Mexico City

The End at Estudio 71

The two-year residency program of Estudio 71, organized by the artist Berta Kolteniuk in collaboration with Sinagoga Histórica, culminates in the exhibition The End. A show like this one, based on the work resulting from several artist residencies, runs the risk of lacking curatorial direction, and indeed the work on display does not immediately convey any aesthetic or conceptual unity. It includes everything from representational paintings and drawings to installations and sound art. Likewise, none of the individual artists’ themes cohere around any one idea; the works address everything from violence to landscapes. But it does not feel haphazard, but rather vibrant and exciting. As the viewer moves through the show, it becomes clear that this success hinges on the relationship between the building and the artists.

Victor del Moral. (d) Es: truccion, tructura, critura (fragmento 5), 2015; installation. Variable dimensions. Courtesy of the artist and Estudio 71, Mexico City. Photo: Jorge Gomez del Campo.

Víctor del Moral. (d) Es: truccion, tructura, critura (fragmento 5), 2015; installation; dimensions variable. Courtesy of the Artist and Estudio 71, Mexico City. Photo: Jorge Gomez del Campo.

The studio and exhibition program have revitalized an abandoned historic building in downtown Mexico City, but the organizers have left the structure minimally restored. Large and small holes pepper the ceilings, and aged paint and plaster chip off of the walls. Some of the works play literally with this relationship. The installation (d) Es: trucción, tructura, critura (fragmento 5) (2015) by Víctor del Moral intervenes directly on the cracked and stained surfaces of the gallery’s two floors. Part of it uses a material that looks similar to the vinyl lettering used in trade shows. Despite the dramatic physical difference between the artist’s marks and the worn surfaces, the artist manages to blend his work with the building. Similarly, in other fragments of the installation, the artist places subtly modified sheet-metal wall studs throughout. These barely altered construction supplies blend with the rough and crumbling old building, and appear like leftovers of an abandoned remodel. Del Moral emphasizes that the work of art always exists in relation to its context.

Sofia Echeverri. Traductor de sospechas, 2015; graphite on paper; no dimensions. Courtesy of the artist and Estudio 71, Mexico City. Photo: Jorge Gomez del Campo.

Sofía Echeverri. Traductor de Sospechas, 2015; graphite on paper. Courtesy of the Artist and Estudio 71, Mexico City. Photo: Jorge Gomez del Campo.

Some of the artists interact with the space in more subtle ways. On the second floor, the dilapidated building inspires a series of representational drawings by Sofía Echeverri. The artist takes the shapes of cracks and stains and transforms them into small drawings of figurative and fantastic creatures. Without insider knowledge, a viewer could easily miss these origins, emphasizing that art has a relationship to its environment, even when the work itself minimizes it.

Diego Narvaez. Glacier, 2013; oil on canvas; no dimensions. Courtesy of the artist and Estudio 71, Mexico City. Photo: Jorge Gomez del Campo.

Diego Narváez. Glacier, 2013; oil on canvas. Courtesy of the Artist and Estudio 71, Mexico City. Photo: Jorge Gomez del Campo.

Some work in the show explores this connection in unintentional or unconscious ways. A large-format painting by the artist Diego Narváez, Glacier (2013), reflects the character of the space. In the hermetic cube of a traditional gallery, the painting might signify very differently, but here the layering, color, and marks interact with similar features on the opposite wall. Several paintings by Guillermo Santamarina also seem to either refer to, or be influenced by, the location. These works use a variety of painting and printing techniques on plastic fabrics reminiscent of tablecloths. The marks are layered, fragmented, and incomplete, mimicking the gallery’s floors and walls. It appears that the space has such a powerful presence that artists cannot avoid its influence.

Yann Gerstberger. Untitled, 2015; cotton thread on vinyl tarp; no dimensions. Courtesy of the artist and Estudio 71, Mexico City. Photo: Jorge Gomez del Campo.

Yann Gerstberger. Untitled, 2015; cotton thread on vinyl tarp. Courtesy of the Artist and Estudio 71, Mexico City. Photo: Jorge Gomez del Campo.

Similarly, the stunning large-format works by Yann Gerstberger reflect (or re-create) the aesthetic of this crumbling old building. The artist mixes materials and forms to create patchworks of colors and textures that appear to result organically from the artist’s process. While these new pieces do not diverge dramatically from the artist’s previous work, they do display a less ludic, moodier quality, suggesting the influence of the processes of decay and renewal apparent in the gallery.

The End functions on many levels: It emphasizes how art is responsive to its environment—sometimes even accidentally—and it shows how the context of the work of art must be considered as part of its interpretation. It also reminds the viewer of the way that art can be used to creatively transform physical and social relationships. This blurring of the border between art and life makes for exciting and inspiring work that can lead viewers to see their surroundings differently.

The End is on view at Estudio 71 in Mexico City through March 5, 2016.

 

 

 

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