Earlier this semester, artist and Visual & Critical Studies painting teacher Steve DeFrank traveled to Mexico City to begin a 10-month study of lucha libre (Mexican professional wrestling), with the support of the Fulbright Program, the Lillian Orlowsky and William Freed Foundation and the Mexico City-based folk-arts institution the Museo del Arte Popular. Last week, SVA Close Up published an interview with Steve about the project. Steve talks about his discovery of lucha libre and how it relates to his own art, his relationship to the Mexico City luchador community, and some of the people he’s met during his time there. Here’s a short excerpt:
How are you spending your time in Mexico?
I’m studying the intersection of lucha libre and painting. I believe that both use similar techniques: illusion, allegory, farce, and sexual, political and religious imagery. There are many parallels between the two—the canvas, the narrative, etc.
I had this idea, strange as it may sound, that lucha libre is a metaphor for painting, and I felt I had to see it through. It’s my job to connect these dots. Artists need to take risks and see where an idea can go, good bad or ugly. I tell my students all the time that they cannot play it safe.
You can read the rest of the interview here. It contains a lot more information about Steve and his work, and a few links to additional stories about lucha libre.
I can’t send today’s post to press without paying due tribute to Santo, el Enmascarado de Plata (“the man in the silver mask”), one of the all-time greats of lucha libre. In addition to being one of the most popular Mexican wrestlers of the 20th century, he starred—always in character, of course—in over 50 films spanning the full spectrum of B-to-Z-movie subgenres, including action/adventure, thrillers, science fiction, mad-scientist monster movies, supernatural horror, and even westerns. Here’s a short fan-made Santo tribute video that I found on YouTube, featuring music by La Víctimas del Dr. Cerebro:
And this is a trailer for the sci-fi lucha libre classic Santo Contra la Invasion de los Marcianos (Santo versus the Martian Invasion, 1966). It’s not his best film (however you want to define “best” in this context), but it’s up there. There are no subtitles, but don’t worry if you don’t know Spanish; this isn’t Inception.