Mexico City

Michael Tracy

Centro Cultural Arte Contemporaneo / Galeria de Arte Contemporaneo

Michael Tracy’s studio is virtually on top of Mexico City’s wonderous Templo Mayor—the navel of Aztec culture and the place once chosen to become the center of the most magnificent empire on this side of the world.

It is said that at the consecration of the Templo hundreds, even thousands lost their lives, offering up their hearts to the sun, god of life, as rivers of blood streamed down the stairs. Religion and magic have inspired Tracy to create an astonishing body of work in this mysterious country: canvases drenched in a deliciously fake blood, crosses decorated with hummingbirds, and glittering sculptures reminiscent of temples.

The work shown in the Centro Cultural Arte Contemporaneo was made in San Ygnacio, Texas, on the shores of the Rio Grande, the border. Unfortunately, some of the pieces shown in several U.S. museums, such as the incredible Triptico de la pasión (Triptych of the passion, 1983), Cruz: la pasión (Cross: the passion, 1982–87) and Painting Number 5, 1969, were censored by the Centro Cultural; religious sensibility I guess. In spite of this, eight large canvases, Stations of the Cross: To Latin America (1980–87) were shown along with several altarpieces and a series of collages. The large golden pieces with mysterious ponds of green, brown, and dirty magenta, are crowned with embossed tin halos in the manner of 18th-century Mexican saints. Tracy’s passion—his love and hate of Mexico—have driven him to produce three stunning pieces: Cruz: la pasión, practically the centerpiece of the exhibition, was shown at the Galeria de Arte Contemporaneo only after much negotiation. Throughout its southward journey, this piece became impregnated with the essence of the traditional pilgrimages of Mexican saints and in Mexico City it was lavishly skirted with thousands of flowers, arranged in an intricate mosaic pattern. This is the centerpiece of Sacrifice II: The River Piece, a project that is to take place in the middle of the Rio Grande next Good Friday. Another disturbing piece was shown at La Quiñonera, an alternative sculpture space south of the city. Para los olvidados (For the forgotten ones, 1989), a pyramid-shaped piece, stuffed with fragrant white flowers and covered with human hair, made the public shiver. I suspect that it is an homage to all those anonymous heroes that lost their scalps in the sacred Aztec wars. The third piece is an impressive golden cross, displayed at the Galeria de Arte Contemporaneo, dedicated to the men of Mexico. In this tall, slender, glass-covered work, jam-packed with hundreds of dead hummingbirds, symbols intermingle in an endless fantasy. Hummingbirds stand for love in Mexico, love between humans; the cross, for dedication and the love of God.

Michael Tracy’s work depicts a private passion that is earthly and sacred at the same time. He plunges into a forest of wild desires, and emerges with an art that is emotionally out of this world. Magenta, indigo, gold, oxide green, pink and brown are his favored colors. This is a restricted palette, but more important than the color is the intricate meaning that he gives his works—the solution to a strong temperament. La Merced, the largest food market in Latin America, is one of the remains of the exuberant city of Tenochtitlan; flowers from fields moved by warm breeze; blue skies; the smog-filled city: these are some of the subtle elements surrounding his Lic. Verdad studio. Tracy’s nineteen years of knowing Mexico have greatly changed his work, and finally a selection of pieces that was originally shown at P.S.1 in New York arrive in the magnetic place of inspiration.

Rubén Bautista