In the creative world, any person capable of surpassing the limits of the conventional is susceptible to being carried away by art. Why? Perhaps it is because art is the unique expression whose purpose is not functionality, but rather it is contemplation, reflection, catharsis, among other abstract and subjective matters. “Every stalled desire is poison,” affirmed André Maurois, and in the case of Hal Braxton Hayes it was to be expected that one day his mind and body could no longer resist the temptation of creation for creation’s sake. Thanks to this he left an important cultural legacy behind.

In 1987 during the XII World Overview of the Cinematographic Festivals in Acapulco, the magnate inventor presented some bronze pieces that had resided in his house since the mid-1980s and whose simplicity of form yet richness of movement and texture ornamented the beautiful Guerreran port city.

Hal Braxton’s art is nourished from its creator’s imaginary. Each of his sculptures represents something: a man, an animal, a moment, a thought, a feeling, a myth, a fear. “Represents” rather than “presents,” since it is evident that he did not seek to follow classical rules of figure rendering and proportion. These works are simply a sort of mental exercise dragged to an earthly plane. In an interview, Braxton said that for a period of time the first thing he would do after waking was sketch images that appeared in his dreams, and from here his characters emerged.

Now, the topic of death envelops Braxton’s pieces, these works reflect the anxiety caused by the uncertainty regarding what happens when the only thing that remains on this earth is a body in decomposition. Independently of title or form these figures seem to be caught in a silent yet constant scream. The textures —at times dripped, at other times bunched, and in some cases having both finishes— show how the body, whether it be human, animal, or imaginary, is enveloped by nature, reminding the viewer from whence we come and where we are going.

Moving forward, it is fitting to highlight the organic as a characteristic of his pieces. Though bronze is a rigid material, heavy and cold, the author manages to work it in a way that it becomes the proof that evidences the importance of the role of the environment in his life. One should remember that in his engineering work and his architecture, such a characteristic took a place of privilege as can be seen in his Beverly Hills home in which the television is boxed by a tree trunk that crosses the construction. Despite this, in Braxton’s work such a splicing of object with surroundings is perceived as anxious and disquiet.

In an interview Braxton describes his work as “grotesque” and he affirms that he never had the intention of making it “beautiful.” In painting and sculpture, aesthetic elements that are related in a whimsical manner, resulting from a combination of human, animal, and vegetable are known as “grotesque” or grottesca. It is, in summary, an aesthetic that attempts to exalt the vices that refer to the dreamlike and the monstrous alike. Having said this, it is understood that for Braxton art was a way of exorcising his own monsters.

Braxton has not been the only “crazy foreigner” that embraced Mexico and that has been captivated by the landscape and the “magical atmosphere” that so enchanted André Bretón, the father of surrealism, at the close of the 1930s. It would even be enough just to mention Edward James and the structures that he dedicated himself to building and maintaining during little more than twenty years in Xilitla, San Luis Potosí. The oeuvres of these two creators are similar in the admiration of nature’s power and in their purpose to honor it through particular artistic production as in the constant presence of abstraction of form. Abstraction is used here in the literal sense as well as the metaphorical sense of absorbing the essential in order to exhibit the most elemental part of one’s being.

On one occasion Braxton confirmed that he was influenced by the people with which he spent time throughout his life: Hollywood stars, important businessmen, artists of Pablo Picasso’s fame and stature, collectors, among many others. If in art it is indispensible that the artist recognizes himself, it is undeniable that in Braxton’s works one can recognize the thoughts of someone who is naturally eccentric and whimsical while still being contemplative, reflective, and irredeemably surrealist.

Verónica Chávez Jaime

September 2014