Wednesday, July 7, 2010

"Atmósfera de lugar." Antonio González Caballero's apartment in 1996.

ATMóSFERA DE LUGAR. El departamento de Antonio González Caballero en 1996 on Vimeo by Gustavo Thomas

On Wednesday February 11th 2009 I received an email from Ángeles León, a student at Antonio González Caballero's workshop during the nineties, in response to my post of February 10th 2009 about the apartment where González Caballero had lived for over 50 years and its mural paintings inside. This is the Ángeles León's mail (with the Spanish  original):

"Hi Gustavo,


I'm Ángeles León. I studied under González Caballero from 1992-1996. I experienced the teacher's moving from Pino Suárez Avenue to 20 de Noviembre Avenue. I have a video with all the murals of the apartment at Pino Suárez.

I do not know if someone's already written to you about this, but the murals were destroyed by the building's owner. He even told that to the teacher personally, his words were "it gave us so much pleasure to destroy them, we threw paint, crap and more on them." Whether this is true or not, we were with our teacher in those days and we took it for true that the murals were destroyed. The teacher was depressed for several days. Then he started painting black and white pictures, where some of the faces were similar to those in the murals and the teacher himself said that they represented the suffering of the murals at the time of being destroyed. They were very expressive faces, grotesque and large. He made several paintings in that style.

The building was being renovated inside to turn it into a place to rent offices. Even the master used to greet the workers, until the turn to remodel his apartment arrived and that was when they took him out. After that, everything stopped, as you can imagine.

That's it. I send you a big hug.


Ángeles León

And it was not until a few weeks ago, nearly a year and a half later, that I received a new email from her announcing the digitization of the video she had mentioned before, and with that news the possibility to edit it and publish it on the Internet.

Why do I think this video is so important?

First of all it is a personal matter: González Caballero was my teacher and friend, and in many ways he also was a father to me. Furthermore, his apartment at 36th Pino Suárez Avenue was where I was educated in theatre for 9 years, it was the place where I learned acting, and the place where I decided to start writing and then to develop my own concepts of stage direction and my interest in researching about performing arts. What is impressive, I am sure, is that I was not the only one that experienced big changes there: generations of actors, playwrights and directors who passed by his acting workshop did, as well as friends and strangers seeking help in their professional work.

González Caballero's apartment was as peculiar as a place where an artist, a painter, a writer and a teacher has lived can be: a place that becomes home, meeting room, rehearsal room, painting and sculpture studio, art school, etc. Its rooms were galleries of paintings by González Caballero as well of paintings by his mother, who in the last 20 odd  years of her life was entirely devoted to painting; he also had a small collection of original prehispanic pieces and paintings by other artists of his generation. In his dinning room there was a mural painting on two entire walls showing images that would be identified with the best of the so-called Mexican school of painting (Escuela mexicana de pintura), of which he was an heir. Other paintings had been done on the wall of the main hall too.

As it was explained in the mail from Ángeles León, those murals were destroyed; once González Caballero left that place, all that remained of them was scattered memories and some photographs.

For several years I have tried to gather visual information on all of Gonzalez Caballero's paintings, including those lost murals, and I have been able to publish a series of photographs in some sites like Picasa and Flickr, and I wrote a post in this Blog about the murals with photos by Lis Valadés, also a student at the acting workshop during the 90s.

So far there had been no more, till now.

"Atmósfera de lugar. El departamento de Antonio González Caballero en 1996" (Atmosphere of a place. Antonio González Caballero's apartment in 1996) is the name I have given to the edited version I made from the original video (digitized from a VHS) that Ángeles León gave to me. "Atmósfera de lugar" is also the name of one of the  acting technique "Apoyos" that was taught in that apartment, and anyone that knows about it recognizes that there exists a world with the physical space we live or work in, as well as a history with the place that changes depending on the experiences with the place itself. The video, from my point of view, seeks to recreate the feeling the apartment left in all of those who were educated there, that somehow lived there, and that maintain an inner atmosphere of the place that made it so special.

In the eyes of a stranger unrelated to the work or to the person of González Caballero, this is a curious-eye walk through a unique place, and certainly an aid to those who want to venture into the knowledge of the life and work of this Mexican artist .

The music I used for editing the video is the work of "Bosques de mi mente" (, who very kindly accepted the invitation for his music inclusion. His musical pieces really fit into my idea of that atmosphere that is created in our physical and mental recall, and in conjunction with the video the images acquired great strength and depth.

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