One of uncube’s guest writers from our Mexico City issue, Mario Ballesteros, presents an arresting picture series from local photographer Pablo López Luz, which reveals the strong ongoing presence of pre-Columbian culture in the city’s collective identity.
The staggering bird’s-eye views of dusty slums spread across the hills on the outskirts of Mexico City like a concrete infestation in his Terrazo series are probably Mexican photographer Pablo López Luz’s best-known images. But actually, his work is most endearing and revealing at street level. His series Pyramid drags us down from the overarching scenes and narratives of the city as a massive bulk to its most intimate, quotidian codes.
In his own words, Pyramid “stems from the questioning of two vital ideas: history and the role it plays in the contemporary world, and the construction of collective identity”. In his photographs, these two prickly, recurrent subjects are condensed in the dramatisations and loose interpretations of everyday architecture. López Luz approaches Mexico’s age-old and troublesome myth of mestizaje, or miscegenation as a soothing cultural construct balm applied to every scar left from the physical and existential clash of two peoples and worldviews. In his work, mestizaje is subtly depicted as a sort of perverse concept, further perverted still by state-driven modernisation and middle-class aspirations.
The Mexican vernacular is permanently and uncomfortably stuck in between conflicting states. Sometimes it translates into faux-colonial, with its dated love of domes and ceramic tiles, sometimes it is embodied in French-inspired combos of green thatched roofs and balustrades and golden window panelling, sometimes its just about appropriating and “spicing up” bland, big-box structures worthy of corporate Texas. Other times it is Aztecoso: quirky (often outlandish) interpretations of some imagined glorious pre-hispanic past.
Pyramid portrays this “tour of overlapping presences...railings, doors, dwellings that can’t escape the pull of archaeological motifs. The modern pyramids of the anonymous… resisting (miraculously) the onslaught of a new civilisation.”
– Mario Ballesteros
– Pablo López Luz