October 3 - 31, 1993



            I had been always fascinated with the Mexican “lucha libre” scene, the equivalent of the professional wrestling scene up north, but the Mexicans all wore masks and funny costumes and were even crazier than the Americans.  As well as, very sexy, of course.



            So I had been doing some collages using the big color photos of the Lucha Libre fan magazines, and a lot of people liked them and somebody said, Bill, you should do a real popular Lucha Libre show, you know, for the people.  You got friends in City Hall.




            So I started thinking seriously about it and doing a few more collages and thinking about a show.  I felt it was all too low-brow for the galleries, or museums, but just right for out in the neighborhoods, alternative spaces where there are lots of people, shopping centers, parks.  And I had friends in City Hall.




Remember Poncho was mayor, Nancy’ husband.  And I thought, gee, maybe I should do something with this.

            I had met the people over at the City Hall cultural department and so one day I decided to go on over and see them about my idea.  One was a nice guy named Sergio Cervantes, a worker-bee type of administer guy without a clue in many ways but always friendly and he said, Bill, that’s a great idea, let’s do it!

            The Municipal guys all liked my Lucha Libre stuff and so we got talking about what would I like to do and where.

            “What do you mean where?” I asked.

            “Where do you want to do the show,” they said, “hell, we got lots of places.”

            “You do?”

            “Sure.  The Municipio, you know!”

            Well, I got thinking about it and thought a tour!  I could take the show and run it a couple weekends and go to different places.  They said they’d show me.


Coincidentally, my friends Claudio and Martha, the printers, and great people, had always done lots of free work for our AIDS campaigns and we always worked well together.  Well, one day they mentioned, Hey, Bill, we’re getting a new four-color separation printer, their first, and that they would be able to do full color printing soon, and that I should think about if I needed anything printed in color.


            Well, heck!  Of course, a full-color representation of one of my big, flashy, sexy Lucha Libre collages would be just the thing!  I told Claudio what I thought and he said let’s do it.  I think they offered to do it for the cost of materials, so anxious they were to try out their new printer, and I mentioned it to Nancy and she said, Well, I think the Gallery would like to pay for the materials, Bill.  And so I had my first, full-color poster all lined up.


            So I started working with Claudio and Martha on the poster and they had the photo all ready to send off to Mexico City for the separations, the four-color slides that would be made into plates for the printer, and they said it was very important to finalize the dates and locations to print below the photo, so I said OK and went back to City Hall.




            One of Sergio Cervantes’ workers was this guy named Fidel and he says jump in.  So I’m riding around with him and looking at sites in different nieghborhood agencies that the city runs.  First we went over to San Juan Chapultepec, a little neighborhood just across the river and a little municipal building in front of a small plaza, and then up into the Colonia Reforma to the Infonavit, a housing development with its own little market and square.  I liked them a lot, especially the little “San Juanito,” and said, Fidel, these are great, let’s do it!  He said, I’ll show you some more tomorrow.

            So I showed up at City Hall the next day to go with him and he has a pick-up  which is loaded with a bunch of big old signs or something and he says he has to deliver these signs first but then we can go see some more neighborhoods after that.

            “Jump in, Bill,” he said.

            So, me and about five other guys pile into the pick-up and head out.

            Well, he says, first, even before we deliver the signs he's got, he has to pick up some paintings from a show which just closed and take them back to the artist's house somewhere so I think OK and we drive all the way in hell out to this house to deliver these paintings, which we do and then the guy is so pleased and thankful to us for delivering the paintings he invites us in for coffee which all the guys in the truck think is just wonderful.  And we sit in his yard for about forever and I’m thinking is this guy growing the beans or what?  And finally he comes out with a pot of instant coffee and a bunch of cookies and we all sit around like we got all day and Fidel says, Bill, you’re not in a rush or anything are you and, of course, I say No, not at all, and, of course, I should have known then what was going to happen and it’s like seven o’clock in the evening and well, three (count ‘em!) three hours later we’re riding around up in the mountains in the dark in a little pueblo way the hell out and we haven’t even delivered ONE sign yet or seen ONE neighborhood, when suddenly the truck runs out of gas!  Well, everybody piles out and sits around on the roadside and they’re talking about how somebody can walk down to a little store down the road and call in to get somebody to come out and bring us some gas, and everybody as happy as can be and laughing.  And I’m thinking to myself, Bill, why can’t you just enjoy yourself and try to relax and look at the stars like everybody else is and I'm thinking like there’s something wrong with me and being too gringo and all, when suddenly down this dark, winding road comes a big, old lumbering bus and it says OAXACA on it and I says to Fidel, Fidel this looks like a long story! and I jump on the bus and about midnight I roll back into Oaxaca and still hadn’t seen the other neighborhoods that I was supposed to see.


            Well, I did, of course, make it around to see all the different municipal properties where I could have my show, liking them all, of course, and in the end choosing five.  It would run a different location each weekend through October, that year the month happening to have five weekends.  They were all in the open-air, in parks and such and I put in a request to the city for “mamparas” to show my collages.  They're the sturdy wooden display flats with legs which I would come to use dozens of times over the years.

            Part of the deal was transporting the collages.  The city agreed to send a special truck.  It turned out to be a police truck.  I always felt proud having the cops carefully deliver my art works to the shows.



I would be taking along my own open-air gallery!

          About twenty-five flats would make me a big central exhibit room, a small adjoining room, and a little walk-through entry and souvenir shop.




            For the big room I prepared sixteen over-sized collages on heavy illustration board of different colors, using the big full-color poster inserts from the fan magazines.  I framed them on boards, covered with different color foil paper, and nailed gold-sprayed bottle caps around the border.  It was a nice effect.




            For the smaller room, I had bought a bunch of cheap plastic gold frames like they put Saints in, and did a bunch of collages of “El Santo.”




            In the entryway I would sell small, individual postcard-sized collages, collaged bottle-cap buttons, and collaged Lucha Libre action figures.  I got the crew from the Frente’s office to volunteer their time to man the booth.  They were great!




            Sergio made me a tape of hot current “macho” music that he thought would be appropriate.  I have it still.

            Finally, I prepared a nice folded program to give out, with myself “collaged” into photos of the famous wrestlers and a long philosophical essay about fighting for the good in this world and putting our faith in the good fight and such.  Nancy was helping me translate it and said, “Are you sure this is what you want to say to your fans, Bill?”

            “Sure,” I said.  Claudio and Martha printed it up.





            Meanwhile the posters came out spectacular and were soon seen all over town.  I even ran into one taped to the front of a popcicle seller’s push-cart!




          And the press started to eat it up.  I've always been good with publicity and sent out lots of press releases.  Well, the papers sent reporters and photographers and, of course, I supplied them with lots of good copy.  The rebel artist, bringing his show to the people.  Breaking away from the downtown galleries and going into the neighborhoods.  And FREE!  Everyone should see it!




            It was a big hit.  We opened in the zócalo where the current Mayor, a Manuel Sada, cut the ribbon and invited the pueblo of Oaxaca to enjoy the Lucha Libre of Bill Wolf.  Long lines formed everywhere we went.  On one Saturday, this in the big Abastos Market, over five thousand people filed through the show.  Families, campesinos, old ladies, kids, lots of kids, hordes of kids.  People who had never been to an art gallery in their lives saw my show.



            One reporter wrote “What artist wouldn’t give his left arm for the kind of attendance Bill Wolf has been seeing for his Lucha Libre?”  A bit of an exaggeration, I always thought.

            I was quoted as saying that I hoped “... maybe some kid will see my show and think Hey, I can do that!  And would grow up to be an artist!”



            The artists in town were somewhat divided.  Some would sort of roll their eyes and mutter like “what a show-off!”  It was said that half the audience thought they were coming to a wrestling match.  I always agreed it was true of course.

            But most saw the humor and the theater and the spectacle and loved it.  Many told me what a great show you’ve got, Bill, and lots of congratulations.  Ruben Leyva liked it a lot and told me.  Nancy was around a lot, of course, and on the last day in El Llano she brought along her husband Poncho and he studied it all very carefully.  We had a band that day.  “This is my childhood, Bill,” he told me.




            But mostly, for me, it was the kids.  Miles and miles of kids, wide-eyed and smiling, looking at the big colorful collages and laughing and pointing.  Everywhere we went they came early and stayed late, in big groups, in small, dragging their mothers or, sometimes, coming alone, slowly and silently looking at all the crazy, colorful wrestlers.



            In the City Hall, too, my reputation was growing.  They all loved the collages and especially the big audiences we had everywhere we went; I had crews of muchachos hauling around the mamparas, pasting up posters and, at each stop, a fancy police escort for the collages themselves in the back of a big municiple pickup truck.  I made a lot of friends and would do lots of events with them over the years to come.


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