Death and the Invisible Hand: Contemporary Mexican Art, 1988-Present
Salazar, Monica R.
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This dissertation is about the presence of death in contemporary Mexican art, specifically the ways in which it transforms an ancient tradition while reflecting the sociopolitical changes brought about by the neoliberal policies that were put into place during the presidency of Carlos Salinas de Gortari (1988–1994). It studies the relationship between the narrative of death representations in Mexican art; the economic and sociopolitical turmoil of the 1990s; and the presence of death in the works of prominent contemporary Mexican artists—Teresa Margolles, María García-Ibañez, Gabriel de la Mora, Lenin Márquez Salazar, and Gonzalo García—in order to argue that their work not only transforms the national tradition of death to which it belongs, but also responds to the unprecedented changes imposed by neoliberalism. My dissertation also argues that the current crisis of place—an overarching anxiety over the physical territory of the country (which is threatened by neoliberalism)—has a strong presence in contemporary Mexican art, and is evident in its treatment of the national symbol of death. It aims to demonstrate how the ending of decades of land distribution that were crucial in the construction of a national identity bound to the land, where the bones of its ancestors lay, was the catalyst for new kinds of death representations that appeal to the senses, the emotions, and universal ideas. Through the study of a selection of artworks of four contemporary Mexican artists, this project will demonstrate how the death imagery that started to appear in the art of the 1990s marks a radical break from the traditional symbolism of the nationalistic imagery started by José Guadalupe Posada and Diego Rivera, reflecting no less than a reinvention of the national identity in the face of globalization.