“Between Life and Death” – Acrylic on canvas by Ruben Miranda.

Bath House Cultural Center, Dallas
May 5-June 2, 2012

El Latido Incesante (The Endless Heartbeat) is the current show at the Bath House Cultural Center on the shore of White Rock Lake. The show is a close-up look at old-master quality wood sculpture lovingly created by Mexican artists.

The Mexican Consulate in Dallas brought these artists to meet Enrique Fernandez Cervantes, the uber-curator at the Bath House.  As soon as he saw some of their work, he arranged a trip to Guanajuato, Mexico to select work for a show. The collaboration with the artists and the support of their local government resulted not only in mounting the show, but also in many of the artists being able to visit Dallas for the opening reception.

Much of the sculpture is sacred work – Divino Nino, Retablo, several Virgins, Saint Raphael the Archangel, St. Michael, and many more. Luminous Presence, one of the few sacred paintings, is unforgettably beautiful. These pieces could be found in the most ornate cathedrals anywhere in the world.

The sacred work in the show is resplendent – there’s no other word to describe it. These pieces should be on display in a museum; yet here they are in this show – and for sale nonetheless.

There are also secular pieces that distinguish themselves. Waterwoman, a tiny stylized woman gracefully balancing a container on her head is reminiscent of an African sculpture. Artificial Fecundation gives life to science fiction – an insect-like creature with a human head whose belly contains a human fetus. It’s wonderful.

“Virgen Apocalíptica” – Wood relief sculpture by Ramón Luis Centeno Gómez

There are no shortcuts in this work; the wood for sculpture must dry naturally, the lovingly executed carving takes precisely as long as is necessary. Pieces to be polychromed are carefully primed followed by the meticulous application of gold or silver leaf, which is then carefully burnished. Painting the piece follows, some of the work so detailed the brush must be one hair’s width. To be close enough to gorgeous wood sculptures that one can actually smell the materials used is a rare pleasure indeed.

The show contains beautiful photography and paintings in addition to the wood sculpture, but – with a couple exceptions – the sculpture steals the spotlight from the other pieces. Some of the work is folk art – that highly treasured art depicting daily life. There are beautifully decorated boxes, tableaus, horses, and even a polychromed mariachi band.

Many of the artists belong to the same families – the creation of art is lovingly passed down from one generation to another in Apaseo el Alto, the city where they live and work. The entire city can indeed be proud of their debut show at the Bath House.