It has been 22 years since Jorge Marín showed his first exhibition in a public space. He did it no less than on the median of Paseo de la Reforma, between the National Museum of Anthropology and the Museum of Modern Art, where his work has “roots, both due to the influence of pre-Hispanic art and the inspiration of predecessor artists who opened gap in modern and contemporary art”.
His artistic career began in clay and then transmigrated to bronze, until he became a benchmark for contemporary figurative sculpture, with more than 300 individual and group exhibitions, many of them in public spaces, such as Diachronies, which opened this Thursday at the Museum of Arts of the University of Guadalajara, in the middle of the May Cultural Festival.
Prior to the assembly, Jorge Marín receives El Economista in his studio in the Roma neighborhood in Mexico City, where the universal work of this sculptor is “cooked”, as well as his exhibitions, his books, the new projects and the workshops that are taught from its Foundation.
We wanted to get a closer idea of his business and management work, stripped of the romantic figure of the sculptor behind the famous Wings of Mexico and the sculptures of winged men perched on spheres, or in motion, at the end of a balance, defying the laws of physics, those pieces that have become so symbiotic with the urban landscape in dozens of cities around the world.
We also end up talking about the social function of art, the importance of public space, the phenomenon of Jeff Koons –who “portrays humanity in the 21st century”–; of the discussion about the roundabouts in Mexico City and the Chapultepec Forest megaproject.
Jorge Marín (Uruapan, 1963) began as a student of design and plastic arts, and finally achieved a degree in Conservation, Restoration and Museography, at the ENCRyM, but life led him to be a wide-ranging plastic artist, and also a promoter of cultural companies.
“I say that I am not one artist but two, I live in an eternal dichotomy that is driving me crazy, but not because of masochism, I enjoy it a lot. On the one hand there is the hermit sculptor who lives in the countryside (on a country estate in Yucatan) and, on the other hand, the director and producer of cultural companies (…) I follow the logistics of the projects very closely, it is a complicated part , but very exciting; after an idea arises, you have to look for resources, make synergies with museums and institutions; and then there is the production part, many people are involved in the making of a bronze piece, so I have to be attentive to the process and see if we are going well or if we are going backwards”.
Many years ago he abandoned his career as a restorer, but he acknowledges that he owes his techniques and studies in art history to this discipline, “which has been a source of nourishment at a creative level,” he says. “If I hadn’t studied art history, my work would be smaller in a conceptual sense and would have much less inspiration,” he adds.
The work and the spectator
For a spectator, the experience of arriving coldly before a work, without prior information, is as interesting, if not more, than admiring it from an academic perspective and with the background of cultural and artistic training. “The first impact moves emotion more than reason,” reflects Marín. “It’s something that continues to be debated and gives a whole topic of conversation, but I believe that the two (experiences) can be integrated in one person,” says the sculptor.
However, he affirms that “whoever gives meaning to art, ultimately, is the viewer, because a work will always be a tailored suit. On the one hand, the work brings its own emotional charge and content, but on the other hand there is also the spectator’s emotion, their personal history, and for me it is a pairing that is made at the moment in which the work and the viewer, and some are more excited and others less, it depends on how much you see yourself in that mirror and how much you don’t recognize yourself in it”, he reflects.
Hence, it seems to me that a work is always completed and fulfills its function from the perspective of the viewer. For me it is very important that a work lives through the use that the people who see it give it, because it justifies it”.
art in the streets
From this reflection, Jorge Marín takes a leap towards art in the public space, where he has found his element and where he moves like a cetacean in the sea. “It has been a cornerstone for me in my work, because of the magic of having such a large and diverse audience.”
Art in public space also has a social dimension, says Marín. “I believe that the works conceived for the public space have to live where they are placed, because they give heritage to the cities and that generates a sense of identity and pride in the people who live in the area, and a taste for the neighborhood, the neighborhood, or the park where the work resides”.
For Marín, sculpture in public space becomes a photograph of the society that inhabits it, “not only of the present generation, but you can go back in time and it is precious to understand a city and a citizenry through its sculpture in the streets, then it is one more reason to defend the work of art in public spaces”, he reiterates.
I ask him if he thinks that in Mexico City sculpture is needed for public space or public space is needed for sculpture. She keeps thinking and answers: “Mexico City in its enormity has a lot of space, but I would dare to say that plurality is needed for the artistic expression of the moment. Luckily we have a lot of work from the different historical moments that the city has experienced, the city center is very well endowed with public works and sculptural heritage, but, look, you are asking a sculptor, of course more is needed ( sculpture), we want to see much more, and above all in the outskirts of the city”.
Regarding the peripheries, he says: “I have encountered a lot of apathy and prejudice from many quarters: ‘the people there are not going to appreciate it’, ‘the people do not value it’, ‘the people there do not have the culture to see it’, blah, blah, blah, but the facts have shown me the opposite, prejudices aside!, we must promote more spaces in the peripheries and continue generating symbols for the city and its inhabitants.”
The fight for roundabouts
We chilangas and chilangos have been fighting for two years over the roundabouts (both the interviewee and the interviewer are by adoption). First it was that of Columbus, which after the removal of his sculpture was intervened by feminist collectives and now that of La Palma, whose death recalled many other deaths, and that is why they call it “the roundabout of the disappeared”.
Jorge Marín rescues from the chiaroscuro of the discussion the fact that citizens are more involved. “Before they could put up a 50-meter reproduction of Godzilla and people would go on, and today, instead, forums are held to discuss what is put up in public space. I didn’t think I’d live to see that, and yet it’s happening (…) this is an important social change.”
Koons’ puppy, the perfect photo of the 21st century
When I ask him about the sculptors he admires or whose work he systematically follows, his answer is surprising: “The list is long, but there are interesting phenomena. Whether we like it or not, Jeff Koons has become a benchmark. Everything he says the sculpture of him, without saying anything, because it seems the maximum frivolity, a puppy made with balloons, but it is the perfect photo of humanity in the 21st century.
So, it’s not that I like or dislike some artists, but what I value is their contribution to our historical and social moment, I think (Koons) portrays us.”
“The hand with balloons on the Champs-Élysées (Bouquet of tulips, Paris) together with the great sculptors of all previous centuries is a phenomenon; I would ask a sociologist to explain to me why that sculpture arrived there and is conversing with the greats of four centuries ago; (…) it seems to me that it is somehow representing the generations of the 21st century and today it is the most obvious, most welcomed, most sought-after exponent, and I think that is why it deserves to turn around and see it”.
“(Koons) hasn’t gotten there by anyone’s imposition, it’s the majorities that have put him on that pedestal.”
The Chapultepec project
I ask him if he has been invited to participate in the renovation of the sculptural space, now that they are interconnecting the Bosque de Chapultepec. He replies no, and that it would seem unfair for him to be invited, with so many young sculptors eager for a place to display their work.
“I value the project for its social content, because they are enabling public spaces for social interaction. A society without public spaces gets sick. In Mexico, public space was abandoned for decades, and today I celebrate that we are turning to see that need. The three sections will be too small for the number of people who need places to interact.
“I would almost tell you that it would be unfair if they called me, I already have work in public space, I hope they turn to see other characters for Chapultepec, young artists and other very good ones who have not had the opportunity to be in public space, and I also say this because the city must have an expressive plurality of artists; Hopefully, Chapultepec will serve so that we can see new expressions”, he concludes.