‘Toilet Paper Story’: Mérida printmaker responds ironically to the pandemic

Spanish printmaker Manuel Taure, known for his Mérida-based Graphic Bakery, is the subject of a pandemic-themed exhibition at Galeria El Zapote.
Spanish printmaker Manuel Taure, known for his Mérida-based Graphic Bakery, is the subject of a pandemic-themed exhibition at Galeria El Zapote.

Not long after the pandemic reached Mérida did Spanish-born printmaker Manuel Taure offer his friends little gifts, delivered Fridays to their mailbox. No social interaction required or desired.

These fortunate recipients regularly received postcard-sized hand-pulled prints with original designs, all sardonic and witty chronicles of our society in the time of coronavirus. The kicker is that they were printed on sheets of toilet paper, which as we remember, had momentarily become an object of obsession when the lockdown began.

Spanish printmaker Manuel Taure, left, is known for his Mérida-based Graphic Bakery. His “Toilet Paper Story” project delivered a small piece of art to friends’ mailboxes once a week, and is now the subject of a pandemic-themed exhibition at Galeria El Zapote.

These weekly installments have been pulled together, framed and organized into an exhibit, “Culto Al Rollo — The Toilet Paper Story,” at Galeria El Zapote, and will remain on view until March 29.

Now, they are grouped into a timeline with nine themes — “the threat,” “the impact” and “we have lost count” are three of them — and his more cryptic pieces tell a story. An early print depicted a Mexican wrestler flying through the air, roll of toilet paper in hand, with the caption “¡Ahora sí!” Others allude to hypodermic needles, face masks and even poo. At the height of the lockdown, each delivery was a dose of gallows humor. The final theme is more optimistic. Called “Throwing the Paper Roll,” it’s a series of interconnected photos of people that “represent the human side of the project making visible the relationships among us.”

Taure has engaged his admirers since arriving here 10 years ago. He used to bake bread once a week, hence the name of his studio, The Graphic Bakery. That’s all gone, and since some setbacks connected to both the pandemic and damage from last summer’s torrential rains, he’s weighing his options for the future. But for now, Taure is still in dialog with his public.

Spanish printmaker Manuel Taure, known for his Mérida-based Graphic Bakery, is the subject of a pandemic-themed exhibition at Galeria El Zapote.

One revelation for the artist is what a good medium toilet paper is for a printmaker. It’s absorbent and dries quickly.

The show is one of the first to reopen since gallery spaces were allowed to invite guests — a few at a time, and by appointment. It’s ironic that “The Toilet Paper Story,” meant to entertain his fans stuck at home, is now luring them outside.

“I ventured out to a gallery for the first time today in almost a year,” said one visitor, writing on the artist’s Facebook page, “and it was well worth it.”

To schedule a visit, contact the gallery at galeriaelzapote@gmail.com or 999-923-1391.

Lee Steele

Lee Steele is the founding director of Roof Cat Media and has published Yucatán Magazine and other titles since 2012.