Mexico City…for the first time.
While I didn’t party as hard as this guy, I did find myself in a place even more amazing than I could have imagined. The city is gorgeous, the people are friendly, and I got to eat delicious street food like this:
I went to SOMA (not an acronym) headquarters to see a lecture about Demasiado Futuro, the thesis exhibition of the first generation of artists to complete its academic program. Turns out I was in the wrong spot, so I jumped in the car with Ana María Sánchez, SOMA’s Events and Residency Coordinator and Cristóbal Gracia, a recent graduate, who told me about the program as we inched through the treacherous Mexico City traffic.
SOMA is not affiliated with a university, nor is it officially accredited, which allows it the freedom to pursue alternative modes for learning and collaboration. Along with their academic program, SOMA also hosts artist residencies, an international summer program (held in English), and a free weekly public lecture series (“Miércoles de SOMA”). The Demasiado Futuro exhibition demonstrates SOMA’s uniqueness; I’m about to finish my own MFA program at UH, which could benefit from the type of experimentation and interdisciplinarity I saw in the SOMA’s show’s 20 artists. The work that they are doing is crucial inside and outside of the Distrito Federal.
Matt Mullican’s that world/ese mundo at the Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo totally blew my wig off. Mullican explores the nature of reality via images, systematically collecting and arranging symbols, patterns, colors, and maps on mini and massive scales. Mullican’s works compose and confound visual cosmologies that are intuitive but informative, familiar but elusive. He says: “It’s not the world that you see, it’s the world that I see representing the world that you see.” The show contains over 60 of Mullican’s drawings, videos, sculptures, notebooks, and installations from the past four decades. You can find a great PDF about that world/ese mundo en español here. This show is one of the best things I have seen, and merits multiple visits.
Pablo Rasgado makes an especially poignant investigation at Galería OMR, which sprawls over two sumptuous Colonial-era apartments overlooking Colonia Roma‘s Plaza Río de Janeiro. Portions of the elegant walls and ceilings are blasted out as if they’ve been hit with shrapnel from a suicide bomber. Sand impressions of body parts and ancient architectural forms are set across a chest-level platform. In an adjacent salon, stacks of rocks, debris and dirt are piled as remnants of something between conjuring and destruction. Rasgado’s work is simultaneously heavy and light, corporeal and ethereal, and requires an investment in time to take shape.When no one was looking, I picked a slim paper booklet out of one of the piles; it contained a thoughtful essay about the exhibition by Willy Kautz, curator of the Museo Tamayo. The richness of Kautz’s writing mirrors the slow unfurling of meaning in the show itself.
In the other OMR gallery building, Ryan Brown’s paintings look like blown-up, bent pages of a Malevich-flavored art history text. I was less taken by Brown’s slick play of artifice and aesthetics.
There’s something in the ether right now about making art from potted plants. (I’m not complaining; I’m tempted to make potted plant art all the dang time!) Marco Rountree Cruz’s show at Proyecto Paralelo is an interesting mix of two- and three-dimensional pieces. While some of the work is a little too hip, his collage suites are executed with extreme sensitivity to their form and material. Like Rasgado, Rountree Cruz meditates on ideas of memory and civilization in these small pieces, some made from his own black-and-white family photos. The pieces were beautiful, but the fact that Rountree Cruz would forever alter his own family history was distressing to me.
Mexico City is buzzing with energy, and its creative citizens are busy taking chances and negotiating life and history there. Gutsy artists within Mexico and from other parts of the world are opening galleries like LODOS Contemporáneo and NO Space in unconventional places. CAIN, a new bimonthly print and online magazine, features reviews of exhibitions at UNAM’s Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo, el Museo Experimental El Eco, Sala de Arte Publico Siqueiros, and other museums focusing on international contemporary art. It’s exciting to see that so many creative opportunities exist for young artists and writers in this dynamic setting.