Voice Choices

Pulp Drunk: Mexican Pulp Art

by

The first thing you notice about these original tempera paintings done for Mexican pulp-magazine covers in the 1960s and ’70s is the amount of dead space across the top. This area, left open for cover logos, issue numbers, and teasers about the farfetched fiction within, contains little detail; occasionally, as in the angled collision of a pink wall and black ceiling, these mostly unknown artists achieved a bit of compositional frisson. The action all happens across the bottom two-thirds of these fifteen-by-eleven-inch illustration boards, where you might encounter a young woman fleeing a cop while cradling a piglet to her ample bosom, or a gorilla pummeling some dude while his horrified date looks on. Often the scenarios promise deeply wiggy tales, such as the maid who discovers a prone woman surmounted by little green men — Gulliver’s Travels with salacious trimmings.

Garishly contrasting colors were essential for snagging eyeballs on crowded magazine racks, where protagonists found themselves menaced by dinosaurs or disembodied heads, their often-prosaic attire giving readers the sense they could possibly land in these adventures themselves. The tropes are all here — lagoon creatures and robots, menacing skeletons and murderous clowns — mixed with the occasional masked wrestler or American muscle car.

These images are rooted in the loam of the id, fostering not surrealist dreams but street-level fantasias, where a cover featuring a scarlet skull, a phosphorescently illuminated fistfight, a miniskirted damsel, and a red Dodge Charger promises a tale it has probably already surpassed.

Tuesdays-Saturdays, 11 a.m. Starts: Feb. 24. Continues through March 7, 2015