Das Retablo-Projekt and Other Works

In 2000, Alexander Braun (b. in Dortmund in 1966) held a scholarship in Lemgo. Prior to this, he participated in an artist-in-residency program in Marfa, Texas. It was here that he became interested in Mexican culture, which finds expression in his group of works under the title “Retablos”.

A “retablo” is a Mexican votive picture. The (Catholic) believer uses this to show his or her gratitude to a particular saint for his or her help in bestowing personal fortune or overcoming an individual stroke of fate. In Mexico, retablos are painted by so-called neighborhood painters, artistic service providers, who paint the requested scene with oil paint onto a metal sheet, including the corresponding dedication text. The believer the carries the retablo into a church and nails it onto the wall.

In Mexico City, Alexander Braun commissioned Latin America’s most famous retablo-painter family, Afredo Vilchis Roque and his son Hugo Alfredo Vilchis Fernandez, to create special retablos for him. The artist determined the subjects and provided the dedication texts; the Vilchis were asked, however, to interpret the subject matter and the diction of the texts according to their own understanding. In this series, felt man and his wife, a skeleton, appear as the main protagonists. Figures, which appear time and again in his works, are now presented in everyday situations in scenes from their own private lives. In addition, the artist himself also often makes an appearance as a hidden voyeur.

With these 18 playful and at the same time touchingly earnest votive images, Alexander Braun transforms the classical retablo into a new and irritating context.