|Charmaine Picard is a Ph.D. student in the Art History Department at the University of Chicago. She has previously earned a M.A. in Latin American Studies from New York University, and an additional M.A. in 19th and 20th Century Art History, Theory, and Criticism from the Art Institute of Chicago. Areas of interest include Latin American Avant-Gardes, Critical Theory and Marxist Aesthetics, and Conceptual Art in Latin America. Her Ph.D. dissertation examines the practice of experimental photography in Mexico during the 1920s and 30s. She is a contributing art critic for the journal ArtNexus published in Bogotá, Colombia.|
In the summer of 1968 Mexican university students organized a democratic movement, publicly demanding civil liberties and human rights from the authoritarian Díaz Ordaz regime.(1) A series of clashes between students and the riot police precipitated the violence in the plaza of Tlatelolco where scores of civilian demonstrators were murdered, wounded, and imprisoned by the Mexican military. The government-led assault exposed the limits of Mexican Constitutional Democracy leading many to question the established parameters of official power and the State's lack of accountability for crimes committed against the general populace.(2)
The tragic outcome can be seen as a critical turning point altering the consciousness of Mexico's citizenry by encouraging a profound cynicism and mistrust of the Mexican government and its institutions.
In the wake of this unrest a renewed spirit of social and political awareness was activated among a generation of young artists. The widespread formation of artist collectives between the years 1974 and 1982 inspired, in part, by a conscious desire to circumvent institutionalized practices and affiliations, led to a decade of collectivist art action known in Mexico as the movement of Los Grupos.(3) Artistic production by some 15 different groups, can be characterized by the introduction of experimental art making practices, and a renewed belief in the artist as an instrument for social change. The artwork produced by these groups was as distinctive as the collectives themselves, owing to their diverse social backgrounds and divergent artistic objectives. These differences were reflected in the artistic approaches employed by the artists varying from neographics to Muralism, and from construction of banners and agitprop to printed art books and Conceptual art.(4)
This paper will examine the work of the independent artist collective, Suma 1976-1982, and will look at the ways in which experimental and Conceptual art practices were employed by the group as a means of critiquing Mexican systems of local and national authority and administration, as well as the institutional status of art in Mexico.(5) It will also address the artist's efforts to produce a qualitatively different relationship between the artist and the viewing public by circumventing traditional exhibition channels in an attempt to reach a more broadly-based public. Suma's guerilla art actions on the Mexico City streets and their development of ephemeral and idea-based works sought to challenge the commodity status of art, altering the way in which art functioned in Mexican society by means of its new status as a process. In this way the group altered the conception of what constituted art in Mexican society, shifting attention away from more traditional media in an attempt to integrate the experience of art with everyday life.
The activities of Suma cannot be defined by a particular style or medium, but rather the work can best be described as a series of strategies in which artists were: 1.) seeking to depersonalize the process of artistic creation; 2.) redefining the role of the spectator and conditions of receivership; 3.) rejecting the autonomy of the art object; 4.) attempting to reach a broader and more popular public; 5.) addressing and critiquing domestic political and social issues; 6.) reacting against the weight of institutionalized artistic practices--primarily the importance of painting in Mexico, and by extension the practice and rhetoric of Mexican Muralism. More generally, these criteria represent the local conditions that gave rise to the development of experimental and non-object-based art(6) during the decade of the 1970s, and form part of a broader trend in the international emergence of Conceptual art that challenged the commodification of art, and its systems of production and distribution in late capitalist society(7)
Grupo Suma Suma, was formed in mid-1976 at La Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas by students in Ricardo Rocha's visual experimental workshop. The group met on a weekly basis to design and plan specific projects, to create experimental works, and to evaluate the success of past projects. By operating as a collective the members sought to negate the personality cult of the artist and the excessive individualism they believed plagued contemporary society. In keeping with this notion, the artists developed a group logo, an image of a Mexican eagle with the words Grupo Suma, which they reproduced on all of their artwork as an alternative to the artist's signature. [FIGURE 1] In this way artistic contribution and the concept of aura could not be attributed to any one person, but instead was distributed evenly among the members of the collective.
The group's initial public works involved a combination of graffiti art and abstract expressionist painting that incorporated words, phrases, symbols and signs painted onto bare city walls. Suma's reconsideration of the mural tradition had led to an investigation of public art together with an exploration of contemporary painting technique. While these murals brought artwork to a public that did not frequent contemporary art galleries or museums, their expressionist visual language was not always readily accessible to the general public. Drawing inspiration from their surrounding environment, the artists soon began to incorporate local urban imagery and found objects from the city streets and popular media into their compositions. This new emphasis on integrating popular visual codes and urban languages marked an important shift in the development of the group's oeuvre--one that would come to characterize their mature experimental activities.
Suma's more socially engaged projects began with the introduction of lithographic and photographic offset and stencil art techniques. Images of easily recognizable urban types such as the anonymous bureaucrat often portrayed with a portrait of a "disappeared" girl on his briefcase, the María figure--a colloquial term used to identify an indigenous woman who sells handcrafted items on the streets, or images of a "disappeared" girl--an obvious reference to the incidents at Tlatelolco--were graphically exhibited on banners, or stenciled directly onto city walls and pavement in heavily trafficked pedestrian areas.(8) [FIGURE 2] Suma's images of common people and their quotidian reality were appropriated from popular print media and were re-framed within the public space of the city's streets. Focusing the viewer's attention on the humanity of these individuals, the large format portraits functioned as visual reminders of the day-to-day hardships of urban existence, providing a critical look at the contemporary problems facing individuals in the densely populated and chaotic metropolis.
Suma's interest in urban expression began as a desire to forge a contemporary type of public art that would demystify artistic activity, and would reach a more broadly-based audience. In Mexico the creation of public art had traditionally been associated with government patronage, and the development of cultural nationalism during the 1920's through the 1940's. Public art, therefore, was closely identified with the promotion of official culture and the creation of official versions of history.(9) The antagonistic relationship generated between artists and the government after 1968 seemed to alter this conception of public art toward one that was implicitly, and at times, often overtly critical of Mexican government and related institutions. Unlike Mexican Muralism where government-sponsored artwork was created on the walls of grand and imposing municipal buildings, Suma's unauthorized artistic production was left on neighborhood walls, sidewalks, and streets in the familiar and shared space of the crowded city. Whereas Muralism had promoted a nostalgic and largely idealized portrait of Mexico's indigenous past, Suma's imagery attempted to show the current conditions of Mexico's indigenous and mestizo populations.
By presenting the stenciled imagery in a graphic style that simulated newspaper photography, mass media marketing strategies, or even political campaign advertising (such as slogans and images of politicians plastered on public walls), Suma artists made a conscious decision to use contemporary visual codes as a means of attracting its audience.(10) [FIGURE 3] The collective appropriated imagery from newspapers, and popular journals, manipulating culturally specific references while using materials such as stencil art, multiples, litho and photo offset, mimeographs and collage techniques that were often more affordable than other traditional forms of art making. In doing so, the artists hoped to persuade the viewer to become critically aware of the power of the media which members believed had the potential to shape political and cultural beliefs, as well as the capacity to distort historical fact.(11) Images such as those referencing the incidents at Tlatelolco refocused public attention on government abuse of power and subsequent cover-up strategies, and were meant to appeal to the viewer to develop a critical response to official information. In a country where daily newspapers, television and radio broadcasting were largely managed and/or manipulated by the State, presenting alternative imagery that focused on the plight of the homeless, government corruption, urban poverty, and the problem of the "disappeared," served to direct community attention to critical issues in and around Mexico City.(12) By using familiar visual codes--those of mass media and advertising--Suma sought to provoke the viewer into questioning their role as consumers of products and of ideas.(13) In 1976--a year characterized by accelerated urban growth, a bloated government bureaucracy, growing labor unrest, rising unemployment, and the collapse of the Mexican peso--Suma's critical representation of anonymous bureaucratic figures and individuals subsisting in the informal economy provided realistic portraits that introduced an oppositional and alternative point of view.
An important component of Suma's work was its process-oriented nature. According to member Mario Rangel Faz, the group was far more concerned with the interactive and contextual processes of artistic production than in the creation of an autonomous art object.(14) Emphasis, therefore, extended beyond formal considerations and shifted, according to Rangel Faz, to the "idea within an artistic process"--a proposal which included both the act of creation and the active participation of the spectator.(15) The remaining vestiges of the "art action"-- the "art objects" themselves were absorbed into the city and exposed to natural elements and corrosive pollutants insuring, as one member stated, that the work was a "process in constant transformation."(16)
Suma artists came into direct contact with their audience inserting themselves into the viewer's daily space in an attempt to involve popular sectors in idea-based propositions, while bringing art to a public that customarily did not visit museums or galleries.(17) By presenting the viewer with ambiguous relational juxtapositions and oblique references, Suma was asking the spectator to develop their own conclusions and associations of the compositions based on personal experience and subjective interpretation. Expertise was not a requirement, nor was the work prized for its uniqueness or rarity, instead Suma artists sought to deconstruct traditional notions concerning Fine Art and its autonomous nature by merging high and low, elite and popular visual languages and styles. Art was to be reintegrated into everyday life, and a new relationship was to be forged between the artist and his/her public. (18)
By circumventing traditional art institutions and venues, Suma artists sought to control both the production and the distribution of their output. These guerilla art actions can be seen as an attempt to change the social relations of art production and use in Mexican society, by deliberately avoiding traditional channels of production, distribution and receivership. Grupo Suma artists incorporated artwork directly into the public's everyday space, creating ephemeral art-pieces on the public streets as a means of negating art's preciousness and commodity status. By experimenting with impermanent, inexpensive, and reproducible materials the collective was implicitly critiquing the commercialization of art, developing works that were often site-specific and consequently exempt from being sold on the art market.(19) A critical objective of their project was to eliminate the high cost of producing artwork in order to make it accessible to a broader and more diversified public. In this way Suma successfully challenged the boundaries of art production while simultaneously shifting attention away from more traditional artistic media.
From Public Art to Gallery Installations
Ironically while Suma artists were bringing paintings, stencil art, assemblage and collage onto the city streets, the collective also began presenting works that incorporated found objects, debris and garbage taken from the streets into the exhibition space. Many of Suma's compositions incorporated used clothing, pieces of wood, electrical wiring, commercial signage, license plates and other recognizable material. The influence of Italian Arte Povera and of French Nouveau Realisme can clearly be seen in assemblages where common refuse and odd remnants have been aestheticized, yet the incorporation of found objects within Suma's constructions suggests a different meaning within the context of Mexico City, providing allusions to the resourcefulness of individuals in the informal economy who transform seemingly valueless items into utilitarian and serviceable inventions.
Suma's portrait of a trash collector dragging a mountain of garbage through the city center illustrates the activity of recycling that is so prevalent in Mexico, and may seem alien in First World nations where ideas of planned obsolescence and material disposability have been incorporated into the culture. In Mexico City garbage collectors known as pepenadores recycle items such as old newspapers, cardboard boxes, fragments of wood, and nonfunctional mechanical equipment selling the debris to individuals who devise imaginative uses for the materials. In this way, unskilled workers with no hope of a regular income have invented creative moneymaking solutions in the informal economy as a means of daily survival.(20)
The image of the pepenador was incorporated into a number of works that combined found objects, with collages, assemblages, stencils, newspaper clippings, and popular mass media imagery.(21) Suma's conflation of the garbage collector superimposed upon a computer programming card suggests the awkward encounter between the technological world and the realities of poverty and unemployment, as well as the coexistence of these diverse realms within the same urban space. The piece also points to the failure of modernization efforts to reach all sectors of the Mexican population, as countless families live without the basic comforts of electricity, sewerage, and potable water.(22)
Suma's attention to the effects of poverty in society and to the plight of individuals subsisting in the informal economy figured prominently in an installation incorporating a homeless man covered with a burlap sack. The word CONASUPO(23) printed on the bag is an acronym for Compañia Nacional de Subsistencias--a government agency responsible for the sale of subsidized basic commodities in poor and working class areas throughout Mexico.[FIGURE 4] While clearly a reference to urban poverty, unemployment and homelessness, the work also suggests the problem of corruption in Mexico where public sector programs are often disabled by government employees who divert or sell funds or products on the market before they have had a chance to reach their intended population. By integrating elements of street life within the gallery space, Suma artists were compelling the art going public to look at facets of city life that many would prefer to avoid, or had become desensitized to as a result of frequent exposure.(24) The decontextualization of urban figures such as the sculptural representation of a homeless male, confronted viewers directly with quotidian reality and concrete socioeconomic issues.
A particularly good example of this strategy was Suma's ambiente or multimedia installation entitled La Calle/ The Street, for the Salon Nacional de Artes Plásticas: Sección Anual de Experimentación in 1979.(25) [FIGURES 5 & 6] The work included a massive and bulging assemblage of garbage suspended by cables from the ceiling, while on the walls and floors Suma used stencils and colored spray paint to depict a series of images taken from their growing inventory of urban types. Representations of two unemployed males appear as wainscoting along the base of the walls, while up above the legs and feet of an anonymous masse are seen in full stride. On the sections of the walls traditionally devoted to easel paintings Suma has stenciled repeated portraits of a disappeared girl, images of the pepenador, a government bureaucrat, and consecutive María figures, while on the floor the image of an anonymous bureaucrat is depicted in series walking from one side of the room to the other. Suma's installation presents an urban microcosm of Mexico City where individuals inhabit separate realities, yet their lives overlap in the shared public space of the city. The juxtaposition of diverse sectors of the population revealed contrasts in lifestyles among Mexico City residents, and by merely walking into the exhibition space, the viewer found himself/herself becoming a relational part of this environment.
The installation combined a variety of techniques, bombarding the viewer with information in the form of assemblages, stencils, newspaper clippings, cards printed with the faces of mothers of the disappeared, and various forms of documentation of their activities on the streets.(26) The presentation of graphic images in series, is a tactic that recalls mass media strategies most often found on billboards and print advertisements. [FIGURE 7] Analogous to Andy Warhol's Pop Icon and Disaster series work, Suma artists sought to use a popular and recognizable visual language while critiquing its ability to convert cultural production into superficial commodities. Unlike Warhol's silk-screened imagery, however, Suma's ephemeral wall stencils intentionally and successfully resisted sale on the art market, and in this way the images of the homeless or the disappeared did not function as aestheticized consumer products, but maintained a certain integrity, presenting difficult work that confronted viewers with their own responses to the often unpleasant realities of urban life.
It might be said that Suma's decision to participate in gallery exhibitions such as the First Experimental Salon in 1979 directly contradicted their commitment to public art. Accordingly there are some important questions that need to be asked such as, by participating in a government-sponsored exhibition did Suma's work lose some of its critical function? And had the artists and their work, in effect, been co-opted by the government? These claims have merit and deserve further attention, however, it should be remembered that Suma artists did continue their commitment to the creation of experimental public art, and it could be argued that by placing their artwork within an institutional setting, the work was potentially confronting a segment of the population on whom the work could have a significant critical impact. As well, by exhibiting in these very different realms the group was able to reach a broader audience that included both popular sectors as well as the art-going public. (27)
Suma's artistic project was successful on a number of fronts. Their development of ephemeral and idea-based works challenged the commodity status of art, altering the way in which art functioned in Mexican society by means of its new status as a process. The importance of the viewer in the realization of this process reduced the role of the artist in the production of meaning, and supported an open-ended interpretation of the artwork. In this way the group was effective in altering the conception of what constituted art in Mexican society, shifting attention away from more traditional media, as well as opening a path for later generations of experimental artists particularly the neo-Conceptual artists of the 1990s.(28)
The development of Conceptual art making strategies by Suma became a way of critiquing systems of authority, both in the realm of the authoritarian and corporatist structure of local and national government, as well as in relation to art institutions and their attendant traditions.(29) The group's artistic approach played an important role in the history of Mexican countercultural activity and social critique first awakened by the student movement of 1968 and later intensified by the ensuing violence of Tlatelolco. Suma's activities can be seen as symptomatic of a decade of Mexican experimental production that sought a rupture with traditional artforms and commodity culture blurring the boundaries between the artist and the activist, between High Art and popular culture and between the experience of art and contemporary everyday life.(30)
Interviews and Correspondence
Interview with Mario Rangel Faz, Mexico City, September 1997.
Written correspondence with Oliverio Hinojosa, May, 1999.
Acha, Juan "Teoría y Práctica No-Objetualista en América
Latina," Primer Coloquio Latinoamericano de Arte No-Objetualista organizado
por el Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín, Colombia, May 1981, en
Ensayos y Ponencias Latinoamericanistas. Venezuela: Galería
de Arte Nacional, 1981.
--------- América en la mira: Muestra de gráfica internacional. México D.F.: Frente Mexicano de Trabajadores Culturales, 1978.
Barnitz, Jacqueline "Conceptual Art and Latin America: A Natural Alliance,"
Encounters and Displacements: Luis Camnitzer, Alfredo Jaar, Cildo Miereles,
(Austin: Archer M. Huntington Gallery, University of Texas, 1992): 35-48.
----------"A Latin Answer to Pop," Arts Magazine (June 1966): 36-39.
Buchloh, Benjamin "Conceptual Art, 1962-1969: From Aesthetics of Administration to the Critique of Institutions," October 55 (Winter 1990): 105-43.
Canclini, Nestor García Culturas hibridas: Estrategias para entrar y salir de la modernidad. México D.F.: Editorial Grijalbo, 1989.
Cockcroft, James. Mexico: Class Formation, Capital Accumulation, and the State. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1983.
------------De los grupos los individuos: artistas plásticos de los grupos metropolitanos. México D.F.: Museo de Arte Carillo Gil, 1985.
------------Exposición: Arte, luchas populares en México. México D.F.: Museo Universitario de Ciencias y Artes, 1979.
Fiz, Simón Marchán Del Arte objetual al arte de concepto: Las artes plásticas desde 1960. Madrid: Ediciones Akal, S.A., 1st ed. 1972, 2nd ed. 1974, 3rd ed. 1988.
Goldman, Shifra M. "Elite Artists and Popular Audiences: The Mexican Front of Cultural Workers," Dimensions of The Americas: Art and Social Change in Latin America and the United States, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994): 123-139.
Krauze, Enrique Mexico: Biography of Power, A History of Modern Mexico, 1810-1996, trans., Hank Heifetz. New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1997.
------------La gráfica del 68--Homenaje al movimiento estudiantil, compiled by Grupo Mira. México, D.F.: Talleres de la ENAP-UNAM, 1982.
Lippard, Lucy. Six Years: The Dematerialization of the Art Object from 1966-1971. New York: Praeger, 1973.
MacLachlan, Colin and William H. Beezley El Gran Pueblo: A History of Greater Mexico. New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1994.
Mabry, Donald The Mexican University and the State: Student Conflicts, 1910-1971. Texas: A&M University Press, 1982.
------------Mexico 1968: A Study of Domination and Repression. New York: The North American Congress on Latin America, 1968.
------------Muros frente a muros. Morelia, Michoacán: Casa de la Cultura de Michoacán, 1978.
Paz, Octavio. "Olympics and Tlatelolco," in Labyrinth of Solitude and Other Writings, trans. Lysander Kemp, (New York: Grove Press, 1st ed., 1972, reprinted 1985): 221-237.
-------------Pensar el 68. México: Cal y Arena, 1988.
Poniatwoska, Elena. La noche de Tlatelolco: Testimonios de historia oral. México D.F.: Bibiloteca Era, 1983.
-------------Presencia de México en la X Bienal de Paris. México D.F.: Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes and Museo Universitario de Ciencias y Artes, 1977.
Ramírez, Mari Carmen "Blue Print Circuits: Conceptual Art and
Politics in Latin America," Latin American Artists of the Twentieth
Century, ed. Waldo Rasmusssen, (New York: The Museum of Modern Art,
-------------Reconsidering the Object in Art: 1965-1975, ed. Russell Ferguson, and John Alan Farmer. Los Angeles: Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and MIT Press, 1995.
-------------Salon Nacional de Artes Plásticas: Sección Anual de Experimentación. México: Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, 1979.
-----------Testimonios de Latinoamérica," La Semana de Bellas Artes, First and Second Parts nos. 42 and 43 (September 20, and September 27, 1978).
Tibol, Raquel "La Calle del Grupo Suma," Proceso, (Feb. 12, 1977):
-------------Confrontaciones: Crónica y Recuento. México: Ediciones Sámara, 1992.
-------------Gráficas y Neográficas en México. México: SEP/UNAM, 1987.
Zárate, Cheli y Emiliano Pérez Cruz "Suma, el arte
a la calle y viceversa," La Semana de Bellas Artes, 16(Marzo 22,
1. The author is grateful to the Department of Art History at the University of Chicago for research funding, and to Shifra Goldman for photographic materials and for the use of the Shifra M. Goldman Archives.
2. The Mexican Student Movement was not revolutionary in nature, instead the student's demands were reformist--seeking democratic changes in the Penal Code [articles 145 and 145bis], disbandment of the granadero corps, freedom for political prisoners, dismissal of two high-ranking security officials, government accountability for acts of repression, and compensation for the wounded, and for families of students who had lost their lives in the clashes between police and students in the months leading up to the Tlatelolco incident. Mexico 1968: A Study of Domination and Repression. (New York: The North American Congress on Latin America, 1968).
3. More than 15 artist collectives emerged in Mexico between the years 1974-1982. The efforts of several of these groups eventually culminated in the creation of an umbrella organization in 1978 known as the Mexican Front of Cultural Workers. The Front produced a manifesto that called for regaining control of the production, distribution and the circulation of art by using alternative and less expensive methods that would make artwork accessible to a broader and more diversified public.
4. Neographics is a term coined by Mexican art historian and critic Raquel Tibol. It is used to designate the popularization of inexpensive and easily reproducible graphic works including muliples, photo-offset, litho-offset, photocopies, stencils, mimeographs, and rubbings on paper.
5. The members of Suma were: Oscar Aguilar Olea, José Barbosa, Paloma Díaz Abreu, René Freire, Oliverio Hinojosa, Armandina Lozano, Gabriel Macotela, Ernesto Molina, Alfonso Moraza, César Nuñez, Hirman Ramírez, Armando Ramos, Mario Rangel Faz, Santiago Rebolledo, Jesús Reyes Cordero, Ricardo Rocha, Jaime Rodríguez, Arturo Rosales, Patricia Salas, Alma Valtierra, Luis Vidal, Guadalupe Zobarzo. These twenty-two individuals were members of Suma for varying lengths of time during the seven-year existence of the artist collective.
6. The term Conceptual art was generally not employed in Mexico at this time. Instead the phrase no-objetualismo or non-object-based art--a term introduced by Peruvian art critic Juan Acha--was used to designate a range of experimental artforms such as happenings, installations, performance, and idea-based art that he championed as anti-autonomous forms of art communication. Acha called for an anti-illusionist, anti-formalist, collectivist art that he believed had the potential to advance socio-political views and counter-cultural ideas, and therefore had the ability to address the concrete realities of Latin American life. Acha perceived movements such as geometric abstraction as lacking a connection to life, and therefore to Latin America reality. Unlike Argentine art historian Marta Traba who viewed Conceptual art as a culturally colonialist importation, Acha perceived non-object-based art/no-objetualismo as having the potential to represent the creative diversity of Latin American artistic production. According to Acha, since non-object-based art did not reflect a specific style or medium Latin Americans could develop artwork that would not be considered derivative, but would be representative of the many types of artistic production that are specific to each Latin American nation.
Acha outlined three types of production that could be syncretically merged to represent the cultural hybridity of each country: 1.) popular art; 2.) high art; 3.) art & design. By incorporating these aspects within the work, artists would be creating a postmodern and uniquely specific artform. As a communication tool, no-objetualismo had potential to advance socio-political views and counter-cultural ideas--its cryptic nature often allowed for the avoidance of censorship. According to Acha, realism is not located in the material or in art object, but in the social practices of artistic behavior. "Teoría y Práctica No-Objetualista en América Latina," Primer Coloquio Latinoamericano de Arte No-Objetualista organizado por el Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellín, Colombia, May 1981, en Ensayos y Ponencias Latinoamericanistas. Venezuela: Galería de Arte Nacional, 1981.
7. Proto-conceptual artists working in Mexico include film-maker and theater artist Alejandro Jodorowsky (Chile, b. 1931), sculptor, architect and visual artist Mathias Goeritz (Germany, b. 1915), and performance and visual artist Marcos Kurtycz (Poland, b. 1934).
8. Government repression of organized popular protest, labor disputes, and the like resulted in the imprisonment and disappearance of numerous individuals over the years. Many of these disappearances were never explained and in 1977 several of the families of the disappeared organized a protest against the Mexican government demanding the return of 800 missing individuals. James Cockcroft, Mexico: Class Formation, Capital Accumulation, and the State, (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1983): 245-246.
9. This was particularly true regarding government propagation of the myth of the successes of the Mexican Revolution.
10. Suma's portraits of local types were meant to be immediately recognizable by the public, being read as ciphers through which one's own perceptions and experiences could be projected.
11. "Los medios masivo de comunicación han logrado imponerse con las consecuencias negativas que ocasionan al formar parte de los sistemas represivos, funcionando como transmisores y reproductores de la ideologia dominante que perpetúa las actuales relaciones de producción en beneficio de una clase social ligada a intereses imperialistas." Cheli Zárate, y Emiliano Pérez Cruz, "Suma, el Arte a la calle y viceversa," La Semana de Bellas Artes, 16(Marzo 22, 1978):2.
Ricardo Rocha, "Nos metemos en las fiestas de la ciudad, mientras cuestionamos la información y los mecanismos comerciales. Discutimos lo suficiente hasta que las cosas funcionan. Tratamos de darle a nuestros materiales un sentido poético y crítico." in Raquel Tibol, Gráficas y Neográficas en México, (México: Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México,1987)p, 271.
12. Government control of the media, mainly through bribery and coercion of journalists, was blatantly apparent in relation to official versions of the events at Tlatelolco, and subsequent accounts of the Corpus Christi massacre in 1971. The practice of the embute or "stuffed envelope"-- exchange of money for government approved reporting --was well-integrated into Mexican journalistic practice. Enrique Krauze, Mexico: Biography of Power, A History of Modern Mexico, 1810-1996, trans., Hank Heifetz. (New York: Harper Collins Publishers, 1997):686.688.
Although statistics are lacking for the number of wounded, dead, and imprisoned, Mexican historian Sergio Aguayo estimates that over 200 people were killed at Tlatelolco-- possibly a high percentage of those slain were from the security apparatus.[Aguayo - lecture University of Chicago]- For an in depth analysis of the Student Movement see Sergio Aguayo, 1968: The Archives of Violence (Mexico: Grijalbo/Reforma, 1998).
In December 1971 President Luis Echeverría arranged to have 72 of the professors and students released from prison. A number of political prisoners, however, were still being held as late as 1978 when President Lopez Portillo passed a general amnesty law freeing the remaining protestors associated with the Student Movement. Donald Mabry, The Mexican University and the State: Student Conflicts, 1910-1971. Texas: A&M University Press, 1982.
13. By 1976 approximately 2,600 individuals arrived in Mexico City each day in search of housing and jobs. In September of the same year the government was forced to devalue the Mexican peso, causing it to lose nearly 100% of its monetary value. Colin MacLachlan ad William Beezley, El Gran Pueblo: A History of Greater Mexico, (New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 1994), pp. 388-398.
14. Interview with Mario Rangel Faz, September 1997.
15. Ibid. According to Suma member Oliverio Hinojosa, "Tres cosas imponderables hay en esta manera de trabajar, el deseo de ubicar la práctica arística, la investigación, y el hecho de abarcar al creador y al espectador en el fenómeno." Statement taken from an interview with Fidel Acevedo in "Suma: Estética de un Grupo."
16. Cheli Zárate, y Emiliano Pérez Cruz, "Suma, el Arte a la calle y viceversa," La Semana de Bellas Artes, 16(Marzo 22, 1978):3.
17. In this way interaction was often spontaneous, and subsequently lacked the element of environmental control found in the artist's studio.
18. Interaction with individuals on the streets served to provide Suma with immediate feedback, supplying the collective with information for their weekly autocritique and planning sessions.
19. Suma artists were responsible for all costs associated with the production and distribution of their work owing to their position against the commercialization art--an obvious incentive for keeping production costs to a minimum.
20. The inability of the market to absorb large numbers of unskilled and illiterate workers has led to the accelerated growth of Mexico's informal economy--labor activities that are untaxed and unregulated by the State.
21. Suma's repeated use of this image was, in effect, a form of recycling whereby reception and meaning of the artwork was determined by its contextual placement.
22. Néstor García Canclini's work takes a critical look at the coexistence of traditional and modern temporalities within contemporary Latin American societies. Hybrid Cultures: Strategies for Entering and Leaving Modernity, (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1989).
23. CONASUPO: The National Company of Popular Subsistence
24. The incorporation of photographic images of a tragafuego within Suma's installation highlights the situation of many unskilled laborers who destroy their health by performing toxic and even life threatening work as a means of survival.
25. National Salon of Fine Arts, First Annual Section of Experimental Art
26. Suma's exhibition La Calle included slide transparencies documenting their activities on the streets, together with newspaper clippings that contextualized some of the stenciled figures, as well as cards printed with faces of mothers of the "disappeared" who had recently launched a hunger strike to raise awareness for their cause.
27. Suma's decision to exhibit at the Experimental Salon may have parallels with the work of Conceptual artist Hans Haacke who chooses to exhibit in mainstream venues believing they are the only place that his message will have a decisive impact.
28. "Podriamos hablar de un conseptualismo del subdessarollo, de paises subequipados." Testimonios de Latinoamérica," La Semana de Bellas Artes, 1978.
29. Suma's introduction of unconventional materials and conceptual techniques challenged traditional ideas of artistic beauty and quality, and openly attacked the boundaries of what constituted art in Mexican society.
30. While the study of Conceptual art making practices in Latin America has seen recent scholarship by art historians such as Mari Carmen Ramírez, Jacqueline Barnitz, Simón Marchán Fiz, Guy Brett, and Nelly Richard, this period in Mexican art history is consistently overlooked. One notable exception is Shifra Goldman's essay, "Elite Artists and Popular Audiences: The Mexican Front of Cultural Workers," Dimensions of The Americas: Art and Social Change in Latin America and the United States, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994): 123-139.