Houston-born photographer George O. Jackson Jr. focuses on a group of indigenous Mexicans in his vivid exhibition El Cuerpo Adornado: Exploring the Aesthetic Spirit of Mexico, on view at the San Antonio Museum of Art. The 25-piece collection features more than 70,000 images Jackson has taken for his photo project Essence of Mexico.
El Cuerpo Adornado captures a literal translation of the adorned body in this complex, visually stimulating collection of pieces that document a carnival-like celebration (held prior to the Lenten season) with painted bodies and rituals. The majority of Jackson’s photos are simple, aesthetic creations that each tell a story alone — but pieced together they document Mexico’s strong indigenous religious traditions that may seem outlandish to outsiders.
Not all of Jackson’s photos are simple. “Diablo Huasteco” is an image of a squinty-eyed young man with devil horns molded from a plaster-like material. Jackson singles out the man by focusing directly on him while the background is blurred. “Carnavalero con trompeta” is another example of Jackson’s ability to branch out of his simplistic aesthetic — he opts for a fish-eye camera effect with a perfectly placed subject while the rest of the carnavaleros can be seen in the background. He manages to capture the faintest detail in his works — from stray strands of hair to paint chipping off of a person’s body — Jackson’s lens uncovers the tiny fragments that may otherwise go unseen.
Although Jackson captures a joyous celebration within this collection, I found that some of the faces of the subjects seemed sad. However, the human being isn’t the main focus of his photos; they are merely the canvas, while the vibrancy of the colors gains the attention of the viewers. It’s easy to overlook the subjects’ emotions and instead focus on the palette and the significance of the designs on the participants’ bodies. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and not all of Jackson’s pieces demonstrate this tendency. Whatever the case, El Cuerpo Adornado evokes a range of emotion, perhaps because some of the flamboyantly painted subjects seem in a state of despair.
El Cuerpo Adornado:
Exploring the Aesthetic Spirit of Mexico
10am-9pm Tue, 10am-5pm Wed-Sat, noon 6pm Sun, through May 25
San Antonio Museum of Art
200 W. Jones Ave.