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This spring, he’ll have a solo show at Mariane Ibrahim in Chicago. Whitewaller caught up with Jiménez to learn more about his studio practice in Mexico City.
WHITEWALLER: How did you come to be based in Mexico City?
CLOTILDE JIMÉNEZ: In 2016 I moved to London to begin my MFA program at the Slade School of Fine Art. I lived there for three years, but during that time, Brexit had reared its ugly head and my wife and I had to make a decision—stick around to see how things would turn out, or move to her native country of Mexico and be at peace, have a family, and a better quality of life. So, we are now living here permanently and have not regretted anything.
WW: Can you tell us about your studio? What’s a typical day like for you there?
CJ: One thing I’m very grateful to have, that I could never afford in London, is my studio space. It’s 1,000 square feet of open space with big windows, right in the city center of the Centro Histórico neighborhood. It’s filled with plants and paintings and is my home away from home. I have many new projects I’m working on and sketchbooks full of new ideas for new pieces. I’m always in a state of creating.
A typical day includes saludando from the ice cream lady who lives below me, and settling in the studio to draw. Drawing has become a way for me process thoughts and ideas. I suppose my sketch books are a kind of diary now.
WW: What was the starting point for the new series of work that will be in your upcoming show at Mariane Ibrahim?
CJ: This body of work began a little less than a year ago, after I came out as queer/bisexual to my family. I remember talking to my father about it, who is a big, brawny, muscular, straight man. He was very comfortable and accepting of my sexuality, and I think that impacted me the most.
I started recalling some of the earliest memories I have of my father from 1995 when my parents divorced. He wasn’t present in my life after that, but now we’re developing a very new adult relationship together. Part of the nucleus of this body of work is understanding his masculinity and my own black queer body through the lens of the gym and athleticism—a way of building a bridge between us while being vulnerable and open to my own queer imagination of the memories of muscle. Such memories come from my father’s history of boxing and body building, and my own experiences boxing in the gym.
WW: Can you tell us about what kinds of work will be on view?
CJ: Works in the show will include large-scale collages of flamboyant boxers donned in colorful training gear, various drawings of bodybuilder poses in different positions displaying parts of the body, and newly casted bronze sculptures. There may even be some sumo wrestlers, but I don’t want to give it all away just yet.
WW: How do you typically move between mediums in your practice?
CJ: Since moving to Mexico City I have incorporated more charcoal in my work as a base layer, rather than paint. In my practice, the medium must inspire me and add a new context for the work. I’ve found that the charcoal allows me to build this statuesque muscular figure and create form in a way I’ve been searching for. I can draw an entire image and erase, draw again on top of it, and repeat. The rebuilding of layers is connected in my process of building up the body and form.
I approach collage in a similar way, using building blocks to create an image and identity of a person. I even approach sculpture informed by this process of building a form with shapes that are, on one hand ,somewhat crude, but in the other, sophisticated in their simplicity. Working with different mediums gives me perspective and understanding to my subject matter. Mediums open new doors I did not know existed.
WW: How would you describe your creative community in Mexico City?
CJ: Mexico City is a place where creatives can thrive in a way similar to New York and London in the 1970s. It’s gritty, yet very sophisticated and affordable. There are Mexicans taking creative risks here, while still living comfortable lives. I’ve met various young designers, artists, and restaurateurs whose focus is highlighting and reimagining their culture’s traditions in a very serious and mature way. There are world-class museums and art fairs such as ZⓈONAMACO, helping to shape and bring focus to an incredible contemporary art scene. Mexico City is definitely the place to be and I feel lucky to be here and contribute to that creative community.