May 13 2014 06:28 PM

Tijuana artist's newest work looks at Mexico's growing obesity problem

Pablo Llana
Pablo Llana

Mouthful, Tijuana artist Pablo Llana's solo show featuring wall pieces and sculptures made of junk-food wrappers, is on view at Instituto de Cultura de Baja California (ICBC) in Tijuana (310310 Paseo del Centenario Blvd.) through the end of May.


The show includes pop-art imagery, like a giant mouth with a tongue hanging out, a modified shopping-cart installation, Coke-bottle and potato-chip-bag sculptures and large-scale portraits of obese people, created from junk-food wrappers. When CityBeat recently visited ICBC, a class of young students was there to tour the facility and see the exhibition. Eating lunch on the grass outside the gallery, many of them munched on Doritos, Takis and other junk food that Llana had incorporated in his show by recycling wrappers and bags donated by local families and sculpting the trash into art.

"You were there to see it with your own eyes," Llana says. "Kids prefer eating chips rather than fruit. Obesity is a huge problem here, and it's all thanks to publicity, consumerist culture and advertising."

Last year, Mexico one-upped the United States, stealing the notorious title of the most obese country in the world. According to a 2013 United Nations report, nearly one-third of people living in Mexico are obese. It's a relatively new phenomenon there, due in part to the introduction of American-made processed foods. While Mexico's getting fatter, the northernmost sate, Baja California, takes the sugar-laden cake when it comes to the country's growing obesity epidemic. That's why Llana wanted to show his work in Tijuana.

"My goal with this exhibition is, by using these recycled wrappers, I wanted to show what people consume today thanks to marketing and advertising, which is constantly encouraging us to buy these artificial products," Llana says. "If even just one visitor to the show gets the message and decides to change their eating habits, my goal would be fulfilled."

"Viacrucis," Llana's piece on the cover of CityBeat this week, picturing an overweight man bent over as he bears the weight of the large McDonald's Golden Arches on his back, blames the obesity problem not just on McDonald's, but on all corporations making, marketing and selling unhealthy food.

The piece is representative of the other portraits in his current solo show, which depict overweight people with black bars over their eyes. From afar, the pieces look like they could be expressionist paintings. Up close, the obsessive care Llana took in collecting, color-categorizing and assembling the junk-food wrappers is revealed.

"I love the medium," Llana says about working with wrappers. "The more I work with it, the more I love it."

Pablo Llana's solo show, Mouthful, is on view at ICBC through May.
Photo courtesy Pablo Llana


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