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This short essay by the French-Mexican critic, curator, and writer Olivier Debroise grapples with the phenomenon of neoexpressionist figurative painting in Mexico in the mid- and late-1980s. The author interprets appropriations of the official iconography of Mexican nationalism of the first half of the twentieth century and its religious, political, and revolutionary symbols, clearly legible in this art, through the definition of Postmodernism elaborated by Frederic Jameson in Postmodernism, or the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (London: Verso, 1990). Debroise takes Postmodernism as a socio-historical phenomenon rather than an artistic style or movement. Hence, he frames its emergence in Mexico and other developing countries of Latin America within the socio-political context of the decade. He traces particular Mexican manifestations of the broader trends within the continent, such as: the breakdown of regular exchanges with the outside world, dissolution of the artistic dissemination systems of the late 1970s, disillusionment with the concept of modernity, loss of faith in the idea of revolution and the monolithic left, and, finally, loss of public credibility by the existing institutions. Comparing the Mexican production to Chicano art, Debroise sees the Mexican neofiguration as a revalidation of one’s own culture during the moment of a profound crisis through the deployment of popular imaginary, kitsch, parody, and acerbic humor.
“¿Un posmodernismo en México?” by the French-Mexican critic, curator, writer, and filmmaker Olivier Debroise (Jerusalem, Israel, 1952–Mexico City, Mexico, 2008) was printed in the magazine México en el Arte, published since 1948 by Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes (INBA) [National Institute of Fine Arts]. In his essay, Debroise resists to understand the neo-expressionistic, figurative, and often tacky painting of the 1980s, which came to be known as neo-mexicanismo, as a simple importation of the Postmodern style fashionable in the United States. Instead of seeing it as a belated imitation of international trends, he attempts to imbue the Mexican work with meaning by reading the production of the decade through a specific, local socio-political context. Hence, by extension, Debroise seeks a new model of the valuation of Latin American artwork, independent of the established Western canons. This attempt to construct an alternative artistic value system and to simultaneously challenge the established history of Mexican Modernism is reflective of Debroise’s other projects, such as the exhibitions Modernidad y modernización en el arte mexicano (Modernity and modernization in Mexican Art) at the Museo Nacional de Arte in Mexico City (1991); El Corazón Sangrante [The Bleeding Heart] at the ICA in Boston (1991); David Alfaro Siqueiros: Retrato de una década [David Alfaro Siqueiros: Portrait of a Decade] at the Museo Nacional de Arte, Mexico City, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, California, and the Whitechapel Gallery, London (1997); and cocurated with Cuauhtémoc Medina and Álvaro Vázquez, La era de la discrepancia. Arte y cultura visual en México, 1968–1994 [The Age of Discrepancy. Visual Art and Culture in Mexico] at the Museo Universitario de Ciencias y Arte, MUCA, in Mexico City (2007).