Mely Barragan


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extracto de texto, Página 195-196 del libro: DE AQUELLOS PÁRAMOS SIN CULTURA… (tres décadas de artes en Baja California: de lo retiniano a lo conceptual) por: ROBERTO ROSIQUE

Las pinturas (impresiones) de Mely Barragán (Tijuana B.C., 1975), resueltas con copias de aquel dibujo delineado y colores planos empleadas por diseñadores del pasado, impresas sobre soportes plastificados profusamente ilustrados con motivos florales, creados para ser usados como manteles del comedor o protectores de superficies; la artista en una visión retro, contemporaniza los pasados años en que la ilustración se convierte en elemento sustancial para estimular los mercados y alimentar el consumismo, el american way of life como expresión de máximos alcances (El pecado, Compañera ideal, del 2004). Representado por amas de casa perfectamente maquilladas, peinadas y ataviadas con lo último de la moda realizando labores del hogar; por empleadas o secretarias (Las maravillosas, 2004, Ellas, 2005), todas mostrando una singular alegría por el supuesto placer que resulta desempeñarse en estas desvaloradas actividades. Estos contenidos emblemáticos de sumisión simulada serán revitalizados por la artista prodigándole nuevos significados; cuestionando, incluso, la subordinación desde su propia feminidad (Las lloronas, 2005).

Una artista  ya indispensable en las lecturas que deben hacerse sobre el arte fronterizo, que explora otros medios (The chain, 2004), interviene espacios (Proud boy de la serie Golden Boy, 2008 , Macho / Male 2008) realiza instalaciones con obras de diversos componentes, siempre en un cuestionamiento de las imposiciones sociales y de nuestra pasividad y acatamiento.


excerpt from: Catalogue text for  CUSTOMIZING LANGUAGE, curated by Idurre Alonso and Selene Preciado The inaugural presentation of the LACE Emerging Curator Program.

Mely Barragán uses elements and images from mass media, pop art, and popular culture to address gender issues, particularly imposed feminine archetypes by our patriarchal society. She utilizes various media including collage, painting, printing and sculpture, such as in her most well-known work from 2004, La Cadena (The Chain), in which a plaster sculpture of a bride and groom multiplies in a row of eleven, but the top of the figure of the bride is gradually shaved off from sculpture to sculpture until she almost completely disappears.

This works reflects her preoccupation for the role of women in contemporary society, which publicly promotes and encourages an image of a strong, independent, woman, especially in the workforce, while the economic system is not yet balanced in terms of equal pay, fair treatment of working mothers, and in private space often traditional gender roles persist.

The use of specific materials plays a key part in Barragán´s work, for example wallpaper prints, or those traditionally associated to domestic and female use, such as sewn felt, in the case Macho, 2009. This work simultaneously alludes to the issue of machismo-defined as a strong sense of power or entitlement to dominate in males-while emphasizing the contradictions of exaggerated masculinity with the use of the material and cursive typography, both associated with female qualities.


“I learned how to speak in two languages at the same time, my identity is constructed by thousands of copy-pastes. Juxtaposition is natural for border people”

“I utilize the appropriation of images to resignify their use, upon finding myself in a by-product world where we are inundated by concepts of identity based on consumption, I become empowered by this imagery without playing its game. I search for more honest visual formulas that question imposed visual formulas (industry, society, tradition, etc). I describe my process as reflections on the absurd, obsessive, fateful, grotesque, beautiful and fragmented”

M. Barragán.


FROM BAJA TO BEIJING: TJ in China´s Intercontinental Connection by: Marco Vera
Mexicali Rose Media / Arts Center
Daniel Ruanova and Mely Barragán have infused the downtown Tijuana contemporary art scene with an ultramodern, communal, experimented and organized vitality via their new space proposal entitled TJ in China Project Space. Having opened its doors in February 2014, the TJ in China Project Space has already developed a reputation and relationship with Baja artists looking to become more connected with the international profile its founders have generated with and prior to this inventive space. An influential couple in the Tijuana art realm, Daniel Ruanova and Mely Barragán have forged engrossing careers by completing passages in Baja California’s recent art history through experimentation, determination, and the trials and errors inherent to any relationship with the international art world limelight. TJ in China Project Space seeks to host multicultural exchange between Tijuana and global art discourse by providing a current set of creative and ideological resources smack-dab in the center of Tijuana’s (in)famous Avenida Revolución.
Daniel Ruanova’s irreverent and involved style of border art-making rose to prominence in the later half of the 1990’s; his eye-popping statements further cementing his hard-earned reputation as a mischievous, politically-minded experimentalist during Tijuana’s exposure boom in the 2000’s. “We were not artists supported by any institution, the Tijuana art scene at one point was a sort of utopia, a beautiful local grassroots search for identity, until it became a commodity which was even taught in certain universities, an intellectual property for a chosen few. Tijuana had become an official case study, while we thought art was going to change this city. That exposure boom, along with the city’s rise in insecurity, created a cultural apathy were artists were waiting for money to be handed down to them by institutions or impresarios, and prompted many of us to search for new spaces and horizons,” states Ruanova. His pop culture and consumerism critiques spawned hectic hybrid artworks to inform spectators that the world Ruanova inhabits is half destruction/half construction, symphony and feedback, advertisement and cautionary tale. His sculptural work brings the battles and insecurity of Tijuana’s unsafe habitat into — and outside — the gallery setting, echoing childhoods in industrialized settings, greed and violence, unwelcome statistics and pleasant abandon. Ruanova persists on his exploratory path, his most recent collaborative incursion, punkformance outfit Ghost Magnet Roach Motel, having landed in the latest installment of Tijuana’s All My Friends Music Festival to astound its audience.
Mely Barragán has been exploring the role of identity in contemporary society through her composite musings since the mid-1990’s, utilizing assemblage, collage, painting and various other media forms to comment on social and behavioral norms. Barragán’s is a personal correspondence with entitlement, resonance and composition, making effective use of ingénue properties to satisfy a relationship with independence. “I utilize the appropriation of images to resignify their use, upon finding myself in a by-product world where we are inundated by concepts of identity based on consumption, I become empowered by this imagery without playing its game. I search for more honest visual formulas that question imposed visual formulas (industry, society, tradition, etc). I describe my process as reflections on the absurd, obsessive, fateful, grotesque, beautiful and fragmented,” affirms Barragán. Dichotomy becomes autonomy in a homesick, knife-wielding life abroad, a muscular reflection on the notion of imagery and archetypes. Barragán’s wordplay transcribes indiscretion over windows of pinched symbolisms, producing palettes affected by human relationship and time, her philosophy surfacing over found idealisms and broken models. “I learned how to speak in two languages at the same time, my identity is constructed by thousands of copy-pastes. Juxtaposition is natural for border people,” she states.
In 2012, Daniel Ruanova and Mely Barragán settled in Beijing’s Caochangdi art village to create and promote multidisciplinary efforts from the borderlands by setting up TJ in China Project Room, an independent arts space interested in generating a mutual admiration for the arts and discourse of both Mexican and Chinese contemporary cultures. Adherent to the principles and customs of displacement, TJ in China Project Room boldly pioneered a crossover between two impassioned and intricate cultures. “Daniel and I were searching for a space outside Tijuana to produce work. When he called me after creating a work on site in Beijing and proposed we should move there, I couldn’t believe it. I didn’t think about it twice and we moved there for a residency,” states Barragán. “Caochangdi had an incredible energy, a community of migrants and industry turned into an art village with more tolerance and openness than the rest of China, due to the artistic discourse there. We were there initially for our own work and cultural exchange, not to open up a space, but there was an incredible movement of people socially and a dynamic that was very similar to the border’s, so we decided to spend our energies constructing something, not a commodity,” affirms Ruanova. Mexican artists such as Jaime Ruiz Otis, Pablo Castañeda, Maribel Portela and Jorge Ramirez, alongside Asian visual artists Zhu Yu, Dai Hua and Shinpei Takeda, as well as TJ in China Project Room’s founders, conducted expressive showcases of visions without boundaries.
TJ in China Project Room would later relocate to Tijuana and morph into TJ in China Project Space, further fortifying the generated bond between artists in search of new dimensions. TJ in China Project Space is perfectly suited for and born out of the eagerness in advocating local artwork production alongside international propositions in Tijuana. Artist residency is key in relation to the expansion and encouragement of an informed and collective language by means of artists producing the works to be displayed in house, in conspiration, thus assembling a devoted group of creators per exhibition, aided by knowledgeable local assistants. “We look for skill and honesty in work, we cannot have a single formula as a space, so we look for elements and artists that will make something bloom. There’s plenty of talent, but we are looking for pragmatism, and providing the necessary conditions for artistic production where the artists are entirely free and responsible. That is very important to us, context makes a piece,” affirms Ruanova. “It’s very important to us for the artists to learn how to work and create a dialogue with other artists. We want that creative intimacy and process to be present to all of the artists and audience. We ask for work that changes life and rotates from beginning to end of run of show,” states Barragán. TJ in China Project Space is unlocked, unbiased and available to acquired and exhilarating schemes and storylines. Not defining themselves as a gallery, but rather as an independent space, TJ in China is enthusiastically intending to generate a new public, dematerializing borders by way of not only bilingual, but global demonstration and notions in Baja California.
Durante la primera década de la carrera de Mely Barragán, el tema evolutivo de su producción artística ha sido marcada por su fascinación sobre la imagen de la mujer y las representaciones de lo femenino. Inició, fijando sus primeros objetivos estéticos en
imágenes de mujeres dentro de situaciones marcadas por su género. Por ejemplo, exploró el papel de las mujeres en la historia, la vida contemporánea y las relaciones personales, sexuales y sociales como el matrimonio y las tradiciones familiares. Ella comenzó a jugar con la idea de moldear el rol de género utilizando la figura masculina como objeto de decoración al igual que la figura femenina ha sido usado y abusado. Barragán utiliza dibujos, objetos y palabras para convertir pensamientos en ideas. “
The evolving theme in the art production of the first decade of the career of Mely Barragán has been her fascination with the image of women and of what is feminine. She began by engaging her first aesthetic goals of portraying women in gender based situations. For example, she explored the women’s role in history; their contemporary life and personal, sexual and social relations like marriage and family traditions. She started to play with the idea of twisting the gender role by using the male figure as a decorative object just like the female figure has been used and abused. Barragán uses drawings, objects and words to convert thoughts into ideas.
Mely Barragán

(varios autores)



No hace mucho tiempo, accidentalmente termine viendo una página de internet que se enfoca en el fenómeno OVNI y llamó mi atención el encabezado: “Avistamientos en Beijing, China y Tijuana, México.” Luego más aún el hecho de tratarse de dos videos aparentemente filmados el 1 de enero del presente año. Me interesó como 10,265 kilómetros de distancia con 15 horas de diferencia, se unían simbólicamente mediante unos pretendidos objetos voladores. Me interesó más aún el hecho que estas dos ciudades encarnan cotidianamente un estigma donde lo falso y truculento, lo peligroso, lo exótico, lo emocionante y lo surreal campean así, sin más. En fin, al final del día quede convencido que si en algún lugar del mundo debe de haber ovnis es precisamente ahí. Acepto que podría parecer absurda la analogía para referirme al primer ejercicio expositivo surgido del proyecto TJ IN CHINA: THE VALUE OF STUFF / three displaced perceptions on trade, tradition & trauma. Una suerte de laboratorio donde Mely Barragán, Daniel Ruanova y Jaime Ruiz Otis, presentan un grupo de obras producto de su actual residencia en Beijing. Ahora bien, es importante hacer notar que no se trata únicamente del desplazamiento físico o de la percepción de los artistas, sino, en todo caso, del acto mismo de dislocar sentidos, de re aprender en cierta forma fragmentos del proceso productivo personal y finalmente de la asimilación del contexto inmediato y su representación mediante el marco conceptual y el elocuente uso de los materiales. Si bien en los 3 casos esta obra reciente refiere a su cuerpo de obra previo, también lo es que hay una evolución clara hacia rutas que hoy les resulta viable explorar. Unir ideas corporizadas en luz neón, vidrio, metal y objetos diversos, utilizando soportes como el video, la nueva escultura y la intervención en sitio, entre otras, permiten ir visionando el rumbo que empieza a perfilar la obra de los artistas, pero además debe ser considerado como una declaración de principios del proyecto en su conjunto. Más que intentar hacer un crossover o verse pretendidamente mainstream lo de Barragán, Ruanova y Otis es una propuesta que articula, como bien lo dice el título de la muestra, esta trasferencia y tráfico de identidades, de tradiciones y de traumas o recelos sobre los cuales uno soporta su propia existencia. Sin embargo, de nuevo termino convencido que si hay un par de lugares tan intensos y complejos como empáticos y necesariamente artísticos son Tijuana y Beijing. Sean pues bienvenidos a TJ IN CHINA 001.



Not long ago, I accidentally viewed a website that focuses on the UFO phenomenon and the headline caught my eye: “Sightings in Beijing, China and Tijuana, Mexico.” Both videos were apparently filmed on the 1st of January this year. I was interested that the two cities were symbolically joined by a reported flying object, at a distance of 10.265 miles with a 15 hour time difference. I was even more interested in the fact that these two cities daily lives embody a stigma where the false and tricky, dangerous and exotic, exciting and surreal abound “just like that”. Finally, at the end of the day, I was convinced that if somewhere in the world there are UFO´s, it must be there.

I agree that the analogy may seem absurd to refer to the inaugural exhibition project created by TJ IN CHINA, THE VALUE OF STUFF / three displaced perceptions on trade, tradition & trauma. A sort of laboratory where Mely Barragan, Daniel Ruanova and Jaime Ruiz Otis, have a group of works resulting from their current residence in Beijing. Now, it´s important to note that this is not just about the physical movement or perception of artists, but in any case, the very act of dislocating senses, somehow rearranging the fragments of the production process and finally, the assimilation of the immediate context and its representation through the conceptual framework and the eloquent use of the materials.  Although the three projects refer to their past body of work, there is a clear path to the routes that are now feasible explore.

Connecting ideas embodied in neon, glass, metal and other objects, using media such as video, new-sculpture, on-site intervention among others, we can envision the direction that begins to outline the work of the artists, and this must be considered a declaration of principles of the project as a whole. Rather than attempting to make a supposedly mainstream crossover, Barragan, Ruanova and Otis proposals articulate, as well as the title of the show, a transfer and trafficking of identities, traditions and trauma or suspicion on which one bears hers or his own existence. However, I am still convinced that if there are a couple of places so intense and complex as empathic and artistic, thay are necessarily Tijuana and Beijing. You are welcome to TJ IN CHINA.

Marco Granados, May 2012


“La dicotomía dentro/fuera” [Abstract]

Con esta nueva edición individual Mely Barragán muestra en Tijuana, tras su regreso de una residencia en China, una nueva serie de obra plástica en el conflictuado espacio de Arte Vía, uno de los pocos destinados al arte contemporáneo en la ciudad, creado apenas este año, y el cual en este momento no goza de un manejo estratégico, corriendo el riesgo incluso de desaparecer tan pronto como fue creado. Barragán es una artista de la generación de jóvenes 2000-2010 en Tijuana, a la cual pertenece la mayoría de artistas visuales profesionales de la ciudad activos actualmente, los nombres más conocidos dentro del mapa nacional del arte contemporáneo. Se ve así en esta muestra la obra de una artista que ha visualizado su camino individual, en este caso a través de transferencias, reflejos, multiplicaciones, ideales físicos humanos que flotan o se contienen, relucen o descansan, se miden, estiran, prueban. Hombres y mujeres cuyos cuerpos y posturas se sumergen en una serie de inversiones de género donde –aunque aparezcan desafiantes temas como los derechos de la mujer, etcétera– el feminismo ya no ocupa el tema central, sino que aparece en algunas piezas, como circunstancia de un todo con una complejidad más real y actual, más allá de posturas extremistas. Hoy cualquier idea de género puede estar arriba o abajo, enfrente o atrás, cerca o lejos, ser malo o bueno, verdad o mentira, caber adentro o afuera, tal como el título de la serie sugiere, escrito en inglés, como es natural para una artista de esta región fronteriza.

“The dichotomy inside / outside”
IN OUT, Mely Barragán, solo exhibition, ARTE VIA, Tijuana, Mexico, November-December 2011. [Abstract]

With this series of work, Mely Barragán shows in Tijuana after returning from a residency in China. She comes from the young generation of artist that transformed the city ́s art scene durring 2000-2010,the best known names in the national map of contemporary art. It looks like the work of an artist who has displayed “her way”, in this case through transfers, reflections, multiplications, human physical ideals that float or contain glitter or rest, measured, stretched, tested. Men and women whose bodies and positions are immersed in a series of investments in which gender -even if they appear challenging issues such as women’s rights, etc.- feminism no longer occupies the central theme, but appears in some parts as fact, one with a real presence more complex and beyond extreme positions. Today any idea of gender can be up or down, front or back, near or far, be good or bad, true or not, in or out, as the series title suggests, written in English, as is natural for an artist of this border region. 

Claudia Algara 2011


El trabajo de Mely Barragán —frecuentemente asociado con desconfiable rapidez a los intereses de género y el arte feminista— hace de la delgada línea del dibujo que dispone sobre el vacío a sus hombres duplicados, tono y timbre discursivo que anima y subvierte su propuesta estética y conceptual. La representación esquemática, pulcra y atexturizada de los cuerpos de papel que en estas obras reproduce entintados del diseño y visualidad del cuerpo gráfico perfecto en las revistas de mediados del siglo XX evidencian con aparente sencillez una fragilidad que intenta esconderse sobre el dibujo no sólo en la imagen sino incluso de ella. La elección técnica de su obra en perfecto equilibrio y resonancia con la apuesta sígnica de los delicados cuerpos de Barragán convierte a estos tambaleantes narcisos en inquietantes reflexiones-en-refracción sobre el resquebrajamiento inevitable e inherente a toda construcción simbólica saturada de sí. El tremor de sus cuerpos dobles susurra con atronadora claridad el desvelo de la condición humana cuando más expuesta, no en la desnudez sino en la pretensión por alisar sus contornos y enmascarar el resto de su singularidad.

The work of mely barragán—often hastily and presumptuously associated with issues of gender and traditional feminist art—generates a discursive tone and timbre which animates and subverts the aesthetic and conceptual proposal of her duplicated men by rendering fine lines over an empty surface. with this schematic, meticulous and texture-less representation of paper bodies which comprise the works he man i and ii, barragán reproduces design prints and images from idealized magazine illustrations from the mid-20th century; demonstrating with apparent simplicity, the fragility which tries to hide itself not only in the image, but even from the artists herself. 
the technical decisions operate under perfect equilibrium and resonance with the semiotic tactics of barragán’s unsettlingly fragile bodies. the artist converts these staggering narcissists into suggestive reflections/refractions concerned with the fracturing which is inherent and inevitable in this over-saturated and symbolic construct. the tremor of their doubled bodies whispers with thundering clarity the un-veiled human condition when it is most exposed–not in its nakedness–but in its endeavor to soften its contours and disguise that which still remains of its singularity.

Marcela Quiroz 2010



El papel de las mujeres dentro de los esquemas de poder que operan en la sociedad, las relaciones de género y el cuerpo femenino como objeto sexual son preocupaciones recurrentes en la obra de Mely Barragán. Sin embargo, en su última serie, titulada HE MAN, la artista cuestiona sus propias suposiciones sobre estos temas al explorar la imaginería, los clichés y las expectativas culturales creadas alrededor de la figura masculina.

Interesada en los mecanismos sociales y psicológicos que están en juego en la “físico-cultura” —estilo de vida en que impera un compromiso casi filosófico hacia el desarrollo y cuidado del estado físico y la salud— Barragán crea una serie de dibujos sobre papel y muro en los que usa imágenes “retro” de estilizados hombres fornidos.  La artista es conocida por sus representaciones femeninas —generalmente presentando mujeres estereotípicas que visten moda de época, maquillaje y cabello oscuro a la Betty Page— las cuales son empatadas con textos o motivos decorativos como flores o diseños abstractos que introducen elementos irónicos o satíricos, para dar pie a  mensajes directos o subliminales que complejizan su propia relación a la feminidad.

Así, en HE MAN la artista desarrolla un sujeto fornido que, vistiendo solamente pantalones cortos ajustados, aparece estático mientras realiza una rigurosa rutina atlética. Si bien el héroe forzudo de Barragán —modelado siguiendo las formas del hombre musculoso de mediados del siglo pasado semejante al efímero personaje de caricatura aparecido en 1956, “Mr. Muscle” (“Sr. Músculo”)— también refleja el fenómeno contemporáneo del hombre obsesionado con el ejercicio y la salud que pareciera haber asumido como propia la objetivizacion del cuerpo femenino. “Intento revertir los roles de genero al usar la figura masculina como objeto decorativo”, explica la artista. Con una línea sinuosa, Barragán dibuja los contornos de ese cuerpo ajeno al suyo, sintetizándolo en reducidos trazos sobre el papel o el muro, repitiendo una y otra vez el dibujo que conforma una figura reconocible, si bien abstracta, transformando el ideal masculino en algo semejante a los patrones decorativos del papel tapiz.

Lucía Sanromán 2010



Other artists in the exhibition use drawing as a means to comment on popular culture and ethnic and gender identity. Women’s roles, gender relations, and the sexualized female body are long-term preoccupations of Tijuana artist Mely Barragán. In her latest ongoing series, Golden Boy, she features a body-builder to problematize her own assumptions about gender by exploring the objectification of the male figure. 

Lucia Sanromán 2009



exposición multidisciplinaria de la artista visual

Como un juego de memoria en su vida diaria, la obra de Barragán evoluciona temáticamente con cada situación personal que vive. Es el mismo juego que la ayuda a entrar y salir series específicas en su producción artística con las que intenta lograr sus objetivos estéticos, los cuales giran entorno a la mujer contemporánea y los distintos roles que esta asume en el mundo actual.

En sus propias palabras, “IN OUT es una colección de experiencias traducidas en objetos con las que resuelvo los conflictos diarios de enfrentarme al aquí y ahora como individuo que busca la equidad y el balance.”

IN OUT representa un debate entre el pasado, presente y futuros inmediatos en la trayectoria de Barragán, es a través de estas piezas y objetos con los que llegamos a nuestra conclusión personal respecto a su obra reciente y quizás, darnos una idea de lo que puede venir en su carrera.

Mauricio Cadena Ainslie 2011