José Luis Cuevas / México

Header José Luis Cuevas

Mexican graphic artist and painter. He was virtually self-taught and is a highly individual figure. His most characteristic works are incisive satirical drawings of grotesque creatures and degraded humanity: prostitutes, poor children, and people in institutions for the insane have been among his subjects, and he has often included self-portraits in his compositions. Although these drawings are in the tradition of Goya, they are strongly flavoured by contemporary life, including horror and detective films. Cuevas had his first exhibition in 1953 in Mexico City, when he was only 19, followed by one the next year at the Pan American Union in Washington, which launched his career abroad. In connection with this second exhibition he gave an interview for Time magazine in which he criticized the ‘Mexican nationalism’ of Rivera and Siqueiros (on the other hand, he admired the satirical sense of Orozco, the third member of the great triumvirate of Mexican muralists). After thus establishing himself as an enfant terrible, he continued to court controversy but also gained official recognition for his work, notably with the first international prize for drawing at the São Paulo Bienal in 1959 for his series Funeral of a Dictator (1958). Apart from drawings and paintings, Cuevas’s work has included stage design and prints in a variety of techniques, and he has written several autobiographical books. He is considered a leading figure in offering Mexican art an alternative to the muralist tradition that had so dominated it in the first half of the 20th century. There is a museum named in his honour in Mexico City.

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