Gilberto Aceves Navarro is art's mischievous child, evidenced by his fantastic pieces produced by his small and speckled hands.

By Wilbert Torre

Gilberto Aceves Navarro must have a wheel in his heart and toys in his mind. He is art's mischievous child and we find evidence of that mainly in what he paints -Siqueiros and Cuevas have bowed down before such drawing genius̶- and in those fantastic pieces produced by his small and speckled hands.

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A sample of his mischievous genius are the fifty-five bicycle sculptures that comprise an exhibit on the main campus of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) since last April: if you observe them, massive as a bull and thin as the blade of a guillotine, you will not only see wheels and handlebars, but also a beetle, a couple engaged in lovemaking, an ant, or an acrobat. 

Perhaps as constant as his humor -his most recent work which opened yesterday in Chihuahua is called Divertimento (Amusement)- is his desire to use the art that flourishes from his eyes and hands, as a vehicle for change. In a country where politicians age to the sounds of boos and yawns, Aceves-Navarro is an 86 year old man who has placed across his chest the sash of a vanguard: art with a cause. 

Nine years ago he left his studio in the Roma quarter in Mexico to take his bicycles on tour. They were first exhibited in Mexico City with 100 sculptures at El Palacio de Bellas Artes; later they disembarked in New York with 122 bicycles for the biggest outdoors exhibit in the history of that city; afterwards, they continued on to Washington DC, Williamsburg, VA and Ohio. 

His most recent stop is Ciudad Universitaria in Mexico City, with fifty-five sculptures out of a total of two hundred original models that commemorate the 200th anniversary of the invention of the bicycle in Germany. 

The traveling sculptures of Aceves Navarro pay homage to the bicycle as an efficient, simple and ubiquitous object, while also sending out a message to governments and institutions to adopt urban mobility agendas and to promote the use of the bicycle. 

The thing that has always amazed me about Aceves Navarro is his ability to produce ideas. The most recent one is a Manifesto, which was presented at the 6th World Bicycle Forum just a few days ago in Mexico City. It is a deep and careful reflection about Las Bicicletas, the Art of Balance, as an art project with a cause: to take this useful and fun object and turn it into the worldwide symbol of Equilibrium. 

“Cyclists become one with the bicycle which provides them with balance”, writes Aceves Navarro. “They go forward in a fragile state, as a reminder that a human, lacking a protective armor and hovering over an axis and its wheels, is one of the highest ethical and aesthetic values deserving our respect.” 

Aceves Navarro began drawing bicycles while watching the bread delivery men go by his home in the Roma quarter, a miracle of balance with hands on handlebars and a huge basket on the top of their heads. Nowadays, every chance he gets, sometimes in the hospital, or in his study at home, he is always drawing one more, to remind us that we are equilibrium.

Juan Aceves