Saturday, December 2, 2023

Pedro Linares Lopez: The Legendary Mexican Artist Who Gave Us Alebrijes

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Pedro Linares Lopez is a legendary Mexican artist who gave the world the “Alebrijes”. He was an absolute expert at making cardboard figures of people and attracted the attention of Mexican art legends like Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo. The Alebrijes were born as a result of an illness that Pedro Linares Lopez suffered at the age of 30. While he lay unconscious in bed, he dreamt of an enchanted forest where he saw all the rocks, clouds and animals have a strange appearance. Some of the strange things that he saw included a lion with a dog’s head, a donkey with wings, and a rooster with bull horns. On top of that, all these animals were screaming the word Alebrijes. After waking up from this incredible dream, Pedro Linares Lopez regaled the world with his Alebrijes and became a legend in the process. Even Google honoured him with a doodle to commemorate his life and times. Let’s find out more about him.

Pedro Linares Lopez: All You Need To Know

When was Pedro Linares Lopez born?

Pedro Linares Lopez was born in Mexico City on June 29, 1906. His father was a prominent papier-mache sculptor, and he was also the one who taught him how to create paper and cardboard figures. Linares López, over time went on to become one of the best artists in the area, becoming a successful craftsman who stood out for his designs made with papier-mache. Among his most popular figures stood out the famous Mexican pinatas and the famous skulls for the Day of the Dead.

How did Pedro Linares Lopez come up with the Alebrijes?

In 1945 Linares fainted due to an illness and between dreams, he found creatures that named themselves “alebrijes” and that was when the story of these spectacular creatures of vibrant colors began that today are part of the most representative crafts from Mexico.

The history of alebrijes dates back to 1936 when Pedro Linares Lopez was 30 years old; This cardboard worker from Mexico City became ill, lost consciousness and fell into a deep sleep, which would reveal strange creatures that would change his destiny as a craftsman from La Merced. Sick and without access to doctors who could treat his illness, his sisters tried to make him react with home remedies to no avail.

When he woke up, Pedro felt recovered and from then on he began to make his dream come true, because he wanted his family and everyone to meet these fantastic animals. Taking advantage of his skill as a cardboard maker, Pedro Linares Lopez took a piece of paper, molded those figures, painted them as he had seen them in his dreams and gave the alebrijes an artistic life. Today, alebrijes have gone from being a popular tradition, to a surprising creation of Mexican art where extraordinary pieces are recognized worldwide.

Linares began to manufacture these alebrijes after his accident and it was during his recovery that he experimented with different colors, materials and structures, until he found the well-known figures of various animals that vary in colors and patterns with the skin of reptiles, birds, mammals and even insects. 

Although cardboard is a technique used in Mexico to make pinatas and judas, in the technique used for alebrijes, a wire or reed structure is used on which paper and cardboard are modeled and finally the alebrijes are finished with various painting techniques.

How did people in Mexico react to the Alebrijes?

The figures of Pedro Linares Lopez attracted the gaze and admiration of iconic Mexican artists such as Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, as well as that of the filmmaker Judith Bronowski, who in 1975 filmed a documentary called “ Pedro Linares Lopez: artisan cartonero” and in it, it is told the story of Pedro Linares Lopez as well as the handicraft process that takes place during the construction and creation of an alebrije. In 1990, Linares was awarded the first National Prize for Arts and Sciences of Mexico in the category of Popular Arts and Traditions.

Are Alebrijes magical symbols?

Alebrijes are known worldwide, as they are fun figures of fantastic animals, made from cardboard and papier-mache. Between the bright colors that they wear and the magical fantasy and stories that are told about the figures, these little animals are very famous in Mexico and are considered unique products of the Mexican folk art tradition. Alebrijes are traditionally made in the Mexican state of Oaxaca and have been recognized and adapted to different forms of art in the media. 

Today the small papier-mache figures have made appearances in films, murals, paintings and have even been adapted to be huge sculptures in which you can admire every detail of the technique of Pedro Linares Lopez.

What is the story of the Google Doodle?

In 1998, before Google was announced, founders Larry and Sergey were playing with the corporate logo to confirm their attendance at Burning Man in the Nevada desert. Two years later, Larry and Sergey asked current webmaster Dennis Hwang to create a doodle, an adaptation of their logo, for Bastille Day. The doodle was so well received by users that Dennis was named the official Google doodler, and these animations began to show more regularly on the Google homepage.

Over time, the demand for doodles has increased internationally and creation is now the task of a team of talented engineers and illustrators called ” doodlers .” Currently, the team has created more than 4000 for the main pages of the search engine around the world.

How was Pedro Linares Lopez honoured by the Museum of Popular Art?

In honor of this brilliant creation by Pedro Linares Lopez, since 2007, the Museum of Popular Art has held the Parade of monumental alebrijes, known as the Night of the Alebrijes. But this time, people can see giant illuminated alebrijes. 

The illuminated alebrijes walks are carried out by the Museum of Popular Art, where you can visit large exhibitions of traditional Mexican elements. These creatures will leave the building to fill Alameda Central with joy. 

How did Google honour Pedro Linares Lopez?

Google commemorated the 115th birthday of Pedro Linares Lopez with a doodle in June 2021. The Google Doodle paid homage to Pedro Linares Lopez and was illustrated by artist Emily Barrera, who said that this is an extremely significant for her and Mexican culture illustration, so she endeavored to create a design that users will connect with the magic of alebrijes and their meaning in Mexican culture. 

Alebrijes are one of the most well known pieces of Mexican art in the world. These are crafts made with cardboard, which are painted with cheerful and vibrant colors, to represent imaginary beings made up of physiognomic elements of real animals to create a fantastic animal.

Once in bed and unconscious, Pedro dreamed of a strange and interesting place, peaceful, where he did not experience pain and was happy to be walking in that place. However, suddenly, rocks, clouds and animals became creatures. Suddenly the animals became of a strange nature where donkeys had wings, roosters had bull horns and lions had dog heads. All those animals screamed a single word: Alebrijes! Alebrijes, alebrijes, alebrijes!

The best part of this Google Doodle is that the art of the alebrije did not remain solely in digital illustration, but the artist created the figure of the alebrije in a physical way with the traditional methods of papier-mache and then passed it on to the digital world. You could have seen it on the home page if you were on time.

This is what Google said about Pedro Linares Lopez in a commemorative post:

Today’s Doodle celebrates the 115th birthday of a Mexican artist who turned his dreams into reality, Pedro Linares Lopez. His peculiar yet playful animal sculptures known as alebrijes are beloved worldwide as unique products of Mexico’s folk art tradition. 

Pedro Linares Lopez was born in Mexico City, Mexico on this day in 1906. His father worked as a papier-mâché sculptor, or cartonero, and he trained Linares to follow in his footsteps. By the time Linares was 12 years old, he had become a skilled craftsman of papier-mâché items like piñatas and the traditional skeletal figures called calaveras which are featured in the annual Day of the Dead celebration. 

In 1945, as Linares tells the story, he became very sick and drifted into a fever dream. There he encountered fantastical creatures who shouted in unison a nonsensical phrase “Alebrijes!” Upon his recovery, he set out to represent these mythical beings in sculpture. The jarring sculptures initially met little success, until over time, Linares refined his alebrijes into the colorfully patterned combinations of reptiles, insects, birds, and mammals recognized today in today’s Doodle artwork. As his reputation grew, he attracted the admiration of the iconic Mexican artists Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, but it was a 1975 documentary about Linares by the filmmaker Judith Bronowski that elevated him to international fame.

In 1990, Linares was honored with the first Mexican National Prize in Arts and Sciences in the category of Popular Art and Traditions.

Thank you, Pedro Linares Lopez, for showing us the power of imagination!

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