Francisco Larios Osunas


Francisco Larios Osunas

By Sarah Williams The Brownsville Herald For artist Francisco Larios Osuna, art imitates life or, more specifically, personal histories. Osuna calls his artwork “ex-votos,” or votive offerings to a saint or divinity. When a friend of Osuna’s saw one of his ex-votos displayed in Los Angeles, the scene looked vaguely familiar. The 3-D image depicts a man standing on the edge of a bridge with a rope tied around his neck. At the end of the bridge, a saint beckons him not to jump. “This is a story about one of my close friends who used to have a small company that went bankrupt in 1994. He lost everything, his company, his small factory, his house. I found him very depressed,” said the artist, a resident of Monterrey, Mex. “I didn’t tell him about this ex-voto, but when he saw it, I think he saw himself.” Osuna’s friend eventually got back on his feet and started a new career. Osuna said the ex-voto serves as a testimonial of how the man was saved by divine intervention. This and other images by Osuna will be on display at the Historic Brownsville Museum through Thurs-day. Osuna began creating ex-votos in 2001 to highlight the similarities and differences between Mexico and Ecuador. Since then his work has been commissioned by the Mexican consulates in Los Angeles, Miami, Houston, and now Brownsville. Traditionally, ex-votos depict miraculous happenings in everyday situations. The art form was first used by ancient Romans to depict true stories or personal histories, offer a petition, or give thanks to a higher power. A narratives found below the image usually explains its story, gives thanks to a deity and is signed and dated by the petitioner. Osuna’s series of 3-D images stay true to the traditional ex-voto format, but show modern, everyday scenes. He said each narrative is taken from stories that friends told him; two or three tell his own per-sonal stories. “I want to represent this modern world using a very new medium,” Osuna said. “When our world crumbles and falls apart, we look to the world of the spiritual, of saints, God or the Holy Virgin. This is a contradiction,” explained Osuna. “We have one foot in the material world and an-other foot in our traditions.” He said Latin American cultures are societies fraught with contradiction because they make a strong delineation between the spiritual and the material. However, Osuna can see the gray areas. “I try from a different point of view to focus on that contradiction and how these two deeply and pro-foundly different worlds coexist,” Osuna said. He explores this duality further with scenes that represent border issues. One ex-voto depicts three policemen detaining a man who is asking for water at the U.S.-Mexico border. A city skyline in the back-ground evokes a sense of futility. “It is a very deep rupture that occurs because I think it is a reality that the border between the United States and Mexico is a border full of contradictions,” Osuna said. He said the two sides of the U.S.-Mexico border are worlds apart, more so than Spain and France, for instance, where he says overt similarities exist. “The most profound shock (exists) between the border here. On one side it is very poor and underde-veloped in terms of technology, education, transportation and housing. On the other hand, a few minutes from crossing, there is another world. Across that river people have dreams, education, health, dignity and work,” Osuna said. Some of Osuna’s images might seem onerous at first, but a hint of absurdity and a dose of reality light-ens the mood of many pieces. “With the 3-D artwork I try to be congruent with the medium, and I try to put a little grain of fun in with it,” he said.

After a disaster or accident a petitioner, grateful for a miracle received, dedicates an Ex-Voto, a small painting with a short testimonial to his patron Saint. This concept of asking for favors and using art as payment and propaganda for received graces dates back to pre-historical times. Often, at the bottom section, there is a written testimony of how the miracle occurred. The devotee commissions the retablo from a specialized artist called milagrero (miracle maker). Francisco Larios’ prize-winning work comprises 24 urban life images created with three-dimensional modeling software. The artist develops characters and environments, inserting figures of saints; a postmodern version of the ex-voto, those religious offerings (given in gratitude for intercessions received) that believers deposit in churches. Larios Osuna's pieces, however, are characterized by the banality of their tone -not by the intimacy one often finds in these offerings - and the plain language of the prayers. Gratitude is given not only for the health of a son or one’s survival after an accident, but also for things such as a connection to the Internet or the cancellation of a debt. Larios Osuna refers to contemporary socio-political realities, to bourgeois life, to contradictory social values, and to the role of religion in society. His work speaks in a pan-Latin American language and it combines tradition and modernity, humor, and social commentary.
BY Mónica Kupfer, Art Nexus

Francisco Larios Osuna is a multidisciplinary artist who uses painting, drawing and digital 3D software to explore relations between humans and divinity; pain and suffering; and the dual capacity of humans to create and destroy. His work has been exhibited in Art Basel, Switzerland and Basel, Miami. He took first prize at the Biennials in Mexico City, Cuenca, Ecuador and Monterrey, Mexico and is in the permanent collections of contemporary art museums throughout the U.S. and Latin America.