UK Libraries Presents Mexican Folk Art Exhibit of Alebrijes
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Feb. 27, 2014) – As part of "¡Viva Mexico!," University of Kentucky Libraries presents "Alebrijes of Oaxaca, Mexico: an Exhibition of Mexican Folk Art from the State of Oaxaca." Showcasing more than 30 Oaxaca alebrijes on loan from UK faculty members' personal collections, the free public exhibit is on display through April 25, in the atrium of the William T. Young Library.
Whimsical carvings depicting animals, people, objects and imaginary creatures, alebrijes are known for their paintings of intense colors and intricate patterns. Carved from the twisting branches of the copal wood, the figures are sanded and painted with a base coat of paint. The final painting is done meticulously with detailed designs and vibrant colors.
Although alebrijes are often assumed to represent a long established tradition of Mexican folk art, they only began to appear in the 1940s.
After the Mexican Revolution, intellectuals and politicians began to reinvent a national identity that would unify a population that had suffered 10 years of violent civil war. Rejecting European aesthetic ideals that had been dominant before the revolution, they began to recognize the value of Mexican arts and crafts. They sponsored various exhibitions of arts and crafts from all over the country as part of a new Mexican aesthetic.
The state of Oaxaca had long been an area of accomplished wood carvers who produced masks and utilitarian objects.
Manuel Jiménez, of Arrazola, maintained a monopoly on alebrije carvings in his village until the 1960s. However, the alebrije vendors he supplied found him unreliable. Craft marketers began to look elsewhere for a source of alebrijes and encouraged men in neighboring villages to carve them.
In 1968, the production of alebrijes spread to the community of San Martín Tilcajete. The director of Mexico’s National Tourist Council learned of the work in the town and arranged for the alebrijes to be viewed in an exposition in Mexico City and Los Angeles.
Much of the success of the sale of alebrijes is attributed to improved infrastructure and communication within Mexico. However, the alebrije trade is dependent upon the demand for indigenous craft by the middle and upper class in the United States, Canada and Europe.
"The Alebrijes of Oaxaca, Mexico" exhibit can also be discovered online by visiting http://uknowledge.uky.edu/world_mexico_alebrijes/.
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