Julio Galán (Mexican 1958-2006)
Julio Galán (Mexican 1958-2006)

My Secret Friends (Mis amigos secretos)

Julio Galán (Mexican 1958-2006)
My Secret Friends (Mis amigos secretos)
signed and dated 'Julio Galán, 1992' (lower right)
oil, ribbon and found objects on canvas
75 x 51 in. (190.5 x 129.5 cm.)
Painted in 1992.
Acquired from the artist.
Exhibition catalogue, Julio Galán: Exposición Retrospectiva, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey, Monterrey, 1993, p. 219, no. 98 (illustrated in color).
Exhibition catalogue, Julio Galán: Pensando en ti, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey, Monterrey, 2007, p. 162-163, no. 58.
S. Pitol, Julio Galán, Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León, Monterrey, 2008, p. 29, no. 12 (illustrated in color).
Monterrey, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey, Julio Galán: Exposición Retrospectiva, September 1993- January 1994, no. 98. This exhibition later traveled to Mexico City, Museo de Arte Moderno, January- April 1994.
Monterrey, Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Monterrey, Julio Galán: Pensando en ti, September 2007- January 2008, no. 58. This exhibition also traveld to Mexico City, Antiguo Colegio de San Ildefenso, 2 July- 23 November 2008.

Lot Essay

In Mis amigos secretos (My Secret Friends), Julio Galán's unique and powerful vision is at its most compelling and heartrending. An enigmatic man (resembling the artist) stands dressed in a dark suit that is pinned on the breast with a large, filigreed Mexican silver ex-voto heart. His frosty eyes gaze off into the sunrise at left, as he emerges from the night at the right. His pale face beneath dark tousled hair is yoked by an actual, silky white ribbon, which disappears back into the punctured canvas. This white band tethers to a second, real black ribbon, which wraps the picture from top to bottom like a present, echoing the man's necktie. A cloud of chalk-like graffiti in the lower left quadrant echoes the tied ribbons, while also pointing between the figure's legs to the seat of his erotic desire.

Three hands emerge quite naturally from three slim jacket sleeves. The left hand holds a painted ribbon that wraps under the left shoe. One right hand serenely touches his waist, while a second rests on a slate tablet as though taking an oath. "Cleopatrae a Marc Antonio," is written in Latin in the warming, dawn-like atmosphere above the tablet, toward which the man stares. This historical reference may be the secret, imagined friends of the work's title. Their epic love story is a famous "passion that concluded with the suicide of the protagonist," as Sergio Pitol noted. The injured painting's surface, wrapped in ribbons, reiterates the heart-broken interior life of the well-dressed character, which is suppressed under his tidy suit. Nonetheless, signs of his unrequited longing spill out in the excess of limbs, mark-making, and ribbons. This character's heart is, literally, pinned to his coat in oversize relief.

Strong Mexican and Euro-American influences combine in Galán's eclectic, romantic style. Indebted to the intimate, surrealistic self-portraiture of Frida Kahlo, Galán is also in a more contemporary conversation with her successor, Nahum Zenil. Like Zenil, Galán is considered within the Mexicanista art current of the 1980s, a group that utilized explicitly Mexican subject matter--the Virgin of Guadalupe, the Sacred Heart, milagros--in a postmodernist, Symbolist style. Galán's imagery is of a piece with the collage-like, fragmented aesthetic and dreamlike suspension of the Neo-expressionist painters of the 1980s, such as David Salle and Francesco Clemente. Mixing folk imagery with a Pop art elán, Galán large canvases ripen with references to childhood as well as homoerotic allegory. The spaces he imagines contain lushly-painted flowers, carefully depicted textiles, shining tiles and jewels. Archetypal religious symbols, weeping and bleeding eyes, floating hands, ribbons and glowing pearls coalesce into oneiric, nostalgic dreamscapes. In most, a dandified protagonist stands in for the artist himself.

Julio Galán was born in 1958 to a wealthy mining family from Muzquiz, Coahuila, in northern Mexico. He grew up in Monterrey and studied architecture at the University of Monterrey between 1978 and 1982, but remained devoted to painting. Galán first exhibited in 1980 at age 20, in Monterrey. In 1984, the artist relocated to New York. By 1985, he was showing in the East Village as well as in Europe. His paintings were presented in SoHo in 1986 and by 1989, Galán had attained critical acclaim. He was the only Mexican artist included in the 1992 watershed exhibition, Magiciens de la Terre at the Centre Pompidou, Paris, and his work was also featured in the Museum of Modern Art, New York, blockbuster, Latin American Artists of the Twentieth Century, in 1993. Mis Amigos Secretos is from this period of his mature recognition. The Museum of Contemporary Art, Monterrey, organized his mid-career survey in 1994 and he participated in the 1995 Whitney Museum of American Art's Biennial. Galán was exhibiting with Amsterdam dealer Barbara Farber, Gian Enzo Sperone in Rome, and with Annina Nosei, Ramis Barquet and Robert Miller in New York (where he had his last solo show in 2001) at the moment of his untimely death in 2006, at the tragically early age of 47. In 2007, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Monterrey organized a memorial exhibition, where this work was exhibited.

Deborah Cullen, Director of Curatorial Programs, El Museo del Barrio.

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