In Memoriam: Felipe Ehrenberg
Conceptual artist Felipe Ehrenberg passed away in May 2017 at the age of 73. Born in Mexico City in 1943, Ehrenberg began his career as an editor before progressing into graphic, and then fine, arts. He developed his talent under the mentorship of established artists such as muralist José Chavéz Morado, sculptor Mathias Goeritz, and painter/sculptor Feliciano Béjar. He also continued to foster a passion for creative expression through the written word, even going so far to self-identify as a neologist rather than an artist.
Political unrest led Ehrenberg to relocate his family to England in 1968. Ehrenberg brought with him a strong anti-war sensibility, which he contributed to the British art scene. The memorable Fluxus movement of the 1960s and ’70s grew with Ehrenberg’s influence, as he and other progressive artists sought to question and blur the boundaries between art and life. Ehrenberg was well known for taking art out of the familiar context of the gallery space, and bringing it into everyday objects and actions. “It was a time of questioning,” he stated, adding that “the art object did not have to be a work of art.” Along with his wife, Martha Hellion, and artist David Mayor Ehrenberg, Ehrenberg went on to co-found Beau Geste Press, which served as a voice for the Fluxus movement.
Upon his return to Mexico in 1974, Ehrenberg joined los grupos, an artist-driven sociopolitical movement that represented rebellion against oppressive government forces. Their work manifested itself in city streets, as signs, posters, and demonstrations. He received the prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship in 1975.
A series of devastating earthquakes in Mexico in the 1980s led Ehrenberg to work tirelessly on relief efforts for their victims and their homes. In 1987, he was honored with the Roque Dalton del Consejo de Cooperación con la Cultura y la Ciencia en El Salvador (CONCISES) medal for his service. As he continued to receive acclaim for his work, Ehrenberg spent much of the 1990s traveling to present commissioned art pieces. Ehrenberg also served as a cultural attache for his home nation in conjunction with Brazil, from 2001 to 2006. In 2008, Ehrenberg was the subject of a museum retrospective at the Museo de Arte Moderno Mexico in Mexico City.
Ehrenberg returned to Mexico in 2014, and continued to use art as a platform for political activism in his later years. He expressed a theme of hope for unity, saying, “Art is about linking people up, no two ways about it.”