The house of vice, etching, 1988, by the Mexican artist José Luis Cuevas

The Mexican artist José Luis Cuevas was also a writer and illustrator, and was one of the first to openly position himself against the Mexican school within the Breakaway Generation. He also distanced himself from the prevailing experimental and technological trends in Europe, North America and Japan, concentrating on drawing and engraving as a means of expression and innovation.

As a neo-figurative artist, he included human figures in his work, but moved away from realism to create pieces with great expressive content. We can see this in his figures with deformed faces, conveying the anguish, pain and loneliness that he saw society was plagued by.

Cuevas’ work is characterised by great technical mastery of engraving. The line is predominant in his language, further enhancing expressiveness.

In his work The house of vice, real people are depicted, as well as fantastic beings, some with semi-demonic faces, flying through the air, depicted alongside women who are naked (all but one) and appear to be prostitutes, and men who are drinking.

The deformation in the faces of his figures makes them anonymous; they could be anyone. We can also interpret this as a means of expression, representing the inner “ugliness” of human beings through their physical features.

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Cuevas, Jose Luis (1933-2017), Mexico

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