I was first exposed to the work of Bob Rob Medina’s (former head of Donut Crew Records) when I reviewed a book that he co-authored with Sonny Kay called Colorado Crew: Denvoid Part 2 (Razorcake 115). Colorado Crew was impossibly gigantic and looked fantastic from cover to cover. I was stoked when Medina’s full-on art book showed up in my review materials for this issue. Unsurprisingly, Y Con Tu Espíritu: Palabras y Muertitos (Translation: “And With Your Spirit: Words and Little Deaths”) is visually stunning, but it’s the depth of the content that really strikes a nerve. As Medinaswitches out between paintings, linocuts, and personal writing, the effect of the combined media is stirring and makes Y Con Tu Espíritu impossible to put down.
The first chapter of Medina’s book is undeniably heavy: a series of paintings dealing with depression and suicide, with a few pages of writing mixed in. Personal tragedy is at the center of the story, as the artist deals with mental illness and the suicide of a partner. The paintings are a deluge of emotion, and they are as dark as you might imagine. Medina describes this series as part of a healing process.
Another stand-out chapter of Y Con Tu Espíritu is Medina’s“Stations of the Cross” linocut set. As in the other linocut pieces, the captivating skeletal characters (I believe these are the Muertitos referenced in the book’s title) and the overall style are reminiscent of traditional Mexican Day of the Dead art. The prints are flawless and striking. The bold solid colors, influenced by Media’s time in Mexico, and the sharp black outlines make the prints seem to defy the paper they are printed on. Each of the fifteen “Stations” (fourteen plus “The Resurrection”) is accompanied by a few paragraphs explaining the root of the image and its significance to the author.
A chunk of the text (and art) in Y Con Tu Espíritu is related to Medina’s personal Christian faith. This might be a deal killer for some. However, Medina explains his faith as being purely personal—maybe even something that he himself does not entirely understand. He never comes close to being preachy or dogmatic.
Throughout Y Con Tu Espíritu, Medina hints at a return to tradition, especially in the Muertitos linocuts and his explanation of his humble religious beliefs. Although there are undeniable traditional factors at play, the author appears to continue moving forward—personally and artistically—in the face of all obstacles. It is a delicate balance, but the payoff is pure gold: In Y Con Tu Espíritu: Palabras y Muertitos, Bob Rob Medina merges tradition with innovation and drives it all through multiple forms of media to create an art book that is as poignant and stimulating as it is visually gratifying. –Buddha (Wake Up! Music, wakeupmusicgroup.com)