Felipe Ehrenberg Dies

BY Katrina Kufer / May 18 2017 / 03:59 AM

The Mexican conceptual artist passes away at 73 from cancer

Felipe Ehrenberg Dies
Image courtesy Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach, California
Portrait of Felipe Ehrenberg. Circa 1966.

Noted for his ephemeral actions and involvement in Fluxus, a movement born of the 1960s that aimed to disintegrate the line between life and art, Ehrenberg may not have been the biggest name on the US scene, but he was a critical player in the European iteration.

Ehrenberg was one of Mexico’s leading cultural figures in the 1960s and 70s, a period of local artistic, intellectual, and political oppression. The 1968 Tlatelolco massacre, which left hundreds of left-wing students dead due to the Institutional Revolutionary Party–led government, forced the artist to relocate to England.

By taking art beyond the boundaries of the gallery space and asking viewers to become participants by having them interact with objects, Ehrenberg introduced the UK public to his anti-art tactics. This included combining forces with his wife Martha Hellion and artist David Mayor to form the Beau Geste Press, which regularly released publications written by Fluxus artists. “It was a time of questioning,” Ehrenberg said of the time period. “We were against speculative art; the art object did not have to be a work of art.”

Upon his return to Mexico in 1974, he joined the los groupos movement, which combined activism with anti-art to produce socio-political works that addressed oppressive regimes.

The formal fluidity of Ehrenberg’s artistic practice was likely marked by his dedication to the written word and his self-declared status as not an artist, but as a neologist. During the latter part of his life and career, he became increasingly invested in activism and hosted symposiums and actions in order to reinforce a line of thought that linked art and politics. “Art is about linking people up,” he said in 2014, “no two ways about it.”