Inspired by the Sea
History of Mexican Papier Mache Sculpture
course that inspired me to start this sculptural form of Papier Mache was based on
sculptural Mexican style
earlier this century and now world famous with exhibits found in major
and art galleries worldwide.
They called these creatures "Alebrijes".
Popular artists such as the Linares in Mexico are known as " cartoneros " Pedro Linares created and subsequent generations now create alebrijes which include fantastical dragons, beasts and winged fish on legs, floral decorated skulls, devils and skeleton figures.
Although many other Mexican craft shops sell items described as "Alebrijes" it is the Linares families and further generations thereof who produce the true "alebrijes". Pedro's sons and grandsons now continue the tradition and their works are widely collected.
The "alebrijes" are still made with the same method to
this day. All alebrijes are basically created in this manner.
the most important factor is the imaginative vision of the artists to
produce such original fantastical
In Mexico, the sunny weather speeds up this process. All sorts of wondrous
extremities are then added
wings, horns, tails, fierce teeth, bulgy eyes and a whole host of other
creative additions. The
final figure is
Then is the time
for the colourful painting.
The Linares use brushes of cat hair
Colours which would normally clash are painted side by side in intricate
patterns and produce stunning results.
The attention to detail is quite amazing with a series of repeated scales, and
intricate patterns including tear
lines and series of dots. A steady hand and eye is a must to produce such
a carefully detailed
In London, at the Museum of Mankind, papier mâché figures by Felipe and Leonardo were included in the exhibition "The Skeleton and the Feast: the Day of the Dead in Mexico" (1991-1993). This included a huge installation entitled "The Atomic Apocalypse: Will Death Die?" showing the figures of Famine, War, Pestilence and Death presiding over a selection of scenes depicting the evils of the modern world. There are also examples of their art at the Gallery of Modern Art (Glasgow), St Mungo's Museum of Religion Glasgow and The Royal Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh.
In 1992 Felipe and Leonardo were artists in residence at the Museum of Mankind, during which they created a giant "alebrije" and a 3 metre high "Judas" figure complete with skull masks for the Museum's permanent collection.
In 1996 Felipe Linares Mendoza and his sons Felipe and
Leonardo created a large installation entitled "The Seven Deadly Sins" for the new Museum of Art in Glasgow. Each scene was
represented by a flying
and by a group of skeleton figures. Part of the "The Atomic Apocalypse:
Will Death Die?" sculpture
was on display
at the British Museum this year in an exhibition
called "Living and
Dying "where I took these
exhibition explored festivals for the dead, the spirit world, the earth and how
people deal with death
through burial and mourning, how they provide for the dead in their afterlife and how in some places people
These pictures show a section of
"The Atomic Apocalypse: Will Death Die?"
The Exhibition Catalogue from the "En Calavera"
Exhibition at the UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History is a very good source book for information about the family and
colour pictures of the Linares art. "En Calavera" The Papier Mache Art of the Linares Family
Susan Masuoka (1994)
is available from UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History.
Another brilliant book which has Linares photos is "The Skeleton at the Feast" The Day of the Dead in Mexico by Elizabeth Carmichael and Chloe Sayer. This was published for the Trustees of the British Museum by British Museum Press in 1991 and is still sold at the British Museum and is quite pricey. I also got my copy through US eBay so you can try that.
The British Museum also has a 15 minute film entitled "Paper Magic" of the artists Felipe and Leonardo Linares working at the Museum of Mankind in 1992. This can be purchased.
There is an interesting article entitled "Wild Dreams and Rainbow Faces: The Famous Alebrijes Artists of Mexico" by Catherine Ryan - Editor, NOVICA.com. [See Link]
You will find further links to other websites which have details on Alebrijes on our [Links] page.
Have a look at my own interpretation of the Mexican [Alebrijes] on this site.