Felipe Ehrenberg (1943–2017)

Mexican conceptual artist Felipe Ehrenberg died of a heart attack on Tuesday, May 16, at a hospital in Morelos, Mexico, David Marcial Pérez of El País reports. The artist was seventy-three years old.

Born in Tlacopac, Mexico, in 1943, Ehrenberg was one of the country’s leading cultural figures during the 1960s and 1970s, a period of artistic, intellectual, and political oppression. The 1968 Tlatelolco massacre, in which hundreds of left-wing students were killed by the Institutional Revolutionary Party–led government, prompted the artist to relocate his family to England. During the six years he spent there, he and his wife, Martha Hellion, and artist David Mayor cofounded Beau Geste Press, which regularly published books and journals written by artists associated with the Fluxus movement. The Jumex Museum recently staged a retrospective dedicated to the press’s output. “It was a time of questioning,” Ehrenberg said. “We were against speculative art: The art object did not have to be a work of art.”

In 1974, Ehrenberg returned to Mexico and began creating sociopolitical art. He also joined the los grupos movement, worked as a professor at the Universidad Veracruzana, and received Fulbright and Guggenheim scholarships. From 2001 to 2006, he served as the cultural attaché, a diplomat who promotes Mexican culture, to Brazil. For many years, the artist lived in Tepito and was involved in various reconstruction efforts after an earthquake struck the area in 1985.

In the September 2008 issue of Artforum, Jessica Berlanga Taylor reviewed the artist’s first formal retrospective, “Manchuria: Peripheral Vision,” at the Museo de Arte Moderno Mexico. She writes: “Ehrenberg’s rich iconography moves between cultures. When interviewed, the artist emphasized urban life in Mexico City as crucial to his work. He specifically drew attention to uniquely local ways of installing markets, display windows, and religious offerings as well as Mexican handicraft, popular culture, and the region’s comic/erotic approach to death.”