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
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.