Romero’s latest series of artwork, “Relics of Our Times”, is a collection of large hand-painted public announcements and advertisements that he has carefully extracted from the sides of old buildings and walls all over Mexico. He takes them to his workshop in Merida, detaches them from the wall they are painted on and adheres them to a canvas. The series reflects the idea of wabi-sabi, the Japanese world view centered on the beauty and acceptance of transience and imperfection. In preserving these neglected facades he is quite literally forming part of and preserving Mexico’s modern history.
In all Latin America, the walls and building throughout all cities and small towns are filled with old advertisements, public announcements, political slogans, and graffiti. Over time, these placards have deteriorated, having been painted over several times. They are folded into the cityscape or pueblo-scape and have become an identifying feature of the culture. Most of these slogans and ads are outdated and in many cases, the products and events announced no longer exist. Campos had the idea to recover these relics in order to conserve them and create an everlasting memory of the place. He saw these as cultural vestiges and decided they were worth saving.
From that time on, Romero started working on rescuing these signs not only in Merida, but all over Mexico. He started saving some of the major brands popular in their time such as Coca Cola, Sol, and Nestle. He also loved the idea of saving some of the typical and traditional signs for the small shops “Tendejones” or “Aborrotes”. These are the neighborhood mom and pop shops that have slowly disappeared with globalization. They were an integral part of a tightly-knit community. Campos is paying homage to these places by preserving the signs painted on the facades of the store buildings. How many countless lives have passed by those signs over the decades? How many lovers have embraced while leaning on the walls, fights broken out, arguments, kids have played ball or jacks on the sidewalks under these placards? He is saving these moments on canvas.
Once Alfredo decides on a sign he wants to extract, he get the permission from the owners and then starts the process. During this time he gets to know the people in the community very well. Sometimes those communities are a bit rough around the edges. In upscale neighborhoods, these signs would have been long painted over and modernized, so most of the places he goes are less affluent parts of the cities, and in some parts of Mexico they are gang-ridden. Nevertheless, he spends several days at each site and he has met many people and made friends with the neighbors.
This series has resonated with people throughout Mexico and abroad. It has been a huge success. The local people feel a sense of pride, nostalgia and appreciation when they see his work. The works bring back countless memories and, as any good art does, they provoke the deep emotions and in a sense freeze time. Romero’s work and the process has drawn international attention. He is featured in the documentary “La Esencia de la Ausencia” and “Hombre Pintado”. Has won many awards and has been invited to show in galleries both nationally and internationally. Campos will be featured at the 2019 Los Angeles Art Show Jan 23-27. And he is currently participating in the filming of a Netflix documentary chronicling his experiences as he travels through Mexico, specifically the Yucatan Peninsula, Oaxaca, Tabasco and Veracruz, scouting places to work, getting the permission to extract the placard, and his extraction techniques.
Alfredo Romero has three lines in the series Vestigios de Nuestros Tiempos. The first is Marcas Populares (popular brands) such as Nestle or Beer and soda labels. The second is Graffitis Urbanos (urban graffiti) and the third is Mensajes y Texturas (political campaigns, different words and textures). You can visit Campo’s gallery, La Sala Art Gallery, on Calle 60 in Merida, Yucatan.
The first cultural vestige that Alfredo recovered was on Calle 64 in Merida, Yucatan. He took advantage of the fact that they were renovating the facade and asked permission to rescue the placard by extracting that section of the wall. Taking on this endeavor, he faced a huge challenge on how to extract the wall section without destroying the placard. He did intensive investigation, and studied how ancient paintings in Europe and other parts of the world were able to be rescued and restored. He applied the same techniques to the removal of these placards. Adding to the challenge is the fact that each wall is unique. Some are made of plaster, others of cement or limestone; and the extraction differs depending on the material. Finally, when he successfully removes the wall section, he takes it back to his workshop. He then must carefully remove it from the original material while images are hanging on by a thread in layers upon layers of paint. Once removed they are mounted on another canvas. He tries to keep them as close to the original as possible and not do too much restoration. Nevertheless, some are pretty torn up. If that is the case, he uses gold paper to fill in the cracks and put the pieces back together. This method is borrowed from the Japanese Kintsugi technique, the art of repairing broken pottery with powdered gold, silver, or platinum. Romero entered his first piece in this series from Calle 64 in the 2015 biennial art competition in Campeche and was a finalist.
Featured Artist: Alfredo Romero Campos
Homage to Mexico's Modern History
Not too long ago I passed by my friend Alfredo Romero Campo’s studio to have a chat, drink some wine and play with his cats. Oh, and of course check out his latest work that he will be sending off to Los Angeles for the LA Art Show happening Jan 23-27. As I walk in, Alfredo greets me as his mom, who is visiting from Spain, is reading her book and his father and employee are busy packing up his artwork which is being shipped both nationally and internationally. The first piece I see as I walk into his workshop is a huge placard that says “MORENA” the political party of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, (aka AMLO) Mexico’s recently elected controversial and popular president. Alfredo looks at me, smiles and said: “Guess where that’s going?” Yep, to AMLO. A friend of the President commissioned Campos to rescue two Morena placard off the streets. They will be a gift to the new commander- in- chief.