Spring 2007

Down Mexico Way

Mexican Blackletter

By Cristina Paoli.
Mark Batty Publisher, USD24.95

This hefty book examines the vernacular usage of the blackletter typeface in Mexico, attempting, ‘with numerous, colourful and varied photographs’ to ‘establish why Blackletter is popular in Mexico, and why this popularity reveals the essence of the culture.’ The result is an enthusiastic and exuberant, if somewhat flawed and occasionally repetitive, exploration of Mexican folk graphics.

Sadly, lacking the elegance and self-sufficiency of the work of Ed Fella or Martin Parr, or a more rigorous analytical structure, the book does not function fully either as a photographic account or as archival record, leaving the text looking like a conjectural and extraneous justification. The methodologies employed to understand and deconstruct the vernacular usage and adaptations of the letterforms and their semiotics are at times clumsy, unsupported or confusing. The photographs, without a coherent thesis with which to understand or organise them, seem at times a little unconsidered.

The book is clearly the product of a heartfelt affection for the subject, but the very transience and fragility of the subject matter deserves to be recorded in a more scientific fashion. To this end the book would have had more validity if more time had been dedicated to researching and recording the time, location, provenance and context of the signage, allowing the images to speak for themselves and leaving the reader with the tools to draw their own conclusions.

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