Above, several members of the Mexico City art collective Cráter Invertido at their studio space, October 2012. I profile the group, along with a variety of other exciting artist-run spaces currently operating in D.F., in the March 2013 issue of Art in America magazine, part of their series of "Atlas" columns from different art capitals.
An excerpt from the piece, in time for this week's energy around Zona MACO:
At a warehouse on a nondescript street in an old semi-industrial neighborhood near downtown, 14 artists have joined forces in a "collective of collectives" calling itself Crater Invertido. The name evokes the twin volcanoes that loom in the distance as well as an explosive inversion of the art pyramid. Most of its artists are recent graduates of one of the national art schools, La Esmeralda, where the group first took shape by organizing “happenings” in response to the institution’s deficiencies. Crater Invertido is now a politically sharp, process-based collective. Several members were active in the spring 2012 protest movement known as #YoSoy132, a grassroots democracy effort aimed at preventing the restoration of the old political regime.
"There was a constant interest in maintaining some type of cooperative. But we actually started seeing each other less, working less, because so much was going on politically in the country," remarks Crater Invertido artist Juan Caloca. "We kept asking ourselves what we could do, beyond purely symbolic actions, to generate something constructive in the long term."
#YoSoy132 was an electric moment for the opposition in Mexico, but the old regime won the election anyway. The movement eventually suffered a symbolic cooption by one of its sworn enemies when the media giant Televisa announced that prominent former members of #YoSoy132 were joining one of its programs as on-air panelists. On the October day that the news broke, members of the Crater Invertido shrugged it off and were busy at work, hunched over tables finishing a joint assemblage project called "Container of Volcanic Ash." There was still beer left over from the space’s most recent live-music event.
While reporting this piece, I interviewed Jose Kuri, co-director of kurimanzutto gallery, about the growth in independent art spaces in the city. He recalled a similar movement a generation ago.
"That’s why the artist-run spaces were there, where they could bounce off ideas, connect with other artists, experiment," Kuri told me. "That's why they had the artist-run spaces like the Panaderia, a place to meet people, to hang around, to go see a band to play."
"You don’t want only galleries, the commercial side of it. You want these other places, where [young artists] can show without the pressure of the galleries and without the pressure of the market," added Kuri.
* Above, members of the collective and space Neter, in San Pedro de los Pinos, Nov. 2012. Left to right: artists Marcos Castro, Alejandro García Contreras, and Jimena Schlaepfer.
Kuri and Monica Manzutto show many artists who started out in the important spaces of the 1990s -- Abraham Cruzvillegas (who has a great "Autoconstrucción" up right now at the Eco), Miguel Calderón, Gabriel Kuri, Gabriel Orozco, and more.
On Saturday, Orozco could possibly grab the highlight of D.F.'s annual spring "art week" based around Zona MACO, the city's major art fair. He's opening a solo show at the kurimanzutto's space in San Miguel Chapultepec, his first at his Mexico "home" since 2009, and I believe his first new work on display since Orozco's conquest of New York.
It is a stirring work, and I felt fortunate to have seen it. Here's an excerpt from that piece:
In late June, just before Mexico's July 1 presidential election, the pieces of a demolished house from a cookie-cutter development in Ciudad Juárez on the U.S.-Mexico border arrived as pulverized rubble at the Museo Universitario de Arte Contemporáneo, on the campus of the national university in Mexico City. To create a site-specific installation, artist Teresa Margolles had the broken bits softened with water. The mass was then cemented in the form of a long gray mound stretching from one corner of the cavernous gallery space to the other.
Week after week since, volunteer participants have sat down for an hour each day and chipped away at the form, in silence. Bits of the abandoned house from violence-ravaged Ciudad Juárez have consequently spread over the whole of the gallery floor, creating a blanket of pale gray-brown debris. The installation is called La Promesa (The Promise), although Margolles said at the official opening in October that it is a distinctly "pessimistic piece."
Militarization, killing squads, kidnappings and mass executions have brought much of northern Mexico to its knees after almost six years of the drug war launched by the current government. Ciudad Juárez, across the Rio Grande from El Paso, is a symbol of the failures and atrocities that pervade the conflict. Once a promised land of globalization’s future benefits, Juarez is now known worldwide as “murder city,” a place where more than 9,000 people have died in fighting between (and among) the cartels and the government.
As a result, Margolles notes, some 115,000 houses, many in planned pop-up communities that never fulfilled their publicized potential, were left abandoned or unoccupied by juarenses fleeing threats or outright violence. "The promise is the one . . . made to the people, the one they made to us, to them," Margolles said, gesturing toward a group of high school art students who waited to greet her at the opening. "It is a failed promise, a failed country, a broken country."
Here's a snapshot from that exhibit.
As for MACO ... What to expect this week? The fair opens at the Banamex center on the far west-side on Wednesday, but there's a bunch of stuff happening all around it. I'll have recommendations.
* More soon ...