Portraits, pulqueria and counterculture – Grupo Milenio

For Jesús Iglesias, a civil engineer specializing in structures, the confinement caused by the pandemic made him return to his love for the plastic arts and he paid tribute to his friends, including those who nest in Los Insurgentes, the pulquería where the writer, poet and journalist Carlos Martínez Rentería, in coexistence with others, starting with the owner, Alan Ureña, has promoted the counterculture. But the first died last February.

Hence the memory.

With steps and managerial positions at UNAM and UAM, Iglesias has been seen in peculiar canteens in the Historic Center of Mexico City, where he sketches faces with his pen, something for him everyday long before the devastating virus arrived, since he made friends in cultural spaces not common in commercial billboards, but in the underground sphere, and then he resumed his taste for portraiture and drawing.

This is how he transferred to the canvas those faces of his friends, this man who, as a child, was instilled with this hobby by his father and who grew up with “a duality”, as he says, between art and technique. That is why in 1984, after some ups and downs, he decided to take a break from engineering to study postgraduate studies in Plastic Arts at the San Carlos Academy.

And that was when the 1985 earthquake hit, so where engineering became very relevant and it pulled him back and left the arts. “My life has been a series of ups and downs; now the game that according to the cards he gave me was the ones he played in those two aspects”.

—And the pandemic came.

—Well, for several years I decided to return to art what the earthquake took from me and at this stage I have come into contact with the artistic media, I have made relationships, I have walked in the underworld of culture, especially in non-conventional culture. And, of course, for all of us, the pandemic was tremendous and forced us to lock ourselves up and stop seeing the people we treated.

Humberto Rios

And he evoked his friends through his portraits, he comments in a room in the pulquería where the figures of The Photographer, The Poet, The Entrepreneur, The Painter, The Dancer, The Engineer, The Pikos, The Promoter and The Self-Portrait are.

The exhibition is called precisely Quarantinehe explains, because it reflects the evocation of these people, most of the artistic world that revolves around this place, the pulquería, which “is one of the most important centers of culture in the city.”

Humberto Rios

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And to the memory of Iglesias returns the tireless Carlos Martínez Rentería, renowned cultural manager, who 30 years ago created the magazine Generación, surrounded by friends and collaborators.

For this reason, Jesús adds, Los Insurgentes is not an ordinary bar. “It has a very intense cultural life; Presentations, exhibitions, film screenings are held, and the axis of that cultural part was Carlos”.

‘It was one of the spark plugs.

—Well, the cultural part revolved around his work. This exhibition, for example, is an evocation of how I survived the Quarantine and a tribute to my friends, in particular to this character who is so important to the counterculture, Carlos Martínez Rentería.

Humberto Rios

And could not miss Alan Ureña, the owner of the pulquería, and Carlos Martínez Escoto, the inseparable son. “There is also the cursed painter Felipe Posadas, my colleague; the pulquería photographer, Juan Carlos Ruiz, and another person, who is very important to me, my model, Berenice Avilés”. And the engineer Moisés Shabot, who was his student many years ago.

Iglesias always refers to his friends as “very affectionate people.” This time he says it while he reports that he gave each of them his portraits. Among them is his model, a participant in the Butoh dance, captured “in one of the most dramatic moments” of the play El Nacimiento.

Former professor at the Ibero and in the Structural Engineering postgraduate course at UNAM, as well as director of Structure at UAM-Azcapotzalco, Iglesias says that he painted the portrait of Martínez Rentería shortly before he participated in a book fair. Since then he has not seen him again.

Humberto Rios

They had bought hats at the Tardan store, which is at the entrance to the Zócalo, and from there they went to the canteen. “We were toasting and that toast of camaraderie is the picture that is illustrated on the stairs.”

It was a year before the pandemic began, “which changed a lot of things; among others, it had a great impact on plastic artists in that, due to isolation, what was model drawing began to be replaced a lot by photographs”, he recalls.

—And the evocation came…

—Well, I couldn’t see or hug my friend before he died, but we were in contact; and just as I tried to find a way out of my confinement with the portraits, he found a way out of his confinement by publishing two books.

-Two books!

-Look, Carlos, and it must be said, he is a giant for a reason, well, for many, but there is a very important reason: for more than 30 years he kept a counterculture magazine, Generación, which for me you cannot explain much the current Mexican art without that effort to rescue what he called the counterculture. And in this magazine it was illustrated with drawings; then, since I met him, several years ago, I began to illustrate it.

Humberto Rios

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Jesús Iglesias illustrated a compilation by Martínez Rentería himself and his son Emiliano. “These books that he put out during the pandemic are compilations of very important writings that appeared in the magazine,” he says. “For example, one is dedicated to the Beat Generation. In the magazine Generación there is a lot of material and he grouped it in the book”.

“And treated one of them…”

—In fact, few people know, but Carlos brought to Mexico

(Lawrence) Ferlinghetti, which is one of the classics of the Beat Generation.

“And what did he say when he asked for the books?”

Humberto Rios

—He spoke to me, he spoke to me, “Listen, Jesus, I am going to take out a book and I need you to illustrate it for me, here are the texts”, and that book contains illustrations that are 95 percent mine.

—And to give it.

—Yes, some of them I took from photographs; others I invented. I had a lot of fun putting Cassidy and Kerouac embracing in El Tío Pepe, in the Center; I also put Burroughs with them at the Neptune Fountain in the Alameda.

“And there is another.

Humberto Rios

—Yes, The White Witch, dedicated to the consumption of cocaine, where, with the same procedure that the book is going to come out and “hey, I want the drawings”, well, I illustrated several texts with the portraits of those who wrote; I don’t know, both from outside of Mexico, and from the world of counterculture, like Guillermo Fanadelli and JM Servin, right?

And the portraits of the person who also illustrated the book remain as witnesses afternoons of workwhere he captures the atmosphere of that canteen that he immortalized, as Martínez Rentería wrote, whose image seems to officiate from the stairs of that pulquería that was also his home.

Humberto Rios

Humberto Rios

Humberto Rios

Humberto Rios Navarrete

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