Gerardo Ivan Linares Gómez, Mexico City, Mexico

Gerardo Ivan Linares Gómez, Mexico City, Mexico

Gerardo Linares is the great-grandson of Pedro Linares López, who is famous for having developed the art of alebrijes and who in 1990 received the National Prize of Science and Arts in the category of Popular Arts and Traditions, the highest award for artisans granted by the Mexican government.

Pedro Linares López was a cartonero. He told Gerardo that in 1917, when he was a young man, he became seriously ill from a gastric ulcer, from which he was knocked unconscious. During his deep sleep he saw a lush forest with many clouds, and suddenly he was approached by monstrous creatures, with unimaginable shapes, bulging eyes, large snouts, sharp teeth, claws, and with parts of different animals. The creatures he remembers most are a donkey with wings and a rooster with bull horns, and in the distance he could see a flock of birds flying and heard the word "alebrije".

After he recovered from his illness, he wanted to bring to life those creatures he saw in his dream, and with his experience as a cartonero he began working with paper and pulp to create his first alebrije in 1930. Since then, wood carvers in Oaxaca have copied the idea of Pedro Linares' alebrijes, but instead of creating alebrijes with cardboard, they do it with carved wood.

Gerardo Linares is the first of Pedro's great-grandchildren to continue the tradition of creating alebrijes. Through his imagination, skill and love for his work, the details of each piece come together to create another alebrije - perhaps a purple cow with wings and the head of a deer. Gerardo brings each creature to life with his mix of colors.

First, he tears the paper into small pieces to preserve the strands and to make the paper easy to manipulate and adhere to the mold that will shape it. Typically, alternate layers of brown wrapping paper with newspaper. The mold to be used is covered with grease so that the paper will not stick to it. The glue-covered paper is then carefully layered to maintain a smooth, even surface.

The paste is what is used to glue the layers of paper together. It is prepared with a mixture of flour and water, a recipe similar to that of atole, and then boiled until it reaches the thick consistency necessary for the ideal adhesion of the paper layers.  After the first layer, the piece must be left to dry for a while. Later, Gerardo continues to apply pieces of paper until the proper density is achieved.

For very large pieces, a frame of cane or wire, called the core, is used and tied with a waxed cord. When using this technique, the structure of the figure is first assembled and then covered with paper and paste until the layer is thick enough. It is then placed in the sun to dry, or if the weather does not permit, it is dried near a hot stove.

2017 marked the 100th anniversary of the first alebrije made by Gerardo's great-grandfather - a dream that has not ended.

Av. Fray Servando Teresa de Mier #961

Colonia Jardín Balbuena

Mexico City, Mexico

555 035 1080 home; 552 748 2920 cell

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