*Featured photo: “Periplos” Isothermal emergency blanket and laser cut 102 x 67cm, 2018
Jacobo Alonso was born in Mexico in 1984. He graduated in Computer Systems from UPAEP, Puebla, and in Visual Arts from UABC, Baja California, and completed his education at the University of Rennes 2 in France.
His work has been exhibited at the LA Art Show Contemporary Art Fair in Los Angeles, CA., the Biennial of Contemporary Textile Art in Portugal, the 16th International Tapestry Triennial in Poland, and the 10th Lucca Biennial in Italy. His works are part of permanent collections, including the Bugatti-Segantini International Collection, LUMEN, Homeira Goldstein and the Bank of Mexico Collection.
Starting from the body, the core of his artistic research, Alonso investigates a plurality of existential and social issues through works that combine formal rigour, material experimentation, and breadth of content.
He has taken part in various exhibitions in Mexico, Finland, the United States, England, Hungary, Italy, France, Portugal, Poland, Spain, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Germany.
Alonso was recently selected to participate in Fiberart International 2022 which will be held June 3 – August 20 at the Brew House Association and Contemporary Craft in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
In this interview for ArteMorbida, he tells us his story.
From Computer System studies to fiber art: What path led you from one to the other, and how do you combine these two mediums in your current artistic practice?
– I worked for a couple of years in Computer Systems while doing a master’s degree in Technologies, and during this time, I questioned the way in which we use a technical language to program/define the actions/reactions of the programs. When I decided to study Arts, I was also constantly questioning the new processes that I was oblivious to, questioning the materials and the way in which I could use them. When I had to develop a project, I started by questioning what was closest to me, my body.
Questioning “the body” has guided my production in the use of materials that conceptually help me in the representation of a body closer to ours; the textile – due to its qualities – allows me to speak of a body that bends, rests, ages, and it tears in the same way ours does.
At the beginning of my studies in Arts, I put aside all kinds of technology, but it was the work with stone in sculpture and engraving that I returned to the use of technological tools to be able to control and obtain the results I was looking for. Now 50% of my work is design and 3D modelling.
How do you get to the finished artwork from the moment you begin to mature an idea? How does its genesis proceed – the choice of materials, techniques, the outline of a project, the variations in progress?
My process begins with an idea related to the body, the central axis of my production is the different meanings with which it is referred to. That defines it.
I investigate this idea; what interests me about it? What displacements can you have in the discipline? What has been done about this issue? Along with my research, I make an archive of texts and audiovisual images that could be used to represent the idea. I analyze my file and references thinking what material and what physical characteristics are indicated to conceptually represent my idea.
This is where my process becomes a rhizome, design and model in the computer to make tests on various materials; these results on the different materials give me physical information given the characteristics of each material, this process is of the utmost importance because new explorations and ideas with each material given its behaviour, something that does not happen in digital design.
The process is not a formula; there are times when I start working directly with a material, with its physical characteristics, its social, symbolic and psychological context, size, texture or composition. But always questioning what approach it has conceptually with the body.
The theme of the body is one of the recurring themes that you investigate through your artistic research. What is the body?
Transfiguration. You are a body even before you are born and also after you die. Everything in the midst of these events is a constant change. The body is a vehicle, an experience, a tool, a problem, and ourselves. The body is one’s own; it is the agent; it is what allows us to have the experience of the world, material and sensible, the experience of other bodies. It is a paradox of itself; we assume what we are because the other confirms them to us.
The body and its mutations imprinted by movement are at the centre of the research you have developed by creating sewn felt works. This fluctuation gives the bodies dilated, sometimes monstrous, shapes. What is the relationship between the concept of ‘body’ and the real body in constant, continuous mutation – a theme that you also investigate in INTERSTICES?
When I started working on this textile series, I did extensive research on the body in sculpture, who had defined these canons, and how they had changed through the filter of time. The sculpture and the materials that were used for the representation of the body thousands of years ago, have arrived stunned/static, a moment for eternity.
I am interested in working with the body we inhabit, which continues to be investigated to date, a living organism that stretches, moves, changes color due to mistreatment, becomes sick, tears and dies. I am looking for a representation that can teach something about ourselves, where the material is the medium.
An interstice is a cleft or space, between the same body or other bodies. Working on my production of body impressions, I noticed that there were gaps, negative spaces of my own body that I did not know, that I had not seen in detail. Which led me to formally develop this series of bodies that are joined to the background by small cuts that go through the background and the shape, in a metaphor of constant change.
INTERCORPO is a series of works in which the reconfiguration of the body takes shape through fragments of radiographs with which you create large tapestries. The body thus becomes an object that has been deconstructed and reconstructed according to different parameters. What is the reflection on the basis of this art project?
During the production process, it is the problems that make me question the materials, what I want a material to do, that leads me to explore new materials, this is not fast, sometimes it takes me several months. Things don’t work out the first time, and there is a very important technical learning process for me.
Making body impressions from fumage – technique with smoke – on paper is time-consuming and physically exhausting. Working on a series that began as collages – Intercorporeity – based on body impressions, I started from the idea of reconfiguring the body; cutting it and joining it together, but the paper that I use for prints did not work for this new process. It was this need that led me to rethink my materials, investigate what other object had these characteristics and that would also allow me to have the strength to cut and sew it to itself.
X-rays are a resistant material, with physical, symbolic and social characteristics that are immediate to the body; an internal body, wounded and reconstructed from bone cells to muscle fibers, weaving together in the same way as a tapestry.
And the body is still the cornerstone of the works of the PERIPLOS series inspired by the routes of migrants for which it constitutes the only belonging. A project in progress with the latest works representing the escape routes from the war in Ukraine. Can you tell me about this project?
This project has been cooking slowly, but it is seeing the light now. It was from a camp in 2014 that I had contact with this material – emergency isothermal blankets. Prior to this the material was irrelevant to me, the person I was camping with told me I would need an emergency blanket for safety. When I got to know the material, I was struck not only by how thin the material was, its colors and use; it was made to save lives. In a way, creative thinking sharpens your perception about the potential of materials, the exercise of creation takes place every day.
In 2016 thousands of Haitian migrants arrived at the northern border of Mexico, I was living in this part of the country, this migratory event and what it brings with it made me analyze the situation, the people, the flowcharts, routes and problems in the massive displacement of bodies, which is normal in nature, but is a phenomenon when there is a political-social-economic problem.
Today other causes are added as reasons for migration; population density, new diseases, climate change, and sadly the war in Ukraine.
These movements generate routes, images of flow, migratory geographic maps – maritime and terrestrial – which I use to create a textile design and pattern, based on textile design patterns of the traditional clothing of the migrant’s place, to cut later in isothermal blankets and emergency ponchos.
How has your research and your artistic practice evolved over time? What are the factors that have most influenced your art?
Without a doubt, the greatest evolution I have seen in my production is the discursive articulation from the material and conceptual reflections of the body. What has allowed me to move in different media such as performance – graphics – sculpture and installation, exploring unconventional materials in the arts or techniques that go from the strictly manual to the digital and vice versa.
There have also been external factors, or factors that I cannot control, that have forced me to modify and look for alternatives or ways of producing. For example; the shortage or increase in the cost of materials, the space required in the sculpture to produce it and store it, etc. These challenges force you to think differently, to propose more practical or executable solutions, and in the long run, they are part of the basic questions you ask yourself when you are working. Is it the best solution? o Is there another way to do it better?
In your opinion, what is the role – and the responsibility – of art and of the artist towards contemporary instances?
I have always considered that art is a language, with it you can make poems or offend. It is not the means, it is the way of using it, and doing so becomes a responsibility.
The responsibility of the artist and of art is to have a conscientious and critical posture towards the society of which he is a part or the one that receives the work and the spaces in which it is developed. Being a creator is not a passport to do anything, the power of communication that it possesses is the responsibility of the person who produces it.
Contemporary art is a child of its own time, and much of what we see today will not pass the filters of history, but for those of us who experience it in real time it will be part of our short-term memory that marks the horizon of the observer and the one who is observed.
Who is the artist Jacobo Alonso today and what does he see in his future?
I am a person who works like any other, discipline is very important for a creator. I maintain a need for constant learning in favor of my professional development, I think I learn a lot travelling, especially to appreciate the fact that we all see the same things differently. That museums are more than collections of old things are an opportunity to see through the eyes of those who built the world for us.
Historically, traveling has been a way of carrying and bringing knowledge, it is my favorite way of learning and sharing, in the future I would like to do it from another place outside of Mexico.
Jacobo Alonso. Mexico 1984. Bachelor of Computer Systems from UPAEP and Bachelor of Fine Arts from UABC, Mexico. From 2014 to 2015, he studied at the University of Rennes 2 France. He is a member of the National System of Creators FONCA 2020 – 2023 in the discipline of sculpture. Beneficiary of the Young Creators FONCA program 2016-2017. Professor in the Bachelor of Arts and Design at UNAM, ENES Morelia. He has participated in different exhibitions in Mexico, Finland, the United States, England, Hungary, Italy, France, Portugal, Poland, Spain, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Germany, Korea, Malaysia and China. His work has been shown at the Biennial of Contemporary Textile Art in Portugal 2018, at the 16th International Tapestry Triennial in Lodz, Poland 2019, at the 10th Biennial Lucca in Italy 2021, at the Cheongju International Biennale in South Korea 2021, at the International Paper Biennale in Shanghai 2021, at the International Textile Biennale in Poznan, Poland 2021 at the International Triennial Textile Art of Today, Slovakia 2021, at the International Triennial of Paper in Deggendörf, Germany 2021, at the International Triennial Mini Textile in Angers, France 2021, at the International Fiber Art in Pittsburgh, USA 2022, among others, his work is part of the Bugatti-Segantini Collection, Italy. LUMEN Collection, Mexico. Bank of Mexico Collection, and Homeira Goldstein Collection, USA.