Betsabeé Romero creates provocative objects and installations that draw on elements of popular culture, especially the car, and the rich traditions of Mexican art. Her work is concerned with themes of identity, human migration and the environment.
The car as icon has a long tradition in Mexican culture, where the artist’s roots lie, and she uses the car and its parts as a vehicle for exploring her cultural heritage. Components that are peripheral to the functioning of the car become devices for looking at everyday objects in a different way: a windshield, a rear vision mirror or, in this exhibition, hub caps. Removed from their usual context these car parts become objects in their own right. By decontextualising them, the artist creates a new aesthetic that occupies the middle ground between popular object, art object and conceptually complex artwork.
From the outset of her career, Betsabeé Romero has worked in an environment of great visual wealth: everyday life in Mexico City, which offers an especially wide range of iconographic references that go from the pre-Hispanic to the colonial and emphatically, to the contemporary, the latter replete with elements that have enriched and transformed it into a whole with a powerful presence. For the past decade she has been developing a critical discourse about local and everyday symbols and rituals of the culture of global consumption, notably cars.
Romero’s artwork resurrects dead cars, bringing new life with a whimsical transformation of the exterior and interior. Her politically charged installations play on the car’s cultural significance, both past and present, juxtaposed with her wonderful daydream visions for the future.
Betsabeé Romero’s most recent works consists of large paper drawings, reminiscent of the cut-out papers used in Mexican celebrations, particularly in small towns, hung a few centimeters from the wall. They are lighted directly and the artist has painted precisely on the area where the real shadow would fall. In this way she has placed in a permanent position one of the most ephemeral and delicate shapes in the Mexican popular imagination.
Betsabeé Romero lives and works in Mexico City. She studied at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris and has a Masters in Art History from the National Autonomous University of Mexico. She has received many international awards, including First Prize at the Cairo Biennial in 2006, and has exhibited extensively throughout Europe and the Americas at institutions such as the Museo Nacional de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Dublin and the Museo del Barrio in New York. She participated in the 8th Havana Biennial, the Puerto Alegre Biennial in Brazil, InSite97 in San Diego, California, and Art Grandeur Nature at La Courneuve, Paris. Her work is included in many prestigious collections, including the Los Angeles County Museum, the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston, and the Daros Collection in Switzerland. She is well known for monumental installations in urban settings, including in Los Angeles, Chicago, Mexico City and Toulouse. She is well known for monumental installations in urban settings, including in Los Angeles, Chicago, Mexico City and Toulouse.
Paper echoes. Paper cut into windows and rosettes looking towards the other side of the shadows, towards the light, towards colour.
A mixed tradition, of Asian origin, brought to Spain and from there to Mexico. A fusion made of acceptance and resistance, contribution and recycling. Endless movement in our culture of colonisation.
Fine paper that has been turned into the finest membrane of happiness, the most fragile skin of celebration, which always breaks, discolours in time and falls off. But with the calendar of town festivities it is reborn in each street where traditions are followed and in each community that commemorates rites, songs, fiestas and community celebrations.
In each wall where a colour can be reflected. In each corner where its shadows can become a space where the colour can re-emerge.
Photos and models
Cars that play at saying things one shouldn’t say, dressed to uncover what people hide with their clothes.
Cars as body extensions with their own memory tattooed with the scars of a history made up of street characters who cast and see themselves as the guilty.
A car with the mask of a multifaceted city, camouflaging, disguising, transmuting and putting on make up. A megalopolis such as Mexico City has a thousand masks to put on.
Cars that don’t die. Just grow a new armour. They have a home-made skin. They are like street lights and benches. Mostly immobile. They remain as a reminder of who we once were and how far we wanted to go.
Tatoos on latex
Bodies with maps on their skin; century old stories painted on their faces and bodies; many ways to journey across countries, to cover all roads without words, just with their body as a geography of a world reflected from its nakedness.
Ecos de papel. Papel picado convertido en ventanas y rosetones hacia el otro lado de las sombras, hacia la luz, hacia el color.
Tradición mestiza que de oriente llegó a España y de ahí a México. Mestizaje hecho de aceptacion y resistencia, aportación y reciclaje, Movimientos interminables en nuestra cultura de colonizaciones.
Finos papeles que se han convertido en el más fino epitelio de la alegria, en la piel mas frágil de la celebración, que siempre se rompe, que con el tiempo se decolora y se cae. Pero que con el calendario festivo de los pueblos, vuelve a renacer en cada calle en que haya tradición, en cada comunidad que tenga memoria de ritos, de canciones, de fiesta y de colectividad.
En cada muro donde pueda reflejarse un color. En cada rincón donde sus sombras puedan ser también, espacio donde puede surgir nuevamente el color.
Fotos y maquetas
Carros que juegan a decir cosas que no se pueden decir que son vestidos para descubrir los que los hombres ocultan con sus trajes.
Carros como extensiones de un cuerpo con memoria tatuado con las cicatrices de una historia hecha de calles donde la gente se escribe y se lee como culpable.
Un carro con la máscara de una ciudad que cambia de facetas, que se camouflagea y se trasviste, que se transmuta y se maquilla. Una megalópolis como la Ciudad de México tiene mil máscaras para salir.
A los carros que no mueren. Les vuelve a salir una coraza. Tienen piel de casa. Se parecen a los postes y a las banquetas. Casi no se mueven. Se quedan para recordarnos quienes fuimos y hasta donde quisimos llegar.
Tatuajes sobre latex
Cuerpos con mapas en la piel; historias de muchos siglos pintadas con sus caras y sus cuerpos; modos de cruzar países, de llegar a todos los caminos sin palabras, sólo con el cuerpo como geografía de un mundo reflejado desde la desnudez.