Buscando Ocampo (Part 2)

Giclee on canvas reproductions of Ocampo’s work, which we refer to simply as “Ocampos,” just as we’d call anything by Picasso “Picassos,” began to show up at the carnivals that accompanied the fiestas patronales honoring the patron saint of practically every typical Mexican burg. On the 15th day of August the La fiesta de la Asunción, Assumption Day for the rest of you, rolls around in my neighborhood, which means that the plaza and surrounding streets are filled with carnival rides that have been declared unsafe in places like Oklahoma, carnival games of chance promising valuable prizes, corn dogs, pink party cake, and a mole fest.

But if all that’s not enough to separate fiesta-goers from their money, there’s plenty of stuff to buy: pirated DVDs, bras, houseplants, and hand-made appliqued frilly toilet lid covers. And art. The giclee-on-canvas Ocampos may have been around for ages for all I know, but I didn’t first really pay much attention to them until 2004, when a long-term houseguest we’ll just call Kato bought a couple or three of them to decorate the casita, promising he’d leave them behind. He would leave, taking those Ocampos with him, and they now reside in Santa Fe.

Ocampos were suddenly all over the place: in front of the Basilica in Patzcuaro, on the side streets leading to the Basilica, and at the muelle. His work had to be the most-pirated work around, showing up in greater numbers than the Boteros of a few years earlier.

We’re sure that we read in some interview with the artist somewhere, sometime, where he was asked how he felt about seeing all of those unauthorized reproductions of his work where common folk could easily purchase them. His response seemed to be, if we remember correctly, was something about the futility of copyright, his compensation for the originals, and accessibility of his work to the kind of people who buy their art at carnivals. And so, we would go on to relate to others what we thought we’d read, only to hear those others remark about what a swell, practical kind of guy he must be. But then this may be myth for all we know, or maybe it was something we just dreamed up because it sounded good.

Ocampo may be Mexico’s most prolific artist you’ve never heard of. He’s one of those artists whose works everyone recognizes, but whom no one can connect a name.

Edgar Hoill, writing for Lowrider Arte Magazine, sat down with Ocampo, and he shares their exchange in “Octavio Ocampo – The Art of Metamorphosis.”

And we’ll share more of our search for Ocampo in coming installments.

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5 comments on “Buscando Ocampo (Part 2)

  1. Carole Kocian says:

    A vague similarity to the “faaaabulous” offerings in the “art auctions” aboard cruise ships at bargain prices. Starry-eyed cruisers are duped on every sailing buying vaguely similar-appearing modernist not-even-giclees of their fave famously unknown artists.

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  2. I had to investigate giclée. Interesting. Live and learn. Thanks. As for Ocampo, I’m not a fan. Though his work is clever, I guess I’ve seen so many cheesy reproductions in the stores of Quiroga that he’s been ruined for me, somehow.

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  3. John V. Wylie says:

    Relatively new technology allows relatively inexpensive and very high quality
    reproductions, electronically recording the original, then reprinting as many
    as saleable…..guess is a way of sharing with those who appreciate but cannot
    afford originals. Is that bad?

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    • Yes, it’s bad. It’s bad when the artist who created those works goes uncompensated, when his copyright is infringed upon. Stealing someone else’s intellectual property is really just robbery.

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      • Steve Cotton says:

        Well, at least theft. But the result is the same. I am not certain why people who would never think of stealing their neighbor’s wallet feel so smug about not paying an artist the value of his work.

        Now, everyone — feel free to identify the lawyers in the room.

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