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Emilio Salazar Touché, graduate of the art underground

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Emilio Salazar Touché
As a painter in Mérida, Yucatán, Emilio Salazar Touché found early influences in muralists and a book on the artist Pedro Coronel. Photo: Eduardo Vázquez / Yucatán Magazine

Born in Mexico City, Emilio Salazar Touché has lived in Mérida since he was a teenager. He was the kind of kid who was always drawing, and his friends still remember him with a notebook and pencil in hand.

Emilio’s early influences were painters such as Gabriel Ramírez Aznar and Manuel González. The work of the muralists Siqueiros and Orozco also had a profound impact. He describes the origin of his career, however, in the moment he found a book on the artist Pedro Coronel in his university library. None of his fellow industrial design students paid any attention to the book, but Emilio would sit and leaf through it every chance he got.

Detail of a painting by Mérida, Yucatán artist Emilio Salazar Touché.

His career as a painter began in earnest after finishing his studies. Since there was no art school in Mérida at the time, Emilio and many other young artists from his generation were purely self-taught. A group of them decided to start organizing exhibitions by themselves, in their own homes, in their own way. This was the birth of an alternative visual arts collective called Deisy Loria, a character they invented—their “art teacher”—as a way of validating themselves as artists despite their lack of formal art education. Emilio took part in three of these mysterious underground events and considers them crucial to the launch of his career. 

2014 was a milestone year for Emilio as he held his first solo exhibition, Mirtiforme, in Mérida’s Galería Municipal. The show included his initial explorations of figurative painting but also works in which he began to add abstract elements, depicting what lies beneath the skin—muscles, cells, organic forms. The process of delving layer by layer deeper into the figure and into abstraction helped define his pictoric language. This step forward—the definitive jump into abstraction—shaped his career forever.

Detail of a painting by Mérida, Yucatán artist Emilio Salazar Touché.

Emilio calls his work neo-abstract and believes young Yucatecan artists can build on the work of the Ruptura generation to create new forms of abstraction. Over the years, he has defined and perfected his unique, striking, and unmistakable style.

This artist’s philosophy is clear: Each painting indicates the path to follow, although there are always unexpected creative accidents and discoveries that create new routes and avenues for development.

Emilio is currently working in a completely new way on a series he calls Metanoia. The process is 100% visceral and instinctual; he no longer sketches an outline of the forms as he always did before; instead, feeling free from structure, he just flows with the painting. He describes it as the feeling of having a mystical revelation.

“Someone once said,” he paraphrases, “that the painting is in charge. Us artists are just a medium.” 

As to his plans for his creative process moving forward, “my only plan is perseverance and dedication to my work.”

Emilio’s artwork can be found at Xtudio 60 gallery across Parque Santa Ana, Mérida. Instagram: @emiliosalazart

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