Clotilde Jiménez: Queering Boxing, Undoing the “Macho”

Raquel Villar-Pérez writes about Clotilde Jiménez, an Afro-Puerto Rican artist born in Honolulu now based in Mexico D.F. She writes that “through collage, painting and sculpture, he uses his artistic practice to raise questions around race, class, sexuality and gender.” Here are excerpts from C& América Latina:

Clotilde Jiménez was raised by his Puerto Rican mother in an impoverished neighborhood in the North of Philadelphia, where he was the middle child of three, an older sister and a younger brother. His father, an African American boxer who competed at an amateur level, left the family home when Clotilde was five.

His upbringing was characterized by the continuous enquiring of his surrounding and, particularly, aspects that defined his day-to-day, such as socio-economical background, skin color and hair type, but were not reflected on the mainstream media he consumed at the time. Determined to challenge what was expected of him as an African American young boy, Jiménez attended art school where he moulded his art practice for the purpose of continuing his enquiry. “My artwork is just a way of asking questions”, Jiménez explains. “I’m trying to get closer and closer to some sort of understanding of the world that surrounds me, but I don’t feel I’m getting a lot of answers and I don’t know if I’ll ever get them. It may be more of a collective search, a community effort, where, if enough people are talking about these subjects, then collectively we arrive to that point that I would like to.”

Informed by his family background, Jiménez’s work attempts to unpick multi-layered and complex issues that have been engrained into humanity’s psyche for centuries, such as the established ideas around race and class that stand as immovable truths to date. Despite the association of the artist’s practice with the current #BlackLivesMatter movement, the artist admits that his work talks to the issues raised by the movement, but not because of it: “I’ve been having these conversations and trying to move forward within these issues ever since I started producing art”, he says, and he hopes for broad audiences and diverse communities to engage with his work because these topics are “everyone’s lived experience in some way.”

The colorful cartoon-like aesthetics in Jiménez’s compositions are a reference to the artist’s childhood, particularly his experience attending a Southern Baptist church. The artist admired the way the pastor would simplify the parables to the point that he was able to understand the message. Simplification and making accessible the complex stories and questions that he is asking, so everyone can enter the work and the space with a lot of understanding, have driven the artist’s practice from the beginning. To that end too, the artist incorporates to his work a sensible dose of humor, since, as he maintains, “it is easier to talk about certain things if you approach them with a little comical sense but respecting the weight of the subject. It’s about finding the balance.” [. . .]

Even more, the artist is developing a visual language that depicts individuals that look like him in a meaningful way and tells the common shared story of his ancestors and Black life from his own lived experience. The big feet and hands in Jiménez’s work become a symbol, suggesting how little society has changed in terms of understanding race and class. “My grandma said that sometimes black people’s hands and feet are larger than life because of the labour and hardship that people have gone through” – a situation that has morphed but endured to date. Charcoal has increasingly become more prominent in Jiménez’s work as a medium to depict Black bodies, whilst living in a country that has a troubled history in relation to race and that lives with the consequences of it. [. . .]

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