Mexican Murals – Winston Churchill and the Bike Movement

in murals •  2 years ago  (edited)

In the Land of Painted Walls

Living in Mexico City, one thing I should not ignore are the numerous examples of murals all over the walls of this town. There are various types: some have been commissioned by a public institution to beautify a pedestrian overpass or the pillars supporting the mass transit train, while expressing the people's sentiments through the artist's view. Others are advertisement of a private business. Still others are freely donated by underground artists, who usually work without being paid or without even being asked for their work. This latter case is considered vandalism, which doesn't make these murals any less appealing, as long as they are not confused with common graffiti tags. 

Starting Close to Home 

The first mural I'd like to introduce is quite close to where I live. It can be found in the Colonia San Miguel Chapultepec, on the corner of Gobernador Augustín Vicente Eguia and Gobernador José Gómez de la Cortina. This little corner used to be a notorious garbage magnet until the city put up the blue fence with a couple of benches in front, and filled the area behind it with plants. Mind you, it still tends to accumulate garbage, but at least there is someone in charge of cleaning it up (presumably for a salary). As part of this beautification effort, the walls were painted as well, resulting in its current appearance.

What Does It All Mean?  

I usually like to employ a great deal of imagination when interpreting art, which can deviate a lot from what the artist might have had in mind. With most murals, especially the illegal ones, that will have to do, as there simply is no way of finding out. But in this case, a quick web search revealed some surprising facts. 

Bicycles and Winston Churchill

About three years ago the government of our district spearheaded a huge campaign for the popularization of bicycles. Many streets got a bike lane, ridiculous metal contraptions in the shape of bike pictographs were set up all over the place where you could lock your bike to, and several murals were commissioned from established galleries. By now, almost all of the locking contraptions have been stolen (steel does have its value) and most murals were painted over, but this one still remains. The artists credited for the work are Minoz y Alan Barron from the Galería Alam+Petrov. 

At the same time, however, the same corner is part of another series of murals, painted by another group of artists. The so called Ruta de Churchill (Churchill Route) is composed of five murals in various districts of the city featuring the famous Prime Minister of the UK during WWII. The group in charge of this project is called SAS, la Sociedad Artística Sinaloense (Artistic Society of Sinaloa) together with the Colectivo TUYI. It may be hard to recognize, but the person sitting at the desk, wearing a bow tie, is Winston Churchill. The words in the black circle are one of his famous quotes: 

 Success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing your enthusiasm.    - Winston Churchill  

Free Interpretation 

So how does Churchill and bicycles go together? What did the artist(s) want to say with this piece? Let me make a very wild attempt at explaining it: 

The world can be quite confusing sometimes, especially when you're little. Many things go way above your head, and can hardly be comprehended for what they are or what they want to be. Just like those starry flowers above and all around the kid on the left. The biggest distraction is the face on the blue screen, but every kid knows that's just a fake image, like doll on TV. No matter how friendly, it is just an illusion. The reality of some important personality sitting behind the desk sure looks imposing. He might have been the man leading Britain through the war, but since his face is just as obscured by incomprehensibility, he may just as well be another teacher. The important message is in the quote: You will fail, and fail again, but that's no reason to lose enthusiasm. The bug made of a bike saddle and a handle bar, looking down from the picture frame will agree: If you just keep trying long enough you'll be riding a bike in no time at all. Just like the kid on the right. 

Sources: 1, 2, 3, Photos were taken by me.

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The difference between these murals and typical inner-city graffiti is twofold; the intention behind them and the general cultural spirit that inspires them.

Very nice stuff!

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Agreend :-) And, although graffiti has its place in our todays world and culture, I like the fact, that a mural is usually with the consent of the owner of the "surface". In my eyes, a matter of mutual respect. Remains the question which "route" gives the artist more freedom..

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That's an awesome point. Mutual respect... That's something we could all do with cultivating isn't it? :)

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Yes, unfortunately things like that don't have the "coolness" certain people are looking for these days...

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Thanks for pointing that out, @reinhard-schmid. That's also the mindset I came from, until Mexico taught me otherwise. Yes, this mural has been commissioned (and thus probably paid for). Just across the street some ugly graffiti tags make the wall less appealing. BUT... and that is what I want to focus on in my next mural posts: there are some really awesome murals that have been obviously painted illegally, just like the tags. The difference is that they actually look great. Stay tuned for my some more amazing mural posts!

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This is very interesting, as my father took me to work on a lot of murals here in Germany back in the 70s... all commissioned and paid for ;-) My question of what gives the artist more freedom, was actually a bit provocative, as in my opinion, you have more freedom, when everyone respects everybody else's. The foundation of every (decent) legal system.

Sure, one could say, someone can put their tag anywhere they want, respect no authority, feel (free) like a hero... and with a commissioned piece you have to do what someone else tells you... Nevertheless, the greatest artworks in history have been created this way. Like the Sixtine Chapel, to only name one.

I have seen some outstanding graffiti of a quality to be shown in a museum. Most of it however, I find nothing more than a disgrace. And that is where the cultural aspect comes in. Why does a part of a society feel the need to act a certain way? Ok, this could lead to a lengthy discussion about history and politics, so I should get back to something very important you mentioned. The fact, that the mural likely looks better than the tag, no matter if it has been done legally or not.

Not sure how I feel about it. Of course, if you have a run down public building or something like that, a good mural would certainly be an improvement. On the other hand, if there was the nicely kept house, the two old folks living in it might have a heart attack, if they stepped out one morning and saw, that I put some (half) naked chicks next to their front door.. So I'm very curious about your next mural posts!

. . .

Would love to upvote the comments of you @stortebeker and @oddnugget... unfortunately I'm a total newbie here and I didn't know one only has a certain voting power. Gave most of it away already. But... I'll be back ;-)

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Hello @reinhard-schmid! Here is my next mural post: https://steemit.com/murals/@stortebeker/mexican-murals-different-types-of-wall-paintings
I'm sure you'll be interested in the last part, showing (indirectly) the respect artist give each other (or don't). And yes, I fully agree on the cultural aspect: Here in Mexico murals have a lasting tradition, while graffiti not so much. Consequently you don't see really nice looking graffiti. I know, I've come across some amazing ones in Budapest... Thus, people respect good looking pictures, while tags are tagged over, and over, essentially in a tag-battle.
Oh, regarding upvoting: I sure appreciate upvotes for my comments, but since HF19 it has become a rare practice, only for especially valuable ones (like the one I'm replying to, so here, let me give you an upvote!) But give it some time and your voting power will regenerate. You can see some helpful statistics here: https://steemnow.com/

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Thanks a lot for pointing me to your new post. Very interesting indeed!

And yes, I have seen some amazing graffiti in south eastern Europe too. Not just tags, more like real murals. I always thought the main difference was, if a wall was painted on with the owners consent or not. Thanks for pointing out, that it goes beyond just that.

I don't know, what an HF19 is, but I did find out, that some of my (obviously) microscopic voting power (sounds ridiculous in my case) came back. Didn't help your post much, sorry :-/

Would you like to read about the biggest piece of artwork I ever created in my recent post? Adding a picture here is considered spam I was told. As mutual respect is very important for me, I'll first wait for and respect your answer to my question first :-)

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HF19 is the 19th Hard Fork in Steemit, having to do with reorganizing its internal workings. There are many posts on this, by people who know much better than me what they're talking about. Apparently it happened about a week after I joined. Previously rewards were decent, since then (as you pointed out so fittingly) microscopic. There may be some improvement in sight, but in any case, I believe success comes gradually, after building up interest in what you've got to offer. So I'm not too concerned.
And yes, I would LOVE to read about the biggest piece of art you ever created! I don't mind if you post a pic in the comments, but I would much rather read a complete post on it. Just like your father's work. And I'm sure I may not be the only one interested, so in that sense I think adding a picture here is waste of a good article. I agree: the best post ideas are inspired by other comments.

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Exactly, @oddnugget. The cultural spirit behind the art is what makes it so interesting. There is always a story, even if the viewer might not get it exactly right.

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Interpretation is the hidden beauty of all art - it takes on new forms depending on who sees it. :)

Muy buenas fotos compañero, a ver cuando me das unos tips
Saludos

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Gracias @davidaraiza, pero no son tan buenas. Lo que es lindo es el mural! No se si vale la pena una viaje al DF, pero es cierto que el rincón se ve mucho mejor así.

This is incredible thank you for sharing

que bueno tu post amigo, saludos from Venezuela..!! @gaborey07

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Gracias, y saludos a ti también!