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
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!
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.
you want to do the show,” they said, “hell, we got lots of places.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
Bill,” he said.
So, me and
about five other guys pile into the pick-up and head out.
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!
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
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.”
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!
me a tape of hot current “macho” music that he thought would be
appropriate. I have it still.
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?”
said. Claudio and Martha printed it up.
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
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!”
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
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.
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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...NEXT: RETO - PERFORMANCE ARTIST