For the next month, a New Haven restaurant will be offering more than its usual spiced Mexican dishes — a portrait exhibition of Mexican revolutionaries and colorful historical figures opens today at El Charro Alegre Restaurante on Mechanic Street.
The small exhibit, titled “Tiempo Sin Tiempo” or “Time Without Time,” draws from two graphic silk-screen series by Spanish painter Antonio Sedano. It includes a collection of portraits of famous Mexican personalities such as revolutionaries Emilio Zapata, Pancho Villa and Venustiano Carranza, as well as painter Frida Kahlo and dictator Porfirio Diaz.
Currently an artist-in-residence at the Griffis Art Center in New London, Conn., Sedano, 65, is originally from Santander, Spain, but lives in Madrid and over the last 20 years, has frequently visited Mexico City. He has painted for his entire career, since the age of 25.
Sedano said his interest in Mexican revolutionaries was sparked years ago, after he read a number of their biographies and saw a photograph of Zapata, a national figure in Mexico known for his role in overthrowing the Diaz dictatorship.
“Seeing the image inspired me to paint him, to begin with such a personage,” Sedano said.
He said he has also painted more than 30 pieces relating to Frida Kahlo, whose surrealist paintings and dramatic life-story also inspired him. Sedano said that in general he likes to paint revolutionaries because he finds meaning in the idea of united groups of people rising up together.
“I can identify with their struggles,” he said.
Johnes Ruta, art director of New Haven’s York Square Cinema Gallery, is the curator of the exhibit. Ruta said many of Sedano’s paintings that followed the “Time Without Time” theme, particularly those of the Mexican revolutionaries, were made possible because Sedano is friendly with some of their families. He said Sedano was therefore able to use the families’ old photographs to model many of his portraits.
“The ‘Time Without Time’ theme has to do with the artistic concept of history as being something evolutionary,” Ruta said. “It manifests in both politics and time.”
Though his work shows a Frida Kahlo influence, Ruta said, Sedano’s style is more panoramic and impressionistic than Kahlo’s. Kahlo, who lived during the first half of the 20th century, is best known for her bold, autobiographical paintings and communist activism.
Ruta said Sedano has his own eclectic style and paints landscapes in addition to portraits.
“His knowledge of literary culture and artistic culture makes him quite unique,” Ruta said. “He often uses juxtaposition between person and space.”
Sedano’s work has been displayed in solo shows in Mexico and Spain, including the Museum of the Revolution in Mexico City, the Santander Museum of Fine Art, and Rojo y Negro Galeria and Galeria Edaf in Madrid. The exhibit at El Charro Alegre will end October 7.
[ydn-legacy-photo-inline id=”17510″ ]