One of Mexico’s most prominent contemporary artists, Joel Rendón is globally known for his part-primitive, part-modern style of engraving. A new exhibition in Delhi features a series of relief prints of Redón’s original engravings, writes Sneha Gohri.
This is the second time in as many years that Delhi is hosting a major exhibition of the works of Joel Rendón, a Mexican engraver of global renown. The previous show was held in February 2018, at the International Kala Mela 2018, organised by the Lalit Kala Akademi, in collaboration with the IGNCA. Now, a new Rendón exhibition—entitled Joel Rendón: Mexican Master Engraver—is on view at Delhi’s India International Centre.
The show is organised by the Embassy of Mexico in New Delhi and is aimed at popularising an artist whose works are seen to resonate with the styles and forms of art practiced in India.
Rendón’s artworks are a testament to his Mexican heritage, as well as to his Aztec lineage. His art references Mexican history and culture, with more than a few of his works depicting traditional tribal rituals and other major events in ancient and recent history. One of his litho prints, entitled Calaca in Earthquake, is themed on the devastation caused across Mexico, and especially in the artist’s home state, Puebla, by an earthquake on 19 September 2017.
He explores Mexican mythology in both a traditional and experimental manner. Rendón is known to have devoted his life in the promotion of engraving and printmaking, inspiring youngsters in his country take up this out-of-favour form.
After graduating from Mexico’s prestigious National school of Plastic Arts, Rendón became a figure central to his country’s contemporary art scene, and something of an international ambassador for Mexican culture. In 1993 he was awarded with an honourable mention in the Latin American Engraving Contest “La Joven Estampa”, held in Havana, Cuba. In 2006, he became the recipient of Gold and Silver Promax Awards in New York City, for a TV campaign in which his engravings were turned into animated clips.
The general consensus of art connoisseurs at the Delhi exhibition was that Rendón’s works can be linked to pre-colonial and pre-Hispanic Mexican art styles. But there are also Indian elements to be found in his prints. According to Nuzhat Kazmi, a professor at the Jamia Islamia University who attended the Delhi show, Rendón’s works have a “very cubist yet very Indian” spirit, and are reminiscent of the modern Indian painter K.H. Ara.
The bolder and more colourful prints by Rendón reminded her of F.N Souza, who was known for his expert use of colour in landscapes, portraits and still lifes.
Another attendee at the Delhi show, Ninady Gupto, a former Delhi University professor, stressed on the evocative imagery of the black-and-white prints, which, she said, reminded her of Tagore’s landscapes, and of certain other artists of the Bengal school.
Rendón makes his engravings on varied mediums, from glass and aluminium foils to linoleum. These are not easy materials to work with, but the artist is chooses them for their symbolic value: he wishes to include the ordinary and the commonplace into the language of his art.
He draws inspiration from the decades-old printmaking tradition of Mexico, and mixes contemporary themes with traditional styles with the sole aim of connecting with the masses. As Rendón said in a statement, “In the 20th century, the thread that relates the artist to the people has been lost and now everyone wants to be sophisticated and forgets to consider the social function of art.”
The Cultural head of the Mexican Embassy, Santiago Ruy, said that it is important to display Rendón’s works in India, because the cultural iconographies of both Mexico and India are very similar. So Indian viewers can relate to the temperament and stylistic leanings of his art. “He uses motifs like snakes and skulls from Mexico’s cultural iconography,” Ruy said. “Indians are familiar with such motifs in their own cultural context, thus making Joel’s works relatable.”
Moreover, Rendón’s works serve as an introduction to the Mexican way of life, and its vibrant and colourful heritage that he attempts to engrave into his art.
‘Joel Rendón: Mexican Master Engraver’ is on view at the Art Gallery , India International Centre Annexe, Delhi, till
2 July 2019