"Mexico has a strong Surrealist tradition which has found a variety of expressions," art historian and cultural critic Marta Traba wrote about the Nueva Figuración artists Francisco Corzas, Fernando Ramos Frida, Alfredo Castañeda, José Luis Cuevas and Rafael Coronel.(1) Rafael Coronel's work offers a world of somber figures garbed in robes and vestments from other-world realities at once grotesque but also poignant--his own reflections on post-modernity. Coronel studied architecture and painting with Carlos Orozco Romero at La Esmeralda, the National School of Painting and Sculpture. Starting in the mid 1960s, the artist began participating in international exhibitions and in 1965 was awarded the International First Prize at the Eighth São Paulo Biennial.
From the series about drunkards or teporochos, the figure in this work Adan el teporocho, seems to disappear into a dark background--afraid of his own shadow, and lost in his world. Coronel's characters, though eerily theatrical, are about real men who although homeless and down on their luck, are known in their neighborhoods--down the street, round the corner. They have real names, as Coronel discloses to us, and elicit our familiarity. The canvas's monumental size reveals el teporocho's frail humanity while starkly exposing his wretched flaws.
1) M. Traba, Art of Latin America: 1900-1980, Baltimore, Johns Hopkins University, 1994, p. 123.