Daniel Guzmán: Chromosome Damage

Art, Drawing and illustration Free
3 out of 5 stars

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

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Aztec deities inspire the Mexican artists new series of drawings.

It may seem strange to describe portraits of grotesque monsters and defecating harpies as charming, but that’s what Daniel Guzmán’s drawings inspired by Aztec sculptures and deities are. Sure, the Mexican artist’s mythological borrowings result in some pretty weird and lewd combinations – from leering, red-faced devils with penises for tongues, to the aforementioned multi-breasted women squirting trails of poop – yet there’s something about them that feels oddly quaint and endearing, perhaps even rather tame.

Partly, that’s because of the size of the drawings, which are small and intimate rather than overwhelming or threatening. But more than that, it’s down to Guzmán’s style. Thick outlines in pastel have a childlike, cartoonish quality that make his figures seem almost friendly, while the muted colours and the raw, untreated paper background feel satisfyingly earthy. There’s a kind of retro sensibility – particularly with his occasionally straightforward, un-monstrous depictions of women, where you’d be forgiven for thinking you’re looking at a modernist nude from a century ago.

Most of the works, though, involve fantastic transformations: limbs that mutate into wings; a skeleton’s ribs that reach out like fingers; snakes that grow from bodies. Yet although the starting point is pre-Hispanic religion and magical beliefs, you never get the sense that Guzmán is saying anything really profound or spiritual. It’s mainly fun, rather than deep, stuff. Only a few, final works have real bite, where the mash-up of human, animal and totemic forms becomes so extreme as to produce something that appears almost abstract – a sort of demonic, chimerical knot of flesh.

Gabriel Coxhead

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