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Alebrije is a figure making of wood, typical from Oaxaca. After they make the figure they paint it very colourful.

Alebrijes are brightly colored Mexican folk art sculptures of fantastical creatures. The first alebrijes, along with use of the term, originated with Pedro Linares. After dreaming the creatures while sick in the 1930s, he began to create what he saw in cardboard and paper mache. His work caught the attention of a gallery owner in Cuernavaca and later, the artists Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. Linares was originally from México City (DF), he was born June 29, 1906 in México City and never moved out of México City, he died January 25, 1992. Then in the 1980s, British Filmmaker, Judith Bronowski, arranged an itinerant demonstration workshop in U.S.A. participating Pedro Linares, Manuel Jiménez and a textil artisan Maria Sabina from Oaxaca. Although the Oaxaca valley area already had a history of carving animal and other types of figures from wood, it was at this time, when Bronowski's workshop took place when artisans from Oaxaca knew the alebrijes paper mache sculptures. Then Linares’ designs were adapted to the carving of a local wood called copal and on family visits, demonstrated his designs there. The Oaxaca valley area already had a history of carving animal and other types of figures from wood, and Linares’ designs were adapted to the carving of a local wood called copal. This adaptation was pioneered by Arrazola native Manuel Jiménez. This version of the craft has since spread to a number of other towns, most notably San Martín Tilcajete and La Unión Tejalapan, become a major source of income for the area, especially for Tilcajete. The success of the craft, however, has led to the depletion of the native copal trees. Attempts to remedy this, with reforestation efforts and management of wild copal trees has only had limited success. The three towns most closely associated with alebrije production in Oaxaca have produced a number of notable artisans such as Manuel Jiménez, Jacobo Angeles, Martin Sandiego, Julia Fuentes and Miguel Sandiego.
Alebrijes originated in Mexico City in the 20th century, in 1936. The creation of the first alebrijes, as well as the name itself, is attributed to Pedro Linares, who was an artisan from México City (Distrito Federal), who was specialized in making piñatas, carnival masks and “Judas” figures from papier-mâché, which he sold in markets such as the one in La Merced.

In the 1936, when he was 30 years old, Linares fell ill with a high fever, which caused him to hallucinate. In these feverish dreams, he was in a forest with rocks and clouds, many of which turned into wild, unnaturally colored creatures, which frequently features wings, horns, tails, fierce teeth and bulgy eyes. While seeing the creatures, he heard a crowd of voices which repeated the nonsensical word “alebrije.” After he recovered, he began to create the creatures he saw using papier-mâché and cardboard. Eventually, a Cuernavaca gallery owner discovered his work. This brought his work to the attention of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo, who began commissioning Linares to build more alebrijes. The tradition grew considerably after British filmmaker Judith Bronowski's 1975 documentary on Linares. Pedro Linares received the Mexico's National Arts and Sciences Award in Popular Arts and Traditions Category for his work in 1990, two years before he died. This inspired other alebrije artists, and Linares’ work became prized in both Mexico and abroad. Rivera stated that no one else could have fashioned the strange figures he requested; work done by Linares for Rivera is now displayed at the Anahuacalli Museum in Mexico City.

The descendents of Pedro Linares, many of whom live in Mexico City near the Sonora Market, carry on the tradition of making alebrijes and other figures from cardboard and papier-mâché. Some of their customers have included the Rolling Stones and David Copperfield. The Stones not only ordered and paid for their alebrijes but also gave the family tickets to their show. Various branches of the family occupy a row of houses on the same street. Each family works in their own workshops in their own houses but will lend each other a hand when big orders come in. Demand rises and falls; sometimes there is no work and sometimes families work 18 hours a day.

The original designs that Pedro Linares made as alebrijes have fallen into public domain. However, according to Chapter Three of the Mexican federal copyright law, enacted in 1996, it is illegal to sell crafts made in Mexico without acknowledging the community and region which they are from. It is also illegal to alter the crafts in such a way as to be interpreted as damaging to the culture’s reputation or image. The law applied to the commercialization of the crafts as well as their public exhibition and use of their images. However, this law is rarely enforced as most crafts sellers in Mexico rarely state where their products are from. The name “alebrijes” is used for a wide variety of crafts even though the Linares family has sought to gain control over the name. The family states that pieces which are not made by them and do not come from Mexico City should state such. The Linares family continue to export their work to the most important galleries showing Mexican art worldwide. One example was called "Beasts and Bones: The Cartoneria of the Linares Family" was displayed in Carlsbad, California. The show featured about seventy alebrijes and was so popular that it was extended by several weeks.

However, because there have been a variety of artists and artisans creating a variety of alebrijes with their own styles, the craft have become part of Mexico folk art repertoire. No two alebrijes are exactly alike. Outside of the Linares family, one of the most noted alebrije artist is Susana Buyo. She learned to work with cardboard and papier-mâché at one of the Linares’ family workshops. She is known as the “Señora de los Monstruos” by local children of Condesa, an upscale neighborhood of Mexico City. She is a native Argentinan who is a naturalized Mexican citizen. Her work can be found in various parts of Mexico City and in other countries such as those in Europe. Her work differs from that of the Linares in that many of her design include human contours and many with expression with are more tender than terrifying. She also uses nontraditional materials such as feathers, fantasy stones and modern resins with the goals of novelty and durability.
While Pedro Linares may have dreamed of these creatures, they did not occur in a vacuum. Similarities and parallels can be drawn between alebrijes and various supernatural creatures from Mexico’s indigenous and European past. In pre-Hispanic times, there was a preference for images with bright colors, which were often fantastic and macabre. Influences from images from Mexico City’s Chinatown (especially in dragons) and Gothic images such as gargoyles can be seen. Red carton demons called judas, which Linares made, are still constructed and burned in Mexico on Holy Week in purification rituals. More recent predecessors in Mexican culture artists Julio Ruelas and graphics artist/commentator José Guadalupe Posada, both of whom created fantastic and sometimes terrifying images in their work. Since their creation, alebrijes, especially the monstrous kind, have gained a reputation for “scaring away bad spirits” and protecting the home. Some, like master craftsman Christian David Mendez, claim that there is a certain mysticism involved in the making and owning of alebrijes, with parts of certain animals representing human characteristics.
A more recent phenomenon involving alebrijes is the annual Monumental Alebrije Parade, which has been sponsored by the Museo de Arte Popular in Mexico City since 2007. The 2009 parade feature more than 130 giant alebrijes made of wood, cardboard, paper, wire and other materials, which marches from the Zocalo in the historic center of the city to the Angel of Independence monument on Paseo de la Reforma. Entrants are made by artisans, artists, families and groups, and each year the entrants have gotten bigger, more creative and more numerous. The entries have names such as Devora Stein", by Uriel López Baltazar; "Alebrhijos", by Santiago Goncen; "Totolina", by Arte Lado C; "AH1N1", by Taller Don Guajo; "Volador", by Taller de Plástica El Volador; "La mula del 6" by Daniel Martínez Bartelt; "La gárgola de la Atlántida", by Juan Carlos Islas and "Alebrije luchador", by Ricardo Rosales, and are accompanied by bands playing popular Mexican music. At the end of the parade, the pieces are lined up on Paseo de la Reforma for judging and to be display for two weeks. For the 2010 alebrije parade, the aim is to have alebrijes with themes related to the Bicentennial of the Independence of Mexico and the Centennial of the Mexican Revolution, although Walter Boelsterly, head of the Museo de Artes Populares, concedes that such may require a bit of tolerance because it can lead to revered figures such as Miguel Hidalgo and Ignacio Allende with animal parts. However, he states that the aim is to celebrate and not to mock. In addition to the annual parade, the Museum has sponsored alebrije shows such as at the three-meter high alebrije, which captured attention at the Feria International del Libro in Bogotá. The word “alebrije” was not known in Colombia, so the locals dubbed it a “dragoncito” (little dragon). Along with “dragoncito” 150 other, smaller pieces of Mexican crafts were presented.

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May 2008


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Anonymous said...

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