Cháirez was catapulted into fame in December 2019 when his nude, feminised portrait of national revolutionary hero Emiliano Zapata went viral after being partially censored (placed behind a wall) at the famous Palace of Fine Arts in Mexico City in response to a violent protest by members of a rural movement.
Cháirez’s paintings are an act of rebellion in two ways. Artistically, he embraces the pictorial tradition, focusing mainly on the human body, to challenge the evanescence of contemporary trends. Thematically, he appropriates the objects and symbols that have shaped the Mexican nationalist imaginary with a postmodern, erotic and deliberately kitsch slant.
In his earlier work, his central theme was the male anatomy, challenging the archetypes of Mexican masculinity with eroticized and feminized charros (horsemen), Mexican wrestlers and Maras Salvatruchas gang members. Because of this work, Cháirez became an important symbol of the LGBTQ+ movement in Mexico.
The UKMAS exhibition clearly shows the profound influence that renowned Mexican painter Saturnino Herrán (1887-1918) has had on Cháirez’s style, honouring people from the social periphery, either by class or by skin colour. The show includes sensual portrayals of male, female and transgender bodies, many of them from the various ethnicities that make up contemporary Mexico. These are bodies and expressions that reject the idea of masculinity and femininity imposed by a white Mexican patriarchal society. Thus, the women in his work are strong and combative, the men are vulnerable, and transgender individuals are proud and confident.
Fabián Cháirez (b. Chiapas, México, 1987) studied art at the University of Sciences and Arts of Chiapas and now lives and works in Mexico City. His past art exhibitions include: ‘The Garden of Delights’, José María Velasco Gallery, Mexico City (2015); ‘Masculine Raptures’, Museo de la Ciudad, Mexico City (2016); as part of a collective exhibition titled ‘Emiliano. Zapata after Zapata’ at the Palace of Fine Arts, Mexico City (2019) and ‘The Flowering of Succulents’, Imaginart Gallery, Barcelona (2020).