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(Credit: Milton Martínez / Secretaría de Cultura CDMX)

Art

Lourdes Grobet, the iconic Mexican photographer, has died aged 81

Lourdes Grobet, the Mexican artist who popularised the most prominent Lucha Libres with her photography, has passed away aged 81. 

Enjoying a career that spanned over four decades, her experimental work assumed many forms, including that of video, performance, and photography, as she investigated the experiences of Mexico’s working class in the 20th century. Her most famous photos feature Lucha Libre legends in humble environments, reflecting that they are still normal people, despite their status in Mexico.

Grobet’s style was praised over the weekend by a host of figures from the art world. “She leaves behind an extraordinary body of work about social class and gender in her country,” Coco Fusco wrote on Twitter. “Her portraits of luchadores are absolutely unforgettable. Farewell and thank you, dear Lourdes.”

Grobet was born in Mexico City in 1940 to a Swiss-Mexican family. She studied plastic arts at Universidad Iberoámericana and was taught by some of the country’s most lauded avant-garde artists, such as Mathias Goeritz, Gilberto Aceves Navarro, and Katy Horna.

“The teachers that most influenced me early on,” Grobet once recalled, “were Mathias, Gilberto and El Santo – The Man in the Silver Mask,” the latter being one of the country’s most famous luchadores. As a student, Grobet expanded her practice beyond painting, and in the hope of becoming a real artistic polymath, she moved to France in 1968 to continue her education with the support of her teachers. 

She quickly found that photography did much more for her than other mediums as its form of communication allowed her to really express herself. She explained: “Looking around, and after asking myself the inevitable questions about what art is, it became clear that for me it was a language, a way of saying things, and so I had to find the best way of saying them”.

Grobet returned to her hometown in the 1970s to find it a much-changed environment, with fascism on the rise, pitting itself against communism and traditional Christian values. Her first major exhibition came in 1970 at Galería Misrachi, when she delivered the Serendípiti (Serendipity) installation, a maze of floors, lights, and mirrors, which audiences explored themselves. 

Her work featuring the Lucha Libres came in the 1980s, as she peeled back the mystique of the country’s stars without destroying their identity, and she examined the lives of both male and female wrestlers, something she called la doble lucha, or the two-way struggle. Her work can be found in collections across the world, including in Centro de la Imagen in Mexico City, the Harry Ransom Center, the University of Texas at Austin, and the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris.

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