“Temporada de lluvias” (Wet Season) marked Roberto Gil de Montes’s first exhibition in Mexico, the place he was born in 1950. Raised primarily in California and energetic within the Los Angeles artwork scene of the Nineteen Seventies and ’80s, Gil de Montes relocated about twenty years in the past to the small Pacific Coast city of La Peñita de Jaltemba, which has served because the setting for his depictions of the queer physique since. The plush current work exhibited right here portrayed well-tanned males, in various states of nudity, lounging, swimming, posing, or simply hanging out amid the coastal enclave’s verdant tropical flora.
Gil de Montes’s palette evokes the vivid hues that comply with tropical showers; he depicts not the rain, however fairly its aftermath—floods, stagnant water, excessive tide. Strains blur. Thick brushstrokes in oil on linen get rid of particulars in order that some works seem unfinished. Most frequently, he employs a flat perspective with brusque colour fields and stark contrasts paying homage to folks artwork. In Boca Chica (all works 2022), a few younger males go for a swim on the seaside close to an previous cemetery, the place quite a few our bodies have been disinterred by flooding after a hurricane in 2002. Within the portray, the graves seem as blocks of colour, solely hinting at what they’re.
The equally large-format San Sebastián del trópico portrays the wounded saint—who was martyred for not renouncing his religion however is usually related to queerness—coming into a physique of water flanked by dark-green and brown foliage. As an alternative of the standard arrows, his physique is riddled with bullet holes. Frida Kahlo used related iconography in her portray of an arrow-pierced doe together with her personal face, The Wounded Deer, 1946. In different works, Gil de Montes employs the deer as an emblem of want and vulnerability, whereas additionally alluding to its symbolic energy inside some indigenous Mexican traditions. For example, Días de lluvia (Days of Rain) relies on a pre-Hispanic deer dance that dates again roughly 5 thousand years and fascinated the artist when he was a baby. The Yaqui and different Native folks of present-day Sonora and Sinaloa venerate Mom Earth by performing out the life and loss of life of a valuable white stag. Gil de Montes provides an absurd twist to this folkloric ceremony by imagining males with deer headdresses in a peaceful sea, as in the event that they have been decoys. The none-too-subtle suggestion is that these guys would possibly want to be captured by their pursuers.
Not not like water, curtains will be websites of transition, signifying shifts from public to non-public, identified to unknown, life to loss of life. The artist makes use of clear veils—as in Cocotero (Coconut Vendor) and Rey, or in Él (Him), which reveals a nude younger man whose genital area is easy, like a doll’s—to evoke rebirth and renewal, but additionally loss. Such themes probably hearken again to Gil de Montes’s traumatic recollections of dropping many friends and family members to HIV/AIDS through the Nineteen Eighties and Nineteen Nineties. This connection can also be evident in his portray of a person with a fish, who could possibly be Saint Raphael. The biblical determine, usually depicted with a fish, carried out miracle cures and is finest identified for quelling a sixteenth-century pandemic.
A facet room of archival supplies demonstrated how Gil de Montes has additionally mixed artwork with social activism all through his six-decade profession, most notably in his collaborations with establishments and collectives corresponding to LACE (Los Angeles Up to date Exhibitions) and Asco as a part of the Chicano artwork motion in Nineteen Seventies and ’80s East Los Angeles. By complementing the artist’s current work with a presentation of historic images and paperwork, “Wet Season” pointed to the breadth of Gil de Montes’s work, which has but to be explored in depth. This glimpse of his expansive profession was a testomony to its enduring relevance and a convincing suggestion that he’s overdue for a bigger institutional present.