México City’s LGBT art community lives up to its reputation.
Jesus Chairez | Contributing Writer
MÉXICO CITY — The 30th annual XXX Festival Internacional por la Diversidad Sexual (FIDS) (International Festival for Sexual Diversity (FIDS)) LGBT art exhibitions recently opened México City’s Gay Pride 2017.
Though Dallas’ Mexican art exhibition at the Dallas Museum of Art — México 1900–1950: Diego Rivera, Frida Kahlo, José Clemente Orozco, and the Avant-Garde — has garnered great reviews in the press and on social media, you won’t be seeing anything like what México City’s LGBT community has put together with FIDS. Why? Because of Dallas’ plain ol’ prudishness and censorship.
A lot of people in Dallas do not know that México City is a mecca in the art world, with the Los Angeles Times recently stating that … “in recent years, Mexico City has become a regular pit stop for the art-world jet set, part of an international calendar that includes biennials in Europe and art fairs in Hong Kong.”
And México City’s LGBT art community is unquestionably living up to its contemporary art world mecca reputation.
Museo Universitario del Chopo
The first stop for FIDS is at the Museo Universitario del Chopo, known more simply as El Chopo. The exhibition is titled “Empezamos con un beso” (“We start with a kiss”), and it was very well attended opening night not only by art enthusiasts and drag queens but also by México City’s LGBT political elite — because this exhibit is most political, very out.
Once the elevator doors open to the Arnold Belkin Gallery, one cannot help but be mesmerized by the diverse and well-spaced layout of the exhibit.
There is sculpture, prints, paintings and mixed-media pieces by various LGBT Mexican artists.
While some contemporary artists shy away from their Mexican culture, others — such as Fabián Cháirez (no relation) — embrace it. In this exhibit, Cháirez, a well-known artist, includes Lucha Libre (Mexican restling), a well-known aspect of Mexican culture. His “Desnudo Enmascarado” (“Masked Nude”) embraces the masculinity of wrestling while capturing the subtle softness of detailed male nudity.
Cháirez, who is bearded and already very tall for a Mexican, entered the opening party in full drag wearing stiletto heels — larger-than-life femininity. It took awhile for him to make to his painting because almost everyone stopped him to take his picture. Once by his art, Cháirez did not disappoint, performing like he was on the red carpet, with gallery attendees acting like paparazzi.
Though this exhibit includes work depicting full male and female nudity, with some copulation, no one seemed uncomfortable. Some parents had their children in tow and no city official was trying to shut down this most sensual exhibition.
Garth Person, a Dallas/Las Colinas resident who happened to be in México City on business, made time to attend the show, saying that he “loved the creative freedom on display here.”
“I hope we could see something this progressive and controversial in Dallas one day soon,” Person noted. “México City has been putting on exhibits like this for 30 years now, and Dallas should take note.”
“Empezamos con un beso”runs through June 30.
José María Velasco Gallery
The next stop on the FIDS tour is at the José María Velasco Gallery, a large warehouse space located in the working class neighborhood of Colonia Tepito.
The Tepito neighborhood is known for being rough and a haven for drugs dealers, and also as a neighborhood with more street altars to “Santa Muerte,” (Saint Death) than to the patron saint of México, the Virgen de Guadalupe.
LGBT visitors are mostly left alone here — unless you’re wearing lots of bling, then watch out.
The FIDS exhibit at the José María Velasco gallery is titled “Crisol de masculinidades; el espectro de la masculinidad en una exposición artística,” (“Crucible of Masculinities; The specter of masculinity in an artistic exhibition”).
The exhibit includes paintings, drawings and photography incorporating and conveying everything that is masculine in the gay world, and the art is arranged in various sections: Osos (Bears), Leather, Vaqueros (Cowboys), Chacales (dark skinned, rough-trade males that are gay, but often not into the gay culture) and Transexualidad Veronil (female to male transsexuals).
When you enter the gallery, you know the exhibit will be entertaining. One of the first things you see is a photograph of a semi-nude male wearing only torn underwear and heels. The subject is standing in front of Mexican soldiers who are standing guard in front of the Presidential Palace in the heart of the city, El Zocalo, the town square.
Though I am very familiar with most aspects of gay culture and didn’t think I would see anything I hadn’t seen before, I couldn’t help but be entranced by the large-scale, black-and-white, full-frontal photographs of men with vaginas. I had never seen a transsexual male nude before, and the photos made me stop and reflect on the challenges they face.
“Crisol de masculinidades; el espectro de la masculinidad en una exposición artística” runs through July 2.
Both exhibits are well organized and embody the diverse gay Mexican culture that is often masculine with a touch of nelly. So if you are going to be in México City in the next few weeks, be sure to make time in your schedule to see one or both of these exhibits. It will be time well spent.
See more photos of the FIDS art work online at DallasVoice.com and at Chairez’s Flickr page, Flickr.com/photos/jesuschairez/albums/72157684647742536.
Jesus Chairez is a former Dallasite now living in México City. He was the producer and host of North Texas first bilingual LGBT Latino radio show, Sin Fronteras on KNON 89.3 FM; from 1993 to 2005, and is freelancer writer and author of the book “Queer Brown Voices,” a collection of personal narratives of Latina/o Activism. Contact him at facebook.com/JesusChairez.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 16, 2017.