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El Universal - In English - Mauricio Siller Obregon: master of Neo-Mytho-Maya Art

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Mauricio Siller Obregon: master of Neo-Mytho-Maya Art

BY JOHN MAXIM
EL UNIVERSAL/The Herald| El Universal
Domingo 16 de noviembre de 2003

With the widely varied 20-year retrospective exhibition of paintings, sculptures and poetry recently opened at the El Juglar Cultural Center, artist Mauricio Siller Obregon proves himself to be a master of an artistic movement which can only be called the Neo-Mytho-Maya School of Mexican Art.

Siller's superb paintings are the latest spin on an ancient artistic tradition that goes back thousands of years and encompasses the great Meso-American cultures of the Aztecs, Toltecs, Zapotecs, Olmecs and Maya cultures, to name but a few.

That millennial tradition, which pre-dates the Greco-Roman and almost parallels the Mesopotamian and Egyptian cultures, includes everything from the Maya codices and textiles to incredibly beautiful murals. Such wall paintings, primitive in content yet so stunningly sophisticated in concept and execution, can be seen in Teotihuacan, Uxmal, Chichen-Itza, Bonampak and the more recently discovered ruins of Cacaxtla.

Mauricio Siller Obregon, a middle-aged, modestly mannered single parent of three who lives on the rim of the valley of Mexico, is propelled by the same instincts that drove the ancient artists.

His exhibition includes seven slim volumes of often romantic lyrical and dramatic poetry that bear the influences of Rimbaud, Rilke, Poe and Paz, among many others. For instance, a short poem called ?Otra Puerta? (?Another Door?) can be translated as follows:

?To the earth I shall commit myself.

My hands will abandon their heart,

And from my fingers shall spring flowers.?

There are 14 generally small-scale sculptures in bronze, clay, stone and wood that show the influences of Rodin, Peraza, and Brancusi, among others, and represent traditional human, animal and abstract forms in motion.

There is a single mobile installation containing 17 small torsos in fetal positions dangling from black strings, with four figures holding down the base.

The wooden sculptures are African-primitive in style and feeling, tall, slim wooden figures that smoothly stress stylized human forms and accentuate the natural internal beige grains and soft terracotta colors of tropical wood and branches the artist found on the beaches of the state of Guerrero.

But painting is Siller Obregon's forte.

He is a ?wild beast? in the tradition of his illustrious Maya ancestors and Fauvists such as Matisse, Derain, Vlaminck, and particularly Van Gogh. Like them, he seldom mixes colors, although when he does, he does so expertly, applying paint pristinely right out the tube. But his technique does the Fauvists one better, because it includes mixing oil paints and linseed oil with transparent varnish that gives his works super shiny surfaces.

They don't need special lighting, because they emanate their own light from their surfaces and from within, where lies a deep spring of exotic sensuality, amazing energy and bright spirituality.

None of the paintings have frames because they don't need them.

However, color without content and composition is nothing ? and Siller Obregon's paintings are distinguished by both. They are triple whammies of blazingly brilliant colors, extraordinarily complex compositions, and rich contents based mainly on Maya-Aztec Nahuatl mythology, mysticism, masks and magic.

Among the myriad images they contain are Maya-Aztec symbols and scenes, shamans, feathered serpents, flora and fauna of all kinds (both real and invented), pagan gods and goddesses alongside colonial Catholic cherub faces and the Virgin of Guadalupe.

The purity of the artist's aesthetic and style and the poetic sensibility behind it all, gives viewers a spicy, unforgettable visual feast.

Mauricio Siller Obregon is not yet recognized and appreciated as a tremendously gifted and original artist. This isn't his problem, but Mexico's, which is full of ?malinchistas,? those who prefer the foreign to the home-grown.

Mauricio Siller Obregon, on the contrary, has not fallen into that seductive trap, but has proudly rescued his indigenous, ancestral roots with a vengeance.

I think that within a decade, after his astonishing works have been shown and seen abroad, particularly in New York, London and the rest of Europe, where critics and collectors are going to go wild over his paintings, he is going to become world-famous, and as symbolic of Mexican fine art as Frida Kahlo, who was so long taken for granted and unappreciated by her fellow countrymen.

So catch him now, while his prices are still reasonable, before he becomes known as the Master of Neo-Mytho-Maya Mexican modern art.

Let me put it this way: the first time I saw Mauricio Siller Obregon's paintings, I bought one.

John Maxim writes a weekly column on Mexico's cultural scene for The Herald.



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