May 17, 2017

Felipe Ehrenberg, artist, educator, publisher, writer, activist and friend to the Stanford University Libraries, dies

Felipe Ehrenberg.  Photo courtesy of Benjamín Alcántara

Felipe Ehrenberg, internationally-known multimedia artist, educator, publisher, writer, activist and friend to the Stanford University Libraries, has died of cancer in Cuernavaca, Mexico at the age of 73.

Ehrenberg, born in Mexico City in 1943, and a proponent of art as a key element for social transformation, passed away on May 15, 2017.   His archive is held by the Department of Special Collections at the Stanford University Libraries. An exhibition of his archive, curated by myself, took place at Green Library in 2003; an illustrated exhibition catalogue was published in conjunction with the exhibition.

Ehrenberg's work was provocative and evaded easy categorization. One of his earliest innovations was his co-founding of the Beau Geste Press (also known as Libro Acción Libre) in England in 1968. The Press focused on the production of concrete poets, conceptual artists, neo-Dadaists and artists working in other experimental forms. His involvement with Beau Geste coincided with his participation in the international avant-garde artists’ group Fluxus. Ehrenberg believed in the integration of political/humanitarian/indigenous rights activism and art, and took part in significant artists’ collectives in Mexico, notably the grupos (groups) movement of the 1970s, and helped to establish independent, artist/worker run presses in Mexico and Nicaragua in the 1970s and 1980s. His artists’ books (also known as book-objects) incorporated collage and three-dimensional/sculptural elements, in addition to drawings and prints. Ehrenberg created works of installation art resulting in visceral, immersive environments, his performance art pieces provided an unflinching look at U.S.-Mexico border politics in the age of the NAFTA, and his works on paper from the early 1990s treated the theme of violence in Latin America. Starting from the late 1990s, Ehrenberg used the Internet as a site for online exhibitions and in 2003, he became Mexico’s cultural attaché to Brazil, a post he held until 2006. A retrospective of his work, Manchuria: Visión Periférica Felipe Ehrenberg took place at the Museo de Arte Moderno in Mexico City in 2008. A current exhibit at Bordeaux, France explores his pivotal role with Beau Geste Press.

A note about the archive: the Felipe Ehrenberg Papers, acquired by the Department of Special Collections, Stanford University Libraries in 2000–2001, span the period 1964–2000 and consist of 52.5 linear feet of correspondence, photographs, artists’ books, newspaper clippings, sketches, financial records, etc. 

Felipe Ehrenberg photo courtesy of Benjamín Alcántara (c).