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Mexican gallery spotlights the art of drug consumption

June 23, 2013|By Reed Johnson

When it comes to drug consumption, most everyone always takes the shortest route, Colombian artist Miguel Ángel Rojas tells the Mexico City newspaper El Universal.

Drug dealers and smugglers follow the path of least resistance because that's the easiest way to reach customers and make profits. Consumers take drugs because they view them as an express lane to happiness or to escape from mundane realities, Rojas suggests in an interview with the journal.

Hence the name of the new art exhibition, "El camino corto" (the short road or shortcut), at La Tallera Siqueiros in Cuernavaca, Mexico, which spotlights both ancient and modern artistic responses to and representations of the culture of drugs, specifically coca leaves and cocaine.

The exhibition contains various artworks that trace the evolution of the humble coca leaf from a medicinal mainstay of pre-Columbian indigenous cultures to a globalized cash crop that crosses borders at will. The show includes sculptures, videos, serigraphs, installations, drawings and mixed-media works that incorporate such elements as animal secretions.

According to El Universal, the show was organized by the National University of Colombia and, in Mexico, by the Cuernavaca exhibition space La Tallera, formerly a workshop owned and used by the great painter-muralist David Alfaro Siqueiros, and now operated by Mexico's Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes.

The artwork that gives the show its title includes a text of names of famous people who have had drug problems, such as Robert Downey Jr., inscribed in tiny circles made of coca leaf. Those names are juxtaposed with the nicknames of well-known narcotraficantes.

"Art works mostly on a symbolic level," Rojas is quoted as saying. "It can't change things much."

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