Zalce Mexican Art

Batik In México and Its Innovator,


Batik can be defined as a method of applying a colored design onto textiles by waxing those parts that are not to be dyed. It has been continually practiced in Eastern and Middle Eastern countries for centuries, but it was probably on the island of Java in Indonesia that the art reached its peak development -- until recently.

Until recently, batik was mostly done by craftsmen to produce rich colorful textiles. Due to Mexico's own Gran Maestro Alfredo Zalce, techniques of batik have been elevated to prominence in the production of great art. An artist of his caliber has never before produced art with batik, but Maestro Zalce now devotes much of his time and artistic talent to producing art by using this amazing and distinct art medium, formerly almost unknown in México.

Maestro Zalce has been creating acrylics, watercolors, statues, murals, and almost every other form of art throughout most of his 91 years, but only in the 90’s did he began working with techniques of batik. Although the quality of art in batik is equal to his acrylics and watercolors, batik requires more time to produce because, in addition to creating the art over cloth, he has to put on and take off wax whenever he wishes to use another color. When a work is almost finished, something can go wrong during the last application of wax that can ruin the entire artwork. Also, when painting with acrilic or oil, the artist can cover errors; while with batik, the error cannot be corrected.

No other artist of Zalce's magnitude produces art with batik, mostly because it is tedious, slow, and technically difficult to do. Most artists prefer to produce larger quantities of art more quickly due to economic interests. Zalce says, "Art produced painstakingly and slowly will be forgotten slowly, while artwork quickly produced will more likely be quickly forgotten."

Zalce’s work with batik is well represented in a book published by the Politecnico University and the Government of Michoacan, and in Zalce Total, published by the National Institute of Fine Art, as well as in other publications. It appears that Zalce’s works in batik may well be as rare, sought after, and appreciated in the future as his works in acrylic, oil, or watercolor are now.

Regarding the process of producing fine art with batik, Zalce says:

"This is the process: You take cloth and make your sketch with charcoal because pencil is difficult to remove from cloth. The cloth can be cotton, linen, or silk.

"You have to cover some colors with wax in order to paint with other colors so as not to have a mixing of colors. If you have a strong red and a light red and don’t want the two to run together, you have to put wax over one color prior to painting the other color. After that color has been painted and allowed to dry, you then can take off the wax and prepare to cover another section with wax for the next color. The process of applying wax, painting, letting the paint dry, and removing the wax one time after another is time consuming.

"After everything is finished, you can apply another coat of wax over the entire work, then pinch and wrinkle the cloth prior to applying more color to the entire work. When the paint goes into the somewhat broken wax that this pinching causes, the marble-like texture is obtained that is so special to batik."


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Last Modified 14 March, 1999
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