Remembering Pedro Linares Lopez on his 116th Birth Anniversary

Pedro Linares Lopez was a well-known Mexican artist, and on June 29, 2021, Google Doodle commemorated his 115th birthday. Lopez was noted for his bizarre animal sculptures known as alebrijes. Lopez died in 1992, but his family continues to promote his work. Google Doodle mentioned on its official page, “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.” “Thank you, Pedro Linares López, for showing us the power of imagination!” 

Pedro Linares Lopez’s biography

Pedro Linares Lopez was born on June 29, 1906, in Mexico City. His father and grandparents were also craftsmen who worked with paper mâché and cartonero. Pedro became a skillful artisan when he was 12 years old, creating paper mâché sculptures such as pinatas and classic skeletal figurines known as Calaveras. The yearly Day of the Dead celebration includes all of these elements. Pedro Linares Lopez became afflicted with stomach ulcers in 1936.

Pedro Linares Lopez’s feverish dreams and hallucinations gave birth to Alebrijes

Pedro Linares was often involved in cardboard work which is the reason he could make beautiful creatures out of it. When Pedro became ill at the age of 30, he often fell unconscious. When he suffered, he had visions in his dreams about strange animals, rocky settings, sea and trees. The creatures he looked at in his dreams were fantastic according to Pedro. The creatures featured donkey heads with butterfly wings, lion faces with rooster bodies, and so on.

The animals which he saw in his dreams howled and made noises but all shouted “alebrijes, alebrijes!”. The words were meaningless but it was the name that Pedro used when he created his dream-like creatures. Luckily, he could remember their image when Pedro regained his consciousness.

When he recovered from his gastric ulcers, Pedro Linares Lopez used his craftsmanship and made the fantastical animals with paper-mache. He painted them just like they appeared in front of him in his dreams. Once people saw his creative work, they started talking about it and Pedro’s fame rose within no time. People from distant countries like America and Europe travelled to Mexico to learn how to make alebrijes from Pedro Linares Lopez.

Documentary of the Pedro Linares Lopez’s alebrijes

Judith Bronowski, a filmmaker, was charmed by Pedro Linares’ work. Her fascination for the art of the Mexican artist led her to direct and produce a film about it in 1975. This contributed to his disseminating his work outside the limits of his nation for the remainder of the period. Following the success of her documentary, Bronowski established a workshop for Linares and his family in the 1980s.

The National Prize for Arts and Sciences

Pedro Linares died in the year 1992 at an age of 85, two years after he was awarded a prestigious award, Mexican National Prize in Arts and Sciences in popular art and traditions. Before his death, Pedro travelled around many places including Europe and America to display his artwork in 1990.

Patrick Polk, the curator of the Latin American and Caribbean popular arts section at the Fowler Museum, remarked. “The ability of the artist to conjure things that move out of the mind, to present the fantastic. To challenge folks. To make sense of it and revel in creativity. The ability to fashion the fantastic. These creatures break those boundaries.” Alebrijes made by Pedro Linares Lopez for Kahlo and Rivera are been kept at the Anahuacalli Museum.

Disney-Pixar film ‘Coco’ used Pedro Linares Lopez’s alebrijes in the movie

Coco is one of the popular movies and a Disney Pixar creation. Pedro Linares Lopez’s artistic figures are used in the film excellently. Pixar’s character artist Alonso Martinez loved alebrijes when he was a child and has a huge collection of them in his office. He incorporated the alebrijes designs in Coco movie. According to the filmmakers, Alebrijes does not have any mythological connections but they were given a bit in the movie.

Coco’s alebrijes are spiritual guardians like Pepita, a mashup of a lion and an eagle who guides Mama Imelda, the great-great-grandmother of Miguel who is the one who can get him back to the land of living. Although Pixar faced some challenges in incorporating the designs, they wanted to use this Mexican design to present a unique world in front of the audience.

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