I was walking my dog one day when I saw David Gremard Romero's work at Bucheon, a neighborhood gallery on Hayes Valley. I did a double take. Was that a lucha libre costume? Yes it was! The interestingly named exhibit "Auto-Da-Fe" included paintings, pastel drawings and beautifully embroidered luchador costumes. Rather than using the luchador as just a campy novelty, the artist richly layered his work with historical and cultural meaning.
In colonial Mexico, an Auto-Da-Fe (literally meaning, "act of faith") was an Inquisitorial process most often associated with the public burning of heretics. The condemned prisoners often wore "San Benitos", or long penitential tunics painted with flames and devils. To the native population this act may have mirrored some rites performed by Mesoamerican priests, like human sacrifices or ritualistic ball games. So, what am I getting at? Both were civic and religious occasions that where also social events. Social events always require good costumes!
Masks, capes and tights become important accessories of the luchador as a modern day super hero/warrior. Gremard Romero's work deals with the syncretism of lucha libre costumes and pre-hispanic mythology. Most of his luchador costumes are named after Mexica ("Aztec") deities. The works also touches on the homoerotic connotations of hyper-masculine activities like wrestling and male bonding at sporting events. Most importantly, Gremard Romero's visions bring a contemporary Chicano perspective to colonial painting and the textile traditions of the Americas. It also makes me wonder about our present day acts of faith: The cult of heroism, present time gladiators, the Superbowl, and wearing your favorite team's colors...and larger issues of multiculturalism, painful history and identity politics.
Enjoy David Gremard Romero's work at his website.