Mexican Murals – A Familiar Face

in murals •  2 years ago  (edited)

Looking at the paintings on the walls in my neighborhood, especially the freewheeling types, even the most superficial observer will notice some reoccurring features. Probably the most obvious one is the face of a bald, chubby character with thick lips and something long on his chin. At first it may look like a long beard, or fat flabby skin maybe... Is that his long tongue he's sticking out? Or is he wearing a turtle-neck sweater? In any case, the same character will look at you from elaborately painted murals, to a crudely drawn marker markings, from stenciled spray-paint to stickers on lamp posts.

Who Is This Guy? 

… and how can I find out? Since most of the art-works he's taken up into are obviously non-commissioned, it could be a bit of a challenge to just contact the artist. On a closer look, there are a number of pieces with the artists' signatures he appears in, and they were apparently created by different people. That can even be seen on the quality of the work: in some murals the same head is beautifully painted, in others sorta just sketched. Most artists also add something about and around him, whether he gets weird pipes shooting out of his mouth, or his whole head opens up into an intense bio-mechanic image. At one point I even saw him wearing Mickey Mouse ears, and I wish I remembered where, to include the picture here.

Mapping the Location

So we can assume there are various artists using this image in their murals, each with their own skills,  techniques, and artistic interpretations. One of these murals I've even posted about, here. There must be some consensus among them. But what do these images all have in common, other than the ubiquitous big giant head? One clue could be the location. Though I've been looking at this character with such close scrutiny only over the last few weeks, it seems like he tends to occur mostly in the same part of the city: San Miguel Chapultepec, Escandón, Tacubaya. Nice finding, but I'm not sure how this information helps on our quest to find out about this guy.

A Potential Solution: Tuxtla Statue

I didn't even think I would find any closer clues, or anything resembling a solution... until I noticed an interesting figurine in the Museum of Anthropology. A small statuette of a guy, squat and corpulently built, bald headed, and a long tongue sticking out of his mouth. That's him! It has to be, looking so similar. According to the label, what looks like his tongue is in fact a duck-bill, or more exactly the bill of a boat-billed heron. (How did I not see that?) The origin of the object is the Gulf Coast of Veracruz / Tabasco, and goes back to the Olmec culture, most famous for some really BIG GIANT heads, carved out of rock.

Source

The similarity with the face in the murals was uncanny, which got me even more interested. Why did our local street artists use this particular piece in their murals? A closer look regarding the inscription on the statuette reveiled further clues. According to the museum's info, what made the Tuxtla Statue so interesting were the inscriptions found etched into it. The dots and lines on the front are numbers from the Mesoamerican Long Count Calendar 8.6.2.4.17, which corresponds to March 162 C.E. The other symbols are glyphs from the Mesoamerican writing system, together providing evidence of the local cultures' writing going back as far as the Olmec civilization.

Suddenly Everything Makes Sense

Of course: writing by using symbols to represent ideas. Hieroglyphs and pictographs are nothing but simplified pictures. So no wonder that our local muralists would adopt this character into their art. A truly Mexican figure, going back to the earliest civilizations, even predating the Maya. At the same time, an image one can not un-notice. The fat, bald head with the duck-bill tends to stay with the observer. Now, I feel a triumphant accomplishment whenever I see him looking at me from a wall. I know who you are! Okay, at least I seem to have an idea, which is good enough for now. Maybe one day I'll have the chance to talk to an artist and find out more. But for now, I'm happy with this much.

If you liked this, check out my developing series on Mexican Murals:   

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This gem of a post was discovered by the OCD Team!

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Sure I accept!

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And dude, am I glad I accepted!!! The OCD curation seems to work wonders! Thank you so much. Unlike with Curie, where a whale has a bowel movement and suddenly there are a few hundred bucks in my reward, with OCD there is a steady growth, but it's composed of real people who may come back for more if I post some other interesting stuff. Huge shoutout to OCD and @anomadsoul for awesome curating!

This post has received a 0.78 % upvote from @drotto thanks to: @banjo.

A good job discovering who the mystery man is. This is so cool. Beautiful photos. Thanks for sharing.

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Thank you @cecicastor! :-) I was thinking that it would make a nice story for a post... but I had to revisit the museum to be sure. Once convinced, I took a picture and I was ready.

What a trip! I was getting so sucked into the adventure that I got really excited to find out and I am glad you found this terrific answer! I really love it :-D

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Nice! Yeah, that was sorta my intention. Great to hear it worked so well!

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:)

I'd say the spray paintings look way more human-like than the figurine..Still, double thumbs-up to you!! You managed to discover the guy's identity..Yay! =DD

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Isn't it awesome? Such a benign little discovery, but I was so psyched to have found it. Sharing it in a post multiplies the fun.

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=DD

Some great pieces here. I love the story behind it and the effort you went to to discover it

if your interested in StreetArt, please consider checking out my #sreetartchallenge.

The challenge encourages people to explore their area and share the art they find,
share their thoughts about the art and any info they have on the artist.
Your post is a perfect example of what I would like the challenge to be
There is SBD to be won each week.

If you would like to check it out here is this week's post

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Really awesome challenge! If you take a look at the previous posts in my Mexican Murals series, you'll see that these are exactly the things I like to look into: what does the mural depict, and what I think it means, who made it (if possible to know) and why, and also exact locations. This latter one came a bit short in this particular post, as there are a number of images from three neighborhoods. If you want, and if I still qualify (I don't think I can change the primary tag any more), I'd be happy to include this post in this weeks challenge. If not, I'll have some other mural prepared for next week's one.

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I might consider an amnesty on the tag rule this week. I'll post an edit into this week's challenge post if I do. It just makes it easier to find and judge entries
I'll look forward to your future submissions too

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Awesome, cheers!