The artist must cast off the last rags of romanticism and become active as a man among men,
well up in present-day techniques, materials and working methods.
– Bruno Munari
Design as art, Penguin Books, 1971
In 1959 Bruno Munari produced his first cardboard travel sculpture, and immediately claimed that its place ought to be “in a suitcase”, packed together with the “razor and underwear”. This object, essential, light, serial, encompasses characteristics that have remained at the core of his practice since then. It is a game, because it sparks curiosity and it’s fun; it is kinetic, as it shifts from folded paper to three-dimensional object with a movement that explores the fourth and fifth dimensions; It is an example of industrial production applied to art in order to make it useful and concrete.
Munari endlessly looked to move beyond the rigid compartmentalization of art and design, art and life, towards a balance that was reached “when the objects we use every day and the environment in which we live become themselves works of art”. His pieces function as playful exercises to train the mind without abusing it. They correspond to a non-intimating way of making art that requires human intervention and thus can lead to the opening of new possibilities.
In Escultura de viaje[Travel Sculpture], Colombian artist Mateo López proposes a very personal approach to Munari’s pieces that span 30 years of his creative production.
Upon entering the gallery’s lower ground, we encounter a modular aluminium sculpture – Laberinto Concreto– whose shape and size are susceptible of transformation in the space over time. Initially rendered in drawing, Mateo López’s sculptures aremodular. They have a scaled proportion in relation with the human body, they are modest and anti-monumental, and exist as ephemeral architecture.
In the first and second floors of the gallery we find Munari’s model experiments –Struttura Continua,Flexi and hisMacchina Inutile – conversing with Mateo López’s artworks – Ratonera, Bold (Dice) or Truth (level). Just as the travel sculptures, Lopez’s works are collapsible, transportable and light for handling. They conveyboth Munari and López’s love ofchildren’s games, humor and inventiveness.
Mateo López often assimilates Munari’s kinesthetic pedagogy in his pieces. In Time as activity— a three channel installation combining video, animation and stop-motion — he recreates the environment of work in the studio. Reflecting those moments of fragmentation, it also incorporates sounds that, modified in the way of Musique Concrète, are reminiscent of the latency of mechanical work.
Munari was deeply interested in the issue of industrial production, always looking to intervene in everyday reality. This was palpable mainly in his machines, first ‘aerial’, then ‘useless’, based on the idea that the democratization of tools was far more important than the adulation of authorship. His machines “are useless because they do not make anything, they do not eliminate labor, they do not save time and money, and they do not produce commodities. They are nothing but mobile objects […] to look at in the way one looks at a drifting group of clouds after spending seven hours inside a factory full of useful machines”.
In this way, his Multiplesare two or more-dimensional objects designed to be produced in a limited or unlimited number of specimens, with the aim of visually communicating a new piece of aesthetic information to a vast, undifferentiated public.
Munari’s compositions Negativi Positivi, scattered on the walls of the gallery, are concrete artworks. Each of the parts of which they are made of is autonomous, there is no part that serves as a background to the others, but all together they make up the image. The positions of each of the parts are interchangeable. Their essence lies in the fact that form and color are used not to represent something else, but to show their greatest expressive potential.
When we arrive at the last floor of the exhibition, we are greeted by Munari’s Autoritrattocreated with Xexox technology. When he first started using it in 1963, Munari immediately recognized the potential of the machine as a widely accessible art making tool. What he called ‘copies’ or ‘multiples’ were in fact not copies at all, they were originals, one-time records of a particular arrangement at a particular time. The result of a tool engineered for mechanical reproduction, repurposed as a means of production. This highlights the fact that with his activity, he was aiming not at breaking with the codes, but rather at exploring their limits. His self-portrait thus shows his use of irony and chance with a constant experimentation with new technologies and materials.
Facing Munari’s series of drawings with which he researched into the human face –Viso Antenati 2, 5 and6– are López’sTheoretical reconstructions of imaginary objects, named after Munari’s collages and which are part of a performative gesture in his recent plastic research, in which López recycles and edits materials and ideas that go from one project to another.
Parallelly to the exhibition, Mateo López has collaborated with Mexican public art producers Ruta del Castor and presents the sculpture Pabellón[Pavilion]at Glorieta Insurgentes during the opening week. With it he references Bruno Munari’s historical piece Abitacolofrom 1971, which proposes to be a rest unit, a bed to sleep, a desk, a bookcase, a table, a source of lighting, a space for play, recreation and fantasy.
Ultimately what defines and unites the forms and elements used by Mateo López and Bruno Munari is that there is not a beginning or an end, an inside and an outside, but rather these coexist fluidly away from absolute categorizations. This means that each piece is in constant creation depending on the interaction with the individual. Therefore, the work remains in a swing of possibilities.
Their practices are imbued with a great deal of imagination, a trait they study, develop and contemplate as the instrument that may ultimately trigger a change in our behavior and thought as human beings.
El primer fuego
El primer fuego is an exhibition that replicates the material and relational ecosystem that has emerged at Jose Dávila’s studio throughout several years of constant and continuous production. Taking advantage of the geographical proximity between the studio and the exhibition space, the gallery has been transformed into a work space and functions as a reflection of the procedures that precede the consolidation of Dávila’s sculptural work.
The exhibition presents different moments that take place between the selection of raw materials and the conclusion of sculptural objects. This highlights the importance of the interrelation between objects which is channelized by the artist in order to generate structural systems of dependence. This sort of objectual reliance is characterized by the borrowing and exchange of qualities between contrasting materials in order to assure a certain degree of balance and permanence. The creation of these hybrid circuits implies a cyclical understanding of the transformation of matter. A fluctuating motion between self-preservation and disintegration.
The central piece within the exhibition represents a return to an early work by Dávila which was exhibited in 1999 at the Museo de las Artes de Guadalajara. The recreation of this work involves a small bonfire which is lighted intermittently inside the gallery space, the fire is surrounded by piles of logs witnessing the ignition process and awaiting as potential fuel. The metal tray that works as a platform for activating the bonfire operates as a liminal space where matter is forced to undergo a transformation process. Dávila’s minimal gesture presents fire as an autonomous symbol, referencing the notion of origin and the primitive; this sort of raw energy is able to reconfigure the reality of things and unveil the internal dynamics that are concealed within objects.
As a prelude, the bonfire is preceded by a couple of sculptures that work as mirrored counterweights. A raw stone is fastened to an industrial pulley which is fixed to the ceiling; this heavy object is faced by an apple made of bronze which remains suspended in the air. These two elements are part of Dávila’s recurring sculptural vocabulary; the apple is a recognizable reminder of the effects of the force of gravity. These compositional formats are continued in the next room where a group of metal barrels are affixed to the wall, making a pyramidal shape. The sequence of works generates a tangible rhythm that suggest the prevalence of a certain order. The ratchet straps, cables and chains that Dávila uses to connect objects function as forms of mediation and construct a structural itinerary. The trajectories between objects reconfigure the spatial experience of the gallery, dialoguing with its architectural disposition, modifying and dislocating the displacement dynamics that take place there.
The intuition of a certain order is interrupted abruptly by a chaotic accumulation of raw materials in the adjacent rooms. Concrete volumes, rocks, marble slabs, acrylic plates, fragments of wood and other construction materials occupy the entire room. This installation is a glance at the objects that inhabit the studio; and it is also a draft of Dávila’s work ethic that is characterized by the intuition of a series of possible interactions between objects. Since most of these objects are normally used as construction elements, these implies the suggestion of practical associations. Dávila does not reduces the interaction between objects to these practical terms, rather he is inclined to intertwine these elements through a poetic resonance that could attribute them with autonomy. The coexistence of these lithic bodies and industrial objects in the studio is what enables the appearance of these possible connections that are characterized to be more organic rather than an imposition from a predetermined conception of the sculptural. The circulation of these material presences in the exhibition culminates with a work that shows a tilted metallic cabinet being balanced out by a mound of coal. The relation between both objects arises as something mainly chromatic, adding a pictorial dimension to the sculptural object, but it also highlights the cyclic configuration of the whole exhibition: a circle that unfolds into itself towards infinity, intermittently raging from the human, constructed world to the unaltered configuration of raw matter.
Ofrenda (“Offering”) is the title chosen by the Brazilian artist Ana Prata for her exhibition in the Guadalajara space of Travesía Cuatro. She has converted the gallery’s Project Room into a small temple where a group of paintings are arranged around a mural made to present the gifts. For the artist, painting can be understood as the materialization of a desire, as well as an offering, which is always a feeling materialized in an object. Her gifts are still lifes of fruits, bowls and trays that appear cut from the landscape. An interior landscape that is hardly insinuated as it is not used as a resource of reality or context, on the contrary, it confronts us with a lyrical and symbolic dialogue with the domestic.
These works are related to the modernist repertoire in a way that is neither reverential nor nostalgic, rather Prata seems to probe it as if she were an archaeologist, borrowing and distorting hieroglyphs to assimilate them into the conversation on contemporary painting. Among her references she quotes the Brazilian artists Tarsila do Amaral, her colorist figuration and radical modernity in terms of form, as well as Eleonore Koch and Alfredo Volpi, from whom she has inherited an apparently static spatial structure, even half empty, but which incorporates transparencies that give an atmospheric, solar and light effect. The result are optically dynamic images, a work that flirts with the decorative arts and graphism. With the use of bright and contradictory colors, whose beauty, which seems simple at first, hides a subtle complexity that breathes freshness, freedom and humor.
Featuring works by Vivian Suter, Tania Pérez Córdova, Álvaro Urbano, Samara Scott, Lucía Bayón, Sara Ramo and Korakrit Arunanondchai.
Curators: Luis Berenguer and Claudia Llanza
The Earth’s surface, also called “the crust”, is composed by minerals – mostly oxygen, silicon, aluminum, iron, calcium and magnesium –. Nowadays, it is also covered by large amounts of asphalt and plastic debris, considered as “new minerals” by some geologists, as well as a carbon and atomic layer, almost imperceptible to the eye. The surface is also the outcome of all living beings’ interactions with it. It presents a mosaic of numerous types of landscapes, reflecting both the ‘natural environment’ and the cultural diversity of humans, who dwell and coexist in the world differently, in terms of agriculture, architecture, technology and belief systems. However, humans are not the sole important actors; the inhabitants of the world are creatures and entities of all kinds, and all of their stories are contributing to form our present.
This exhibition started with the idea of applying an archaeological gaze and methodology to the present. Our present is not fixed or inevitable, it is still in the process of becoming. Thus, an archaeology in and of the present should be concerned about the study of contemporary objects and beings which are still actively operating and are part of the assemblage on the surface of the world. Archaeology has been consistently associated with a series of concepts – excavation, stratigraphy and the search for origins. However, a recurring trend in contemporary archaeology is looking to reorient the discipline by studying the surface, through a process of assembling the different material remains, which could belong to humans and non-humans as well as to different time periods. This current of thought rejects the Anthropocene as the term defining our era, which blames all humans equally for a specific effect of modernity and capitalism.
The curatorial discourse is constructed from an expansion and hybridization of this archaeological methodology to think of the present as a physical stratum containing many simultaneous and overlapping presents, rejecting a unilinear notion of history. The artists resemble archaeologists, they meet objects, molecules, beings and languages. They shake up our understanding of the present, by bringing the unseen into the surface. Emulating this heterogeneous present, the works in the exhibition space compose a fragmented ecosystem where we perceive a clutter of times and things, memories and materialities.
To study the surface means to recognize the agency of both humans and non-humans, and their place as generators of new pasts and futures in the present, a fiction capable of asking new questions, shaking up our understanding of our place in the world and creating opportunities to come together and re-write history from new perspectives.
Vivian Suter (b. 1949, Buenos Aires) actively invites the elements that surround her home and studio in Panajachel, Guatemala, into her practice, letting her untreated canvases absorb traces from climatic and volcanic phenomena, passing animals, plant matter and eroded dirt. An iterrumpted hierarchy which places the components of her studio on equal footing with the biological world.
The sublime alchemical collages of Samara Scott (b. 1985, London) include organic, manufactured and digital materials smashed behind a plexiglass screen. The colorful and glossy surface immediately attracts our consumerist eye to unveil a sordid truth, that this toxic assemblage is likely to become our stratigraphic layer on this Earth.
Paisajes y Sincere/Non Sincere, by Tania Pérez Córdova (b. 1979, Mexico City) which she calls “contemporary fossils”, are objects cast into themselves. They seem to witness life happening around them and slowly – almost as if suggesting sedimentation – give traces of human life, speaking to our desire to re-make and re-cast history,
The works Stubborn and Headrests by Lucía Bayón (b. 1994, Madrid) are made out of clay, plaster, vegetable fibers, paper and cotton. They keep the memory of their historical uses, of their transport, dispersion and merchandise, suggesting later narratives that often manifest themselves in intermediate, transitory or precarious states. These objects replicate but do not fulfill the notions of utility that they seem to propose.
Animism, which proposes that material objects have a conscious life and soul, is a recurring element in the practice of Álvaro Urbano (b. 1983, Madrid). The sculptures Julia and Reminders, which he has painstakingly represented, seem to be trapped in a moment of suspension, in a permanent sleep. Playing with fiction and making use of humor, the artist tends to imitate the absurdity and monotony of contemporary urban life.
The installation For Marcela and the Others (remains), by Sara Ramo (b. 1975, Madrid), is composed of nearly eighty sculptures of various sizes in the shape of genitals. They are a mixture of hair, nails, glitter, jewelry and used rubbers – binded together with clay – that Sara has collected from her exchanges with the trans community who inhabit her neighborhood in São Paulo. The observation of these objects, both poetic and violent at the same time, triggers thoughts on survival and transformation inherent in the human body and skin, leading us to the encounter, and recognition, of the other in us.
With History in a Room Filled with People with Funny Names 4 is the fourth in a series of videos by Korakrit Arunanondchai (b. 1986, Bangkok) where multiple civilizations, species and futures coexist on the same wounded planet. The artist narrates this fairy tale through the voice of a drone named Chantri. The artist is highly influenced by a Transhumanist thought, which gives intelligence —maybe even a soul— to ordinary objects, thus erasing the limits between ecology and robotics, death and love, nature and culture.