Five Memorable Moments from the Material Art Fair in Mexico City

by Bryan Rindfuss February 13, 2023

Feria Material, known familiarly as simply Material, is significantly smaller and younger than the behemoth that is Zona Maco. While its manageable size makes it fairly easy to tackle, its youthful irreverence and DIY spirit make it unpredictable and anything but dull. The work can be provocative, the gallerists aloof, and the crowd tragically hip. Ironically, all of those factors can go down like a palate cleanser after the commercialized feast of Zona Maco. Perhaps unsurprisingly, discovery abounds here.

As Artnet pointed out in 2018, Material has become something of a stomping ground for collectors scouting for emerging artists. Hosted by the mid-sized convention center Expo Reforma and on view through Sunday, February 12, Material’s ninth outing united 67 exhibitors from 15 countries and served as an introduction to the new Todo-Mundo Art Book Fair. During our second stop during Art Week Mexico City, we identified five standouts that echo Material’s motto of “¡Arte, qué rico!”

A collection of brightly colored zines and prints sit on shelves and a table top.

OMG Press at the Todo-Mundo Art Book Fair

OMG Press at Todo-Mundo Art Book Fair

Organized by the Terremoto offshoot Temblores Publicaciones as part of the Reading Material section, the Todo-Mundo Art Book Fair brings together more than a dozen independent imprints from Mexico and beyond. Based between Brooklyn and the Mexico City borough of Tlalpan, OMG Press specializes in prints, zines, art books, and NFTs that “center around pop culture with themes that often revolve around the queer experience.” Among the printed curiosities up for grabs at OMG’s colorful table are Zebadiah Keneally’s spiral-bound project American Boredom, Mirel Fraga’s richly saturated Somos Naturaleza and other releases from Oaxaca-based Polvoh Press, and Abraham Mascorro’s Ars Pokénatura, which is billed as “the first volume of a more complex encyclopedia about Pokémon across time and space.”

A creepy, mask-looking face, with blue skin and bearing teeth, sits in the corner of an art fair booth.

Work by Paloma Contreras at Pequod Co.’s booth

Paloma Contreras at Pequod Co. (Mexico City)

Working between sculpture, drawing, performance, video, and installation, Mexico City-based Paloma Contreras explores issues such as gender, politics, violence, and post-colonialism. Comical but incredibly dark, her pieces often place recognizable characters — Pikachu and Bugs Bunny among them — in a nightmarish context. A menacing presence commanding attention from the Pequod Co. booth at Material, her large-scale sculpture Puro Pajaro Nalgón employs a giant blue head — outfitted with floppy ears, acid-yellow eyes, and gold teeth — to jab at corrupt politicos. Beyond her work as an independent artist, Contreras is an integral part of the edgy multidisciplinary collective Biquini Wax.

A dog-looking figure stands in a feezer.

Work by Andrea Ferrero at Revolver Galería’s booth

Andrea Ferrero at Revolver Galería (Lima, Buenos Aires, New York)

How much for the white chocolate lion? And does it come with the refrigerator? Although no one asked that question during our visit to Revolver Galería’s booth at Material, it was surely on the minds of a few. Part of a series by Mexico City-based Peruvian artist Andrea Ferrero that explores “‘powerful’ ornamental architecture in an attempt to reflect on how public spaces are marked by symbols of power and domination, and how we can reappropriate and resignify them,” the refrigerated — and edible — sculpture Disguises of Power is complemented by stainless steel trays of white chocolate shards the gallery was selling by weight — at the rate of $200 MXN (roughly $10 USD) for 100 grams.

A silver art object sits on a pedestal. The piece looks like an open bag, with ornate metalwork.

Work by Georgina Treviño at Embajada’s booth

Georgina Treviño at Embajada (Puerto Rico)

Born in Tijuana and based in San Diego, artist Georgina Treviño pushes contemporary jewelry into unexpected territory. A fast-rising talent who’s collaborated with global brands and A-list celebs — Nike, Fenty, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Bad Bunny among them — Treviño created her sterling silver Ricas Carnitas purse as part of a Los Angeles Times commission. Given creative freedom to explore the concept of clarity, Treviño opted to address the erasure of more than 1,500 rótulos — hand-painted signs on Mexico City food carts — in conjunction with a neighborhood “beautification” project Cuauhtémoc Mayor Sandra Cuevas launched last year. Directly inspired by the crude yet joyful images and wonky fonts found on rótulos, Treviño created a maximalist and decidedly impractical handbag emblazoned with Tweety Bird, Pikachu, Lisa Simpson, a dolphin, a cowboy boot, the Playboy logo, and an ear adorned with earrings. (In Treviño’s world, even the accessories are accessorized.) “It’s such a personal, special piece,” Treviño told me about the purse, which she luckily got to keep after it was photographed for the Times.

A blue, circular object reads "Caution" in white letters, and shows outlines of a man, a woman, and a child running.

Work by Melanio Zapata at Licenciado’s booth

Melanio Zapata at Licenciado (Mexico City)

Multimedia artist Melanio Zapata was born in Arizona to undocumented Mexican immigrant parents who were deported in 2012. That same year, Zapata departed the U.S. and launched his artistic practice in Culiacán, Sinaloa. With sculpture, drawing, painting, and installation among his mediums of choice, Zapata often explores themes surrounding politics, cultural identity, and immigration. The first in a series of works modeled after bottle caps, his 2020 fiberglass piece Viento places the fleeing family from the so-called immigration sign — once a mainstay on thoroughfares near the U.S.-Mexico border — atop a sparsely clouded blue sky. As Mexico City gallery Licenciado points out in its notes about Viento, Zapata finds the sign particularly disturbing since its purpose is to protect drivers rather than the “‘wild human obstacles’ that might unexpectedly cross the road.”


Click here to see our coverage of the 2023 Zona Maco Art Fair. Click here to see our coverage of the 2023 Salon Acme Art Fair.

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