Miguel Angel Rosas is an unassuming and quiet 64-year old man. I found him and his work on the periphery of the Jardín de Arte (Art Garden), a Sunday outdoor art market held at the park behind the Monumento a la Madre in Mexico City. On a makeshift table, in the street, there were a number of small pieces in a curious blueish stone. But it is the cut of the pieces is what really attracts the attention.
Rosas is not really an artisan. His career as an artist spans over fifty years with public works in his native Veracruz and Mexico City. He specializes in working with materials from his native Ciudad Mendoza valley in Veracruz, especially the blueish limestone, but he also works in clay, wood and some bronze. He also has a interest in fossils from his area, which can wind up in his works.
His interest in art and stone began when he was a small child. Despite its name and short distance from a superhighway, Ciudad Mendoza was and still is a very rural area of Veracruz, mostly because it is a valley surrounded by high mountains. There are still a significant number of people there who wear traditional dress and speak Nahuatl. He spend time as a child climbing hills and mountains and collecting local rocks and fossils. He worked in a number of artisan stone workshops in the area. About 30 years ago he came to Mexico City to study art at the La Esmeralda School but stayed only one year as he felt that there was too much emphasis on theory and the actually artistic work was “too easy.”
Rosas has developed most of his career in Veracruz, with a main workshop in his hometown. His larger works can be found in Ciudad Mendoza and number of towns in his region as well as Mexico City. In 2018, he unveiled a work called El Hombre y sus Circunstancias in the town of Nogales, Veracruz.
Much of his work is inspired by pre Hispanic pieces, especially his faces and busts. Other tend to be semi abstract works. All stone sculpture is partly determined by the natural shape and properties of the rock. For this reason, at least, none of his indigenous-inspired pieces are copies of those found in archeological collections. He states that they are often a mix of influences from various pre Hispanic cultures as he is not partial to any of them. As for artistic influences, he cited only one, British artist Henry Moore, whose work was also influenced by Mexican pre Hispanic art and architecture.
He was lived and worked in Mexico City with son Paulo for the past six years, selling at the Jardin de Arte as an artisan, rather than an artist. One reason for this is that the pieces he can carry from his workshop to the site are small. I suspect that indigenous themes might contribute to this classification.
Despite the long career and success in placing public works, including one in the Santo Domingo square of Mexico City, Rosas and his son live very very modestly. Although his stone pieces are made of the rock from his home valley, he has no truck with which to bring the raw materials or finished pieces to Mexico City. He told me that they are brought one-to-three at a time, depending on size, using public transportation. He admits this is a very tough way to do this, especially on the Metro, but he is dedicated to the limestone of Ciudad Mendoza.