Bound by Art and Life: Sharing a Vision, a Dedicated Couple Revived a Respected Mexican Cultural Magazine through Stunning Design and Wide-Ranging Content

By Bach, Caleb | Americas (English Edition), May-June 2004 | Go to article overview

Bound by Art and Life: Sharing a Vision, a Dedicated Couple Revived a Respected Mexican Cultural Magazine through Stunning Design and Wide-Ranging Content


Bach, Caleb, Americas (English Edition)


When a couple, long married, talks about their friendship and affinities, we understand the essence of their enduring union, but when the two are also professional partners, co-editors, and their labor of love is the venerable Aries de Mexico, then we're talking about a true marriage of ideas and art.

For nearly thirty years Artes de Mexico was a fixture on newsstands and book racks throughout Mexico. The journal presented a cross section of visual disciplines from pre-Conquest times to the present day. Readers coveted each copy and often bound them in sets for posterity. The publication was the brainchild of Miguel Salas Anzures, a visionary in the cultural life of his country, who also founded the Museo de Arte Moderno in Chapultepec Park. Even though the plates were mostly black and white, his collaborator, artist Vicente Rojo, designed the journal in a manner advanced for a time when digital imaging and computer graphics were not yet available. The texts by experts, printed in Spanish, English, French, and German, made the publication popular with foreign tourists who often consulted issues as guides in their wanderings. Faithful fans mourned the magazine's passing in 1980, but their spirits rebounded eight years later when a group of lawyers purchased tights to the dormant journal and hired Alberto Ruy Sanchez and Margarita de Orellana to oversee its rebirth.

As distinguished writers in their own right and champions of all aspects of Mexican culture, they were the perfect choice. Since taking the reins they have produced sixty-five stunning issues in full color featuring writing by the country's best writers. The journal is once again solvent and growing in circulation, due to the sweep of its content and award-winning design.

Ruy Sanchez has described Artes de Mexico as "an encyclopedia of Mexican cultures." The magazine embraces a remarkably broad range of topics while refusing to discriminate between so-called high and low art. Objects, events, cultural manifestations are celebrated for their high aesthetic quality and with an attitude toward authorship defiantly egalitarian. Potters and weavers, woodcarvers and papermakers, even pyrotechnists are carefully identified by name, interviewed, and featured as the true artists they are. Some issues cover specific art forms like textiles from Chiapas, Talavera pottery front Puebla, lacquer work, riding tack (charreria), portraiture, and basketry.

Others deal with deeply rooted aspects of Mexican culture like the cult of mescal and tequila, the lottery and Other forms of gambling, the Day of the Dead, the importance of flowers, even that center of social life, the Mexican kitchen. A number of editions focus on cities and regions: Campeche, Guadalajara, Puebla, Oaxaca, Queretaro, Zacatecas, San Miguel de Allende. Several share with readers important but lesser knows museums, including the Museo Franz Mayer and Museo Ruth D. Lechuga in the capital, the Museo Jose Luis Bello in Puebla, even the holdings pertaining to Mexico at the Ethnographic Museum in Berlin, Germany. Rarely do issues celebrate individual artists, but frequently the publication harnesses their work in support of its themes. For example, a Francisco Toledo gouache depicting an array of bugs appears on the cover of an issue entirely devoted to insects, while a polychromed clay tree of life by Tiburcio Soteno Fernandez graces the cover of an edition about Metepec, a town famous for its ceramics. Images by other prominent artists like Elena Climent, Alfredo Castaneda, Rudolfo Morales, Brian Nissen, and Abel Quesada also often appear. The editorial board, as well, draws upon the wisdom and energy of the very cream of Mexico's arts community. Alvaro Mutis, Salvador Elizondo, Jose Luis Cuevas, Carlos Fuentes, and Pablo Ramirez Vasquez are just some of the members of the publication's advisory committee.

At their offices housed in a handsome, renovated Porfirian style townhouse in the Colonia Roma district of the capital, the couple explains that they had to start small but always thought big.

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