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Grupo Mondongo Skull: A Description and Analysis
The Grupo Mondongo Skull is a painting that is a result of the collaboration of three Argentinean artists also known as the Mondongo Collective, namely 1) Juliana Laffitte, 2) Manuel Mendanha and 3) Agustina Picasso. The Calavera 4 which is on display at The Museum of Fine Arts in Houston is one of the skull art works that are part of this series. The painting is huge with a dimension of 6 feet by 6 feet, and is made of plasticine and wood. With this in mind, the huge work of art is constructed by way of carving. With the majority of the carvings in the Skull Series being completed in 2009, it can be argued as a depiction of the artists’ perception of the modern civilization, especially from the point of view of humans as the choice of using human skull as a platform to showcase life’s many aspects implies. Moreover, it can be interpreted as the artists’ way of revelation by exposing through the details in the art piece their own rich history as well as other human constructs such as mythology and popular culture. Considering the art work’s size, one may consider that its massiveness may be used to compensate for its relative lack in detail. This is certainly not the case for Calavera 4 and other Grupo Mondongo Skull works as they all upon close examination manifest utter pristineness in terms of the intricacy of the details. In fact, one can argue that the details there where all ‘cramped together’ as if the space in the huge piece was not enough to serve as a medium to convey the artists’ vision.
What stands out to me in this piece of art work is its symbolism, and how it impresses upon its spectator the message intended by its artists. The skull, in the manner that it is used in the painting, can mean many things. First, it can be argued to be a representation of humanity, and the intricate details carved in it symbolize the different creations and experiences of humanity as a whole.
On the other hand, a skull is an iconic symbol for death, and one can make the valid impression that death is an engine for the transition of civilization from one paradigm to another. The struggles of men and the structures that have fallen and risen in the context of that struggle can be impressed upon gazing at the multitudes of men carved in the skull’s forehead. A supposed embossed impression of the ‘Last Supper’ can also be found in its eye brow section, signifying one of the greatest times in human civilization which is still influential up to the present day. Perhaps, the most pronounced feeling that gazing at the art work produces is the idea that humanity “has went through a lot”. The multitude of experiences that spans across a wide spectrum of ethnicities as they interact with each other and with the environment are all consisting of what makes humans such a sophisticated species.
Finally, the use of a skull signifies the human head, which signifies the human mind. All human experiences are engraved in human memory and thought, which is truly what makes us unique: our ability to look back and be aware of our past (Tulving) so that we can envision the future.
Tulving, Endel,. "Where in the brain is the awareness of one’s past." Memory, brain, and belief (2000): 208-228.