Sculptor Eduardo Chillida used to say his Basque Country is made of a black light —particular to that place and its people— and a darkness that he wanted to portray in his work. He too thought that light is totally opposite to the one from the Mediterranean, always so white and luminous. To him, Greece gave the impression of being born out of the physical light of the Aegean Sea, and he thought that clarity was what led the Greek man to discover his own light: that of reason and criticism.
Even though I am not European, I do believe in the light Chillida spoke about: the one each man projects from within. I believe in it because I have seen it in many places—in the Mediterranean, Northern Europe and elsewhere— and I have always known none of those lights are exactly like mine. In North America, Europe and Russia, darkness has a thinness to it, a certain elegance, such as the northern air's, which is always so sharp. I believe men from the north get their gloominess from that faint breeze, as well as from the cold whiteness that keeps them company for months and is so familiar to them. That black light is characteristic of the white man, that is why black from Chillida's work feels so similar to Serra or Soulages.
When it comes to Mexico there is a superficial belief —which permeates both local and foreign imagination— that regards it as a place colored to exhaustion, bursting with life and overflowed by the cheerfulness of its people. I am, however, convinced of the opposite: Mexico is an implacable place, that knows no mercy and where life is worth nothing. Mexico is not colorful, Mexico is black because of color and Mexicans also shine with a black light, completely different from any other.
That black comes from the shadows in the desert, from the night among the jungle, from the Pacific Ocean depths. It is a black produced by variety, not monotony; a mixed black, born out of colors, like a mole, a salsa or a chocolate. Such is our black, warmer and more solemn, but fiercer too. To verify this, one only needs to take a look at the ingredients on a metate, a painting by Siqueiros, the decoration on a box of Olinalá or the typical sarape. In between the colored motifs —in all that deliberately free space— black presents itself discretely, as in the background, but always alowing our darkness to show its face.
If color has turned into a palpable construction and internal contradiction in our country is because we Mexicans have not been able to reconcile with ourselves and let us be guided confidently by our own light. As we assimilated the Spanish language, catholicism, democracy, capitalism, digital technology and many other ideas, we have conceded to live under perplexity for centuries; despite knowing our spirit has never been fully compatible with anything created under a strange light—as dazzling and magnificent as it may seem. That is why we still dress everything in colors, to distract others—and ourselves— from our inner darkness; from that somber spirit who makes us always solemn before death and never towards life. And yet, in spite of all the external influences and our own stubborness to adopt those other worlds of supposed virtue, our black light has not been turned off. It still shines and ocassionally twinkles, but it is us Mexicans who need to point it towards the surface if we want to project our true identity once again.
Consequently, my work can't do anything but obey my mexican light and let black speak freely. I do not pretend to dress anything in color with my paintings, but to let them summon our darkness and reveal it unapologetically. In doing so I hope they will, someday, help the reconciliation with our light, our spirit and our Mexican Black.