Manuel Cruz Prudencio
Oaxacan wood carving—using a smooth wood called copal—dates back to pre-Hispanic times, when the ancestors of artisans like Manuel made wood carvings for practical use. With the arrival of the Spanish, Catholic symbolism began to be incorporated into items whose purpose had religious meaning as well as ancient, indigenous relevance. In the late 20th century, a tradition of alebrijes emerged, depicting a menagerie of fantastical beasts with gorgeous surface patterns and expressive forms. Manuel’s skillful and inventive work with in the alebrije tradition is an expression of both its popularity and its relevance.