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AN ANTIPODE SO CLOSE... Mexican Contemporary Art

CURATOR Julia Villaseñor Bell

ARTISTS Artemio • Tania Candiani • Roberto de la Torre • Demián Flores • Arturo Hernández Alcázar • Rafael Lozano-Hemmer • Armando Miguelez • Manuel Rocha Iturbide • TRIODO (Marcela Armas, Gilberto Esparza, Ivan Puig) •

12 December 2013 – 11 January 2014 2



Mexican Contemporary Art

If one were to look beyond the superficial similarities between India and Mexico, beyond the obvious love for spicy gastronomical treats, vibrant street life, and passion for colours, these two countries are comparable as nations steeped in history, with indigenous civilizations dating back thousands of years, long periods under colonial rule, distinct social stratifications, multiple languages and faiths, and in contemporary times, as rapidly developing powers in the global scenario. Despite being on opposite sides of the globe, there is a strong shared semblance in the social and political forces that are shaping these developing economies in the postmodern, globalized era. Antipodes, the diametrically opposite points of any given place on earth, have inspired human imagination to create new ways of thinking of the ‘other’. This ‘other’ is different yet familiar, oddly not quite foreign with so many shared experiences. Despite separated by continents and oceans, these antipodes have common worldviews and perceptions. An Antipode So Close… is the first step in exploring these invisible connections, and brings to India the works of some of the most interesting artists from the Mexican art scene today. The title takes inspiration from Octavio Paz’s essay “The Antipodes of Coming and Going” from his book In Light of India, which brings forth some of these considerations that bridges these two countries which are on opposite sides of the world The Mexican art scene is socially intense and politically charged. The works emerging from this scene are edgy and playful, yet profound and extremely poetic. The artists are engaged in social and artistic movements – continuously rethinking Mexican identity while addressing global issues. Many of their works propose an


Armando Miguelez, Antipode (detail) Color poster, 2013


alternative vision of Mexico that is removed from the dilapidated image of the country transmitted by the popular media. Moving beyond the question of borders, they have been active in reinventing the vocabulary of globalised contemporary art when addressing issues concerning developing nations and their paths to modernization. Coming from a century old tradition of socially engaged art, Mexican artists’ critical voice is stimulating in its sharpness. The critical stance that several artists have taken since the Muralist movement of the post-revolution 1920s has been that of denouncing the harsh social conditions that has plagued the nation; from violence, inequality, corruption and injustice to the newer forms disruptions caused by rapid globalization, migration, liberalization and economic crisis. Of course, these conditions continue to prevail till today and are not endemic to Mexico alone. We can trace surprising similarities with a country such as India, which too is caught up in its race for modernization and free economies, forgetting to look at the more important and disrupting social issues that stagnate its development. Much of the work by the Mexican artists, in this context, finds a certain local resonance in India. While Mexicans are tired of the association with savagery/violence as depicted by mainstream media, in the visual arts it is this very depiction of violence that has been integral to it’s critical potential. Through their depictions the artists denounce, protest, satire and reveal the larger social/psychological impact of violence which often goes unseen. However violence is not characteristic of just modern Mexico, but runs through all periods of the country’s history: from a bloody colonization by the Spanish to the 10-year-long social revolution in the early 1900s. The year 1968 was particularly brutal to the student movements and uprisings, with the tragic massacre ending the protests, an incident that is yet unresolved. Today, violence and death tolls continue to escalate with alarming numbers of weapons pouring down from the American border in exchange for drugs.


The works in this exhibition thus attempt to raise important questions about the Mexican context of today: How do we speak about the difficult conditions of Mexican society? What are the spaces of catharsis? How do we grieve the dead and heal the wounded collective memory? How do we denounce our rage? What is the place of the poetic and the aesthetic? The exhibition mainly includes artists born in the 1960s and 1970s, whose works have traveled around the world but in essence remain in synchronicity with the context they emerge from. They have explored different materials and used technology and social interventions to develop their practices. This very small selection of artists tries to show how the creative context in Mexico has allowed the artist to experiment in very diverse media. It is rare in Mexico to find an artist who only paints or uses installation; the practice in general is that of diversity, excelling in quality and conceptual content. Finally, as a cultural experience, this exhibition brings to India a great opportunity to get acquainted with a tradition that is in so many ways similar to that of India. However, the geographical distance of these two nations has for long made it difficult to directly set up a direct cultural dialogue, uninterrupted and interpreted by western media. In a sense this exhibition presents an chance to engage with and understand the “other west”; one that is older, historically richer, and strikingly similar to that of India. Benefitting from the support of the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Relations (SRE), the Embassy of Mexico in India, the Ministry of Culture (CONACULTA) through the National Fund for Culture and Arts (FONCA) and the kind support of UPL Ltd. this project aims to attract an all new curiosity to a new capital of art : Mexico. Julia Villaseñor Bell



Artemio describes himself as the Rolls Royce of Mexican contemporary art. His practice focuses on video, sculpture and visual images as well as public interventions. He appropriates pop culture elements into his work; borrowing images of Bambi, Gladiator and Rambo, and juxtaposing them with concepts of love, war, repulsion and irony. He is part of a generation of artists growing up in the 1990s, a generation which proposed alternative ways of engaging with art and the sites for production of art. Working with performance, video, direct actions, installation and sculpture as well as multiples and “Life as Art�, his work questions the cynicism of modern culture, violence, war and modernization. He has exhibited in spaces like Charro Negro, Guadalajara; Museo Carrillo Gil, Mexico, D.F; T1 Torino Triennale Trimusei, Wattis Institute for Francisco; KHOJ, New Delhi, India; Hayward Gallery, London; CCA, Moscow, Russia; SAPS, Mexico DF; The Havana Biennial in Cuba amongst others. His work is part of public and private collections such as Jumex, MUSAC, COPPEL, ARTIUM, and Francis Ford Coppola.


Mex Attacks c-prints documenting a nine-month, seventeencities travelling project around Europe 1998



Candiani’s artistic research focuses on language, text, political implications of the domestic, and about the public and the private. Her translation strategies between systems (linguistic, visual, and phonic) and practices generate equivalences and associations, where a continuous nostalgia for the obsolete is present, making reflections about the discursive content of artefacts as well as ancient projections of the future. In this search, Tania has been bringing together interdisciplinary work teams that bring their knowledge and abilities from different fields to achieve poetic intersections between art and technology. The production of artworks in collaboration with local dwellers of defined environments focus on explorations of language as everyday wisdom and reveal urban rituals that appear when confronted with ready-made circumstance. Textile plays a major role in her artistic language - as a medium, as narrative resource and as a symbol of social labour. Tailoring is also a point of contact with architecture, where the spatiality of the floor plans reinterpreted as patterns can signify the idea of the lived space or the utopia of a space. Her creative labour, always in connection with language, has been moving more and more towards the materiality of sound, the idea of the robot, the possibilities of mechanics, and the potentiality of architecture. Tania Candiani has received the Guggenheim scholarship in the Creative Arts category and since 2012 is part of the National System of Creators of the FONCA (National Fund for Culture and Arts in Mexico). In 2013, she won the Ars Electronica Prize in Austria.


La Magdalena Old phonograph, record & photograph 2013



De la Torre’s proposals are usually generated in the public domain, defined by temporary and contingent elements. His objects are not chosen only for their visual characteristics, but for their affective and relative meanings. His ideas concretize either as ephemeral actions or sculptural/architectural/sensorial installations through the use of different media for determined spaces, always in collaboration with a large number of participants, and in different environments. His work generally documents that which is transitory. His work engages with social questions that emerge from local contexts, but are significant when applied to a global context as well. De la Torre’s practice reveals his deep understanding of formal and spatial conditions, wherever the site may be, and acute awareness about what his own interventions in these spaces means. The tension between the physical and the intellectual saturates his work, and it is from this energy the author has developed the notion of “social sculpture”. His works are full of complex social negotiations, dealing with issues of permissions and participation.


69 Windows- Interstellar Signals from a Motel Video documentation, 22 min 3 sec Hotel Garage El Señorial, México City, 2004



Flores is a contemporary Mexican artist who has worked with graphic arts, painting, serigraphy and other mediums, producing work which often mixes images from his rural childhood home of Juchitán with those related to modern Mexico City. It also often includes a mixture of pop culture images with those iconic of Mexico’s past. Much of Flores’s work has been associated with two artists’ workshops he founded in Oaxaca called La Curtiduría and the Taller Gráfica Actual. Works from these workshops have included events related to the 2006 uprising in Oaxaca and the restoration of an 18th century church. His work has been exhibited in Mexico City, Spain, France, Guatemala and Cuba. In his own view, Flores’work is anchored in the reality of contemporary Mexico, although much of his development as an artist has been influenced by the artistic tradition of Francisco Toledo. His paintings have a dreamlike quality and mixes images from Mexico’s past and present - god Quetzalcoatl, pre-Hispanic warriors, female fertility figures, and pyramids, meet Benito Juárez and comic book characters. He frequently appropriates images from pop culture, especially baseball and lucha libre, also Superman, Popeye, Bugs Bunny, Memín Pinguín, soccer players and prize fighters.

La Patria Lithograph 2010


Rumbera (dancer) Lithograph 2009



His work is the result of his constant movement as an urban pedestrian. Through accumulation, recollection and classification of the residues of capitalism, the artist creates a melancholic archive of disuse, bringing to light the failures of the system that created them in the first place. Erasure, darkening, explosion and circulation of discarded materials are his sculptural strategies to reflect on the power systems that surround us, creating new possibilities of chaos. Dwelling in the normality of the office, the home, outdoors, the city, the street and the back alley, his approach establishes relationships of strangeness with our daily environments. Arturo Hernández Alcázar completed his visual arts studies at the National School of Painting, Sculpture and Engraving, La Esmeralda in Mexico City in 2001. His work has been shown in national and international museums and galleries such as the Nightcommers of the 10th Istambul Biennial ; MUAC UNAM; San Francisco Art Institute; Fine Arts Museum Boston; Museo Amparo, Puebla; Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de París. He has also collaborated and exhibited in independent spaces and projects such as Casa Emergente, Cuernavaca, Laalvaca, Puebla, Noordkaap, Doordrecht, Ignacio Mejía, Paris; Institute for Unstable Media, Rotterdam; Temporary Home, Berlin-Kassel; Bordermates, Mexico City; Dusseldorf Academy, and Am_phoenix, Berlin. He lives and works in Mexico City.

Never Work Rubber stamp, ink pillow, paper and potential 2nd edition (Spanish, Russian, German, French, English, Hindi) 2013


Fallen wages Axe, smoke & coins 2013



Rafael Lozano-Hemmer was born in Mexico City in 1967. In 1989 he received his B.Sc. in Physical Chemistry from Concordia University in Montréal, Canada. He is an electronic artist, who develops interactive installations that are at the intersection of architecture and performance art. His main interest is in creating platforms for public participation, by perverting technologies such as robotics, computerized surveillance or telematic networks. Inspired by phantasmagoria, carnival and animatronics, his light and shadow works are “antimonuments for alien agency”. His work has been commissioned for events such as the Millennium Celebrations in Mexico City (1999), the Cultural Capital of Europe in Rotterdam (2001), the UN World Summit of Cities in Lyon (2003), the opening of the YCAM Center in Japan (2003), the Expansion of the European Union in Dublin (2004), the memorial for the Tlatelolco Student Massacre in Mexico City (2008), the 50th Anniversary of the Guggenheim Museum in New York (2009) and the Winter Olympics in Vancouver (2010).


Performance Review - UBS Lambda print 2013



Born in Tucson Arizona, in 1981, Miguelez attained the University of the Americas in Puebla, México and completed his MFA from Stanford University in California. He is currently pursuing his second MFA at the Sir JJ School of Art in Mumbai. His work concentrates on the ways physical environments are organized with a specific focus on cartography and systems of world measurements. In addition Miguélez’s work also contemplates issues of personal narrative, displacement, cultural contrasts and identity documents. Formally his work is interdisciplinary combining photography, drawing, installation and sound sculpture. He has participated in various individual exhibits and collective shows since 1998.


Rorschach America Serigraphs on cardboard, (set of 25) 2008



Manuel Rocha is a Mexican sound artist and composer. After studying piano and composition he specialized in music and technology leading to a career related to electro-acoustic music (works made by specialized electronic sounds in devices with multiple high speakers). Since an early age Manuel Rocha has been interested in the synthetic relation between sound and vision, which led him to integrate the domain of sound art for the last 20 years. A large part of his work is dedicated to the making of sound sculptures and installations in art spaces (galleries, museums, art biennials, etc.) The themes developed by Iturbide in his works are the exploration of space (in electro-acoustic music as well as in sound installations), the relationships between the visual object and the sound object, the unfolding of the timbre, metaphor and concept of the sound object, the use of sound landscape, music and art in relationship to scientific notions such as chaos, quantum physics, entropy, etc. And the general exploration of the sound possibilities in acoustic instruments as well as everyday objects with an acoustic and poetic potential in their different forms. Rocha Iturbide also has various publications and sound anthologies to his name, in which explore the Mexican sound art and electroacoustic music scene, and has through these efforts spread this knowledge into various other disciplines. He is a professor in the National School of Music of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (ENA - UNAM) and has given workshops in many different countries. He is at present part of the National System of Creators, dedicated to creating not only electro-acoustic works and sound art, but also instrumental acoustic music and improvisations.


Diptych intervention Musical score and ink 2013



TRIODO is an artist collective formed by Marcela Armas, Gilberto Esparza and Ivån Puig. The three artists have collaborated for more than 10 years, following each other’s artistic processes. Their first collaboration was in the School of Visual Arts of the Universidad de Guanajuato in 1997. Since then, they have been companions in research, travels, games and experimentation, constructing their own personal languages. They share their preoccupations with political issues, the use of technology and its social implications, the use of recycled material as a starting point and as a critical position. They have exhibited their work individually as well as a collective in Mexico and around the world.


Fable of a Comeback Video and resin model of whale vertebrae 5 minutes video 2012



Manuel Rocha Iturbide, Diptych intervention Musical score and ink 2013





Working between Paris, Delhi and Mexico City, Julia Villaseñor Bell is now established in India, working as curator for the Vadehra Art Gallery. She completed her MA in Curating from the Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne Univery in 2010 after a BA in Art History in Paris 10 Nanterre. She lived 10 years in Paris where she started a not-forprofit association aiming to activate better contemporary cultural exchange between Mexico and France. Her focus on bringing together distant cultures has been the core of her professional career, she has also started exchanges between artists in Mexico and India during the last year. For the ambitious An Antipode so close… project, she will reunite a selection of promising and interesting artists from Mexico in order to contrast sensibilities and find common threads of aesthetic and conceptual preoccupations between the Mexican and the Indian art scenes. Her idea of a collaborative space created by live-in residencies in the gallery space will allow the Indian public to better understand the tissue of contemporary art in Mexico through this exhibition.

Since its inception in 1987, Vadehra Art Gallery (VAG) has promoted contemporary Indian art through exhibitions, retrospectives, publications and educational programs. Over the last 20 years, the Gallery has become the locus through which the works of both modern and contemporary artists have reached the public. VAG’s position as an artistic interlocutor with the public is especially vital in contemporary India because of the lack of a vibrant art museum culture. Apart from showcasing Indian artists, the Gallery is also committed to hosting exhibitions of significant international artists for Indian audiences. The Gallery entered into a partnership with Grosvenor Gallery in London to form the Grosvenor Vadehra Gallery in 2006 and has since established a vibrant exchange of exhibitions between London and New Delhi around Indian and international artists


We would like to thank the Ministry of Foreign Relations in Mexico, the Embassy of Mexico in India and CONACULTA as well as UPL Ltd. for their support. *artists are part of the Sistema Nacional de Creadores of the Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, FONCA (National Fund for Culture and the Arts, Mexico)

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An Antipode So Close... (Mexican Contemporary Art)  

An Antipode So Close... was curated by Julia Villasenor Bell for Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi. The exhibition showcased works by 10 Mexica...

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