houses near Rully, the excellent wine which he likes. Each image gives you hundreds of interpretations to search for and you are transported on another planet. “The Cage” could be an allegory of marriage with a young couple holding hands. He personally “adores” the ambiguity which remains in each painting, her class it that grace of the work. The image is there to translate his inner feelings.
The ace of spades is the representation of death about which he says “I am indifferent to death, I despise it”. H wishes his work would help correct injustices and dramas. “I hate what is happening in Ukraine, I would like to bite the culprits with my teeth… I like to paint works which raise questions”. His family the Zamoras are from Spanish ascent but he is often taken I Paris for Arab or a Jew, never for a Mexican… Now that he has lived far longer in France than in his own country, he feels more clearly about Mexico through the people he meets in Paris. And I wonder if it is a coincidence that his studio is on rue Marcel Duchamp?
The Mexican Institute is a pretty place at 119 rue Vieille du Temple, in the Marais and is open every day. Until April 4.
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