- Glasgow Print Studio
There is an attractive simplicity and muted quality in Lorena Lozano's images on view at the Glasgow Print Studio. This simplicity, however, is soon found to be a doorway to a density of questions and associations.
Displayed in Glasgow Print Studio's Gallery III, six prints are framed by a counter on one side and a pillar on the other. With the abundance of crosses in the prints, a sense of entering a space of worship is inevitable. The four prints in the centre create a cross like formation in them selves, but the imagery draws us into the young Spanish artists' personal responses to her first stay in Mexico. Lozano says she has always had a desire to visit Mexico, aware of its historical connection to Spain. Delighted at the opportunity afforded by a GPS arranged residency in the small town of Zacatecas, she has produced this work in the Museograbado workshop held in Manuel Fellguerez Museum. Alongside local artists such as Javier Cortez and Maria Elena Vital, Lozano was invited to engage with the idea of inter cultural and community projects related to landscape/terrain.
Zacatecas is the site of a significant battle during the Mexican Revolution (1910-1921), one of many led by the outlawed General Pancho Villa (1901-1925). Lozano's eyes light up as she speaks of her realisation that she was in a place strongly associated with someone admired and much spoken of by her own father. Indeed "La Batalla de Zacatecas Combenzaba a Tomarse Furiosa" (The Battle of
Zacatecas Started to Take Furiously) is immediately visually striking for the familiar Mexican rider silhouettes that approach us from it. But the landscape that these dorados command are not dessert wild lands but a breakers' yard depicted in pale lithographic hues. Above these we find two prints with what could be read as road markings in neat grids. In one a translucent map of Mexico floats above imported American trucks plotted on the grid, in the other a map of Spain hovering over Volkswagen Beatles. Above these two, a single image of female figures in semi silhouette, traversed it seems by the same road markings.
Together these constitute an intriguing collection of images- and when Lozano recounts her experiences as a woman artist in a small town, the sense of violation present in the top image, becomes more poignant in the juxtapositions of the overall display.
Taken together with the titles, parallels seem to be drawn here between the ruggedness and virility associated with Pancho Villa and his men, resisting an oppressive aristocratic ruling system in favour of ordinary Mexicans, and the machismo found in contemporary society. We ask ourselves, would, or perhaps are, los dorados of today riding American trucks on the dusty road? Are the rural folk, from whom Villa and his fellow revolutionary Emillano Zapata arose, now made content by access to the more luxurious identity seemingly referred to by the Beatle? Are women and indigenous peoples specifically present in this discourse? It seems no coincidence that the female figures in the top image are derived from pre Columbian clay figurines of the Totleka culture, one of many decimated by Spanish colonisation over a period of 300 years.
It is in this gently disturbing image, titled "Jaguetes Caros, Enemigos del Tiempo" (Expensive Toys, Enemies of Time) that Lozano most successfully diverts the show from what could remain an ironic tone ending only in cynicism. Many of the pieces, she says, are about the "the death of ideologies" yet in this print the iconic female dolls, spaced like stalks of corn, reminiscent of fertility figures, appear to endure solidly, defying their constantly disturbed space; they become emblematic of survival, persistence perhaps resistance. Lozano comments that many of the original clay figurines have lost limbs and heads over time, but to her it was important to imagine and include a head. Hence the dark, unknown but singularly present heads.
In "Morelos Insurgente" (Morelos the Insurgent) we see a portrait of an earlier national hero, Jose Maria Morelos (1765-1815), an ordained clergyman and political rebel. Morelos led an insurgent army and government during the struggle for Mexican independence from Spain after his mentor and predecessor in this struggle, Hidlago y Costilla was captured and executed. Morelos was of African, native Indian and Spanish descent, and is remembered for his dedication to the idea of equality in society which some see as proto socialist.
In "Morelos Insurgente" his iconic image predominates, but is found to be a photograph of a packet of lentils. The portrait constitutes one layer of a larger composition which depicts a graveyard. Are we presented here with 21st century cynicism, or do the crosses and gravestones, profusely decorated for the day of the dead, remind us of the complexities of state/ church histories and cultural palimpsests?
"El Beso de la Muerte" (The Kiss if Death) presents a similar theme, more specific in its commentary. A map of Mexico casts a shadow in the shape of a map of Spain, and the two are pinned together by a cross. Markings on this print have a scratchy spontaneous quality- as though a political observation has been viscerally realised on paper. At ground level, more scratching, the logical foreshortening of the cross' shadow makes an ‘x' in a circle, and both cross and kiss become the marking of a treasure.
Speaking to Lozano one is aware of a highly trained artist and a personal thoughtfulness that gives depth to the language she uses. Trained initially as a print maker, she learned to value technique, media and skill. She then went on to engage with art practice which places greater emphasis on concept, and displaces the centrality of media. In many ways the workshop in Mexico was liberating for her, she says, a holiday from too much idea heavy practice which can be difficult to put into form. She laughs as she recalls that some of her fellow artists in Zacatecas teased that she needed an "anti-conceptual pill". Yet Lozano did also instigate a series of interventions in the town centre, by artists attending the workshop, thus opening a dialogue. She points out that there are many artists in Mexico City who are already well known for non formalist art, but the art scene in Zacatecas continues to favour a more traditional ‘white cube' practice. In an artist such as Lozano one has an embodiment of many traditions and approaches to art. She has the practical skills and aesthetic judgement to be able to give her clever/ poetic, irreverent/ compassionate reveries substance. The resulting work reminds us about political and social history and its links to the everyday, and to the richness of cultural identities which we can learn to recognize in each other.
When I ask her if different forms of art practice too can be seen as ephemeral ideologies, she does not dismiss the question. It forces her to examine the terms she tells me, and with any luck we will get her response in future work which is well worth looking out for.