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Highlights from Zona Maco

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Art AND: Tiffany Jones

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My Idea of Fun: Aaron Oldenburg’s Slow Cine [...]

Cara: It’s easy to have good taste when you’re surrounded by artists with established names and mega-galleries playing the scarcity game. However, it’s much more challenging (and exciting) to scout out new talent, especially from another country or continent, without those arbitrary blue-chip boundary lines already drawn. In general, I prefer fairs with a high level of professionalism that feel stringently vetted, but with fewer big name artists and galleries. Zona Maco is Latin America’s largest art fair and, like Basel, is hosted in a giant convention center with a similar sales-oriented aesthetic. Temporary white booth walls divide up the giant space into a maze of viewing areas, where some feel like a curated gallery while other displays are cursory and transactional at best.

Despite seeing fewer big names and established global galleries, I didn’t feel like I was seeing any less-accomplished or lower-quality work. A majority of works available come from contemporary galleries, as well as a solid secondary market section filled mostly with modern art, along with smaller curated projects that feel more experimental and ambitious. Unlike Basel, over half of the galleries at Zona Maco are from Mexico and Latin America, and offer a cultivated roster of museum-caliber artists and an engagement with traditional materials, radical politics, and Latinx-centric themes.

At Art Basel you know the names of every single artist there, but Maco boasted ample space for discovery. An aspiring curator from anywhere in the world could come away with a diverse, challenging, and exciting list of new prospects to work with and collect, especially in an age where expanding the cannon to include multicultural voices is a growing concern.

Michael: It’s been an uncharacteristically dramatic year for Zona Maco. On opening day, there were still some bare walls owing to artwork being held up at customs. The fair closed on a much more scandalous note: The divisive art critic Avelina Lesper “accidentally” destroyed one of Gabriel Rico’s inexplicably popular sculptures comprised of a pane of glass leaning against stuff in Galería OMR’s booth on Saturday.

She apparently tried to add a soda can to the composition for a photograph, arguing that it’s basically just interchangeable trash. Ironically, her gesture kinda proved the conceit of Rico’s work: that there’s some skill and thought involved in striking the balance necessary to maintain his precarious works intact. Whether or not the world is a better or more thoughtful place because these fragile works remain complete is another conversation.

Cara: To provide some basic background information, Zona Maco was founded in 2002 and the event located at Centro Citibanamex in Mexico City includes four sections: Arte Contemporáneo features Mexican and international galleries; Design (established in 2011) exhibits furniture, jewelry, textiles, limited editions, and decorative objects (like a live Louis Vuitton painting performance space that was packed with people watching the painter in person and on screens); Salon (est. 2014) features antiques; and Foto (2015) includes vintage, modern, and contemporary photography.

But all the news coming out from Maco centers around that broken sculpture, the art critic’s reaction to it, with the story repeated in close to 20 different national art publications, all parroting the same information in a headline grab, substituting social media for journalism. None of them addressed the artist, who had been recently included in the Venice Biennale, or his work, which tends to be a precarious combination of banal found objects, their arrangement functioning as the “art” without the artist fabricating anything.

Michael: I personally don’t care for Rico’s sculpture, and find their recent ubiquity on the Mexican art scene tiring. He was one of the artists from OMR’s roster in their upstairs brick-and-mortar group show that I recommended skipping because it just looked like every boring booth I’ve ever strolled by at an art fair.

Cara: I did not love everything I saw and mostly skipped over the secondary market section, but I was impressed by this fair as a whole. They included colorful price stickers on the walls next to certain more “affordable” works, which you would never see in Basel, and I found it refreshing to see decorative works next to furniture and clothing in the design section, as well as juicy abstract paintings that had a mostly NADA-esque sensibility and the attention-grabbing sculptural works that attract selfies and buzzing crowds. I was excited to see a few NY galleries who had previously participated at UNTITLED Miami and some familiar artists, like Baltimore-based Jerrell Gibbs.

Michael: Apart from the two big moments of intrigue, I wasn’t really wowed by this year’s iteration of the fair. I can’t tell if part of this has to do with the layout—it always feels like the boring secondary market section and branded advertising booths have consumed more and more of the fair’s footprint, like the slow creep of suburbs replacing fertile fields. That’s an impression that’s not helped by the fair’s pushy security/crowd control strategies. There were times I was standing literally three meters from the exit but was herded the equivalent of a small city block out of my way so that I was forced to “exit through the gift shop” like a bad, decade-late Banksy reference.

Cara: But what about the beautiful men pushing carts of mezcal shots? And I kinda loved that Smart Water was a sponsor, giving out giant bottles of water and cute tote bags. For me, the publications section was one of the highlights, with small booths from all over the world and international publications like Artforum and Architectural Digest next to smaller, Mexican-based art publications like adhesivo and Hotbook.

Michael: In the past I’ve noted that it can sometimes be a hard sell in a week of more convenient and “exciting” art-viewing opportunities, but I made a point of recommending the fair to visitors. Maco remains a very worthwhile fair for artists, collectors, and gallerists (I’ve heard sales were great, and at least one gallery is getting a big ol’ insurance claim windfall). As a viewer, I love that this fair’s exhibitors are more and more dissolving the arbitrary distinctions between “craft,” “fine art,” and “design.” The fair’s curators and organizers could actually take a cue from the best dealers and gallerists and blur those categories further in terms of layout and branding.

Cara: I agree completely and found the blurring of boundaries between media and genres to be exciting. They felt intentional, rather than like a byproduct of economics or efficiency. I think that Maco is an excellent fair for scouting out new international talent, expanding one’s collection with up-and-coming global names. For those who want to discover and foster talent, especially through a number of impressive galleries based in CDMX, I think Maco should be on your list.

 

The following are some highlights from Maco, but in no particular order.

 

ART Lexïng’s booth, featuring (L-R) a ceramic melon lamp by REM Atelier, rug by Studio HVN (both of Holland), paintings by Reza Shafahi of Iran, and hanging mandol installation by Azerbaijani artist Elbin Nabizade.

Michael: ART Lexïng is definitely the gallery that comes to mind when I think of Zona Maco’s best qualities—showing a very international roster of makers who trample those pesky distinctions between art/design/craft while nodding to the local and political. They were in the design section, but showed paintings from Reza Shafahi, an 80-year-old Iranian artist who took up painting in their 70s alongside conceptually minded “decor” objects. Mostly, it managed the seemingly impossible task of creating a homey space I wish I could live in in the context of a sterile convention center.

I met director Lexïng Zhang (who lives between Miami, Mexico City, and globe-hopping for work) a few days after writing about her gorgeous booth last year, and I’ve come to appreciate her ethos of showing really diverse artists and object-makers without defaulting to any cliches of curating around identity politics. She has this eye for beautiful objects and craftsmanship that seem to work together in a way I wish all our contrived nation-states could. That’s not to say this booth was apolitical—scattered around the floor were colorful starburst sculptures from Mexican artist Erick Meyenberg. They’re abstracted “tumbleweeds” that have Pantone-like color samples of all the flora and fauna that are endangered by Trump’s proposed wall. They’re vulnerable species that rely on migration along the imaginary US/Mexico border. What a lovely metaphor for the absurdity of travel restrictions and man-made obstacles to free movement.

Paintings by Reza Shafahi

Michael: The middle painting is a hand holding one of those souvenir mugs of tan-lines of breasts. Shafahi definitely represents my octogenarian #goals.

Cara: These paintings were adorable and this was one of the expertly curated booths that felt welcoming as a whole because all aspects of sensory experience were considered.

LABOR and AGO’s shared booth with work by Gustavo Garcia Villa (ceramic, bottom left), Jill Magid (center), and Guillaume Leblon (photos and neon, right).

 

Michael: I couldn’t get any photos that do justice to the booth Mexico City gallery LABOR shared with AGO, but for good reason. Mostly, it was always full of people. But it also had a maze-like layout that nicely complemented its nods to both the built environment and intimacy/sleaze. The black-and-white image in Jill Magid’s book-like work is a public sculpture by legendary modernist architect Luis Barragán. The towers are the centerpiece of Ciudad Satélite, a planned suburb outside of Mexico City (they were also referenced in Débora Delmar’s work at Material as a landmark in a vintage real estate ad). I think they somewhat serve as a stand-in for the unfulfilled promises of the 20th century in Mexico—the sculpture was the centerpiece of what was supposed to be a grand boulevard in a new town center. Now, they’re an isolated island in a smoggy highway that’s totally hostile to humans and inaccessible. (This is where we interviewed artist Manuel Solano a few years back, who spoke of the difficulties of surviving there as a blind queer person.) 

 

 

Guillaume Leblon’s homoerotic Fuji Instax Mini exposures were installed irregularly on a shelf under an abstract neon sign. I think I recognized quite a few of the models from Mexico City’s enormous queer artist/intellectual scene. Notably, F. Emiliano Pastrana, an urbanist whose Instagram and English-language blog I recommend to anyone who enjoyed LABOR’s booth—if you like pictures of hot guys and weird Mexico City architecture, it’s a one-stop shop.

 

Roger White at Mexico City gallery Labor/AGO 

 

Cara: I loved the ceramics and planters at the other side of this booth but had a hard time getting any information about the artists. At one point I asked the gallerist for their names, which weren’t listed on any of the price lists, and she asked me why I wanted to know. As if the press pass around my neck wasn’t obvious! The ceramics were by Myunjim Kim and the beautiful hanging planters by an artist duo that goes by Pedro & Juana.

Pedry & Juana

Sophie Calle (L) and Darío Villalba Jones-Raya Roja at Luis Adelantado

Michael: Another Mexico City gallery, Luis Adelantado, probably best exemplified a trend I’m really enjoying lately. All over the city, there seem to be a lot of painters/image-makers experimenting with photographic prints on unconventional materials, intervened with paint, drawing, or embroidery. Darío Villalba Jones-Raya Roja’s enormous photolinen with mixed-media mark-making was just one of many works in the booth that fell into this emerging genre.

 

But Priscilla Monge Paisaje’s work in the same booth really stole the show. These are big enlargements of Polaroids, blown up and printed to nearly human height. The images have been replaced with abstract oil paintings. No camera can do justice to how gorgeous their buttery surfaces of subtly varying, lush cadmium greens are.

 

Laure Prouvost, at carlier|gebaur of Berlin and Madrid, played with the idea of “selfie-magnet” art-fair art to great effect. These are iPhone holders with strange fake phones made from Murano glass affixed to a mirror. I love that each phone has a nearly illegible portrait rendered in blurry glass. This is one of those art objects I’d love to imagine a future archeologist finding long after any digital or printed text exists to give cultural context.

CDMX Roma Norte Gallery Maia Contemporary

Cara: This felt like a solid group exhibition and employed a variety of culturally laden materials and historic Mexican images in a political, material-rich, and playful array of objects by Alexis Mata, Olivia Steele, Lucien Shapiro, Ravi Zupa, Sabino Guiso, and ciler.

Works by Angeles Agrela at Galería Yusto Giner, Spain

Cara: Giant hair portraits by Angeles Agrela felt like a couture fashion ad meets illustrated fantasy book. Brilliant color and attention to detail was crisp.

Michael: Cara, I love that you snapped a pic of these paintings because I also saw these and thought of erstwhile Baltimorean Nicola Knight, who was making similar hair portraits about a decade ago!

Karen Huber Gallery, Mexico City

Cara: There were a lot of vivid paintings, as well as metal chains animating the space. I’m not sure the paintings needed the extra hardware, but it did grab my attention.

Michael: I’m glad you made it to Karen Huber’s booth! Last week I said I love visiting her gallery because it’s one of the best places to see Mexico City’s up-and-coming painters. This Ana Segovia is a really weird one. It makes me think of a bull’s horn penetrating the toreador’s mouth as if it were a blow-up-doll sex toy.

Karen Huber Gallery
Karen Huber Gallery
Paintings (L) by Emily Sundblad, Light sculpture by Cosima von Boning, Mathieu Malouf's Warhol-esque portrait of poet Michel Houellebecq at México City GAGA
Isla Flotante of Buenos Aires showing Ana Prata, Pablo Accinelli and Tobias Dirty
Innovative quilts by TJ Dedeaux Norris at Galleria Mimmoscognamiglio
Quilts with subtle wall painting by TJ Dedeaux Norris at Galleria Mimmoscognamiglio
Jonathan Paul at Unix Gallery, NY
Miscommunication by Jonathan Paul at Unix Gallery, NY
Elyse Pignolet naughty feminist ceramics at Koplin Del Rio, Seattle
Elyse Pignolet naughty feminist ceramics at Koplin Del Rio, Seattle
Pilevneli Gallery (Istanbul) Şener Özmen's series "Supermuslim" in which a man dressed as Superman removes his cape to use as a prayer rug.
Richard Long and Hugh Hayden at Lisson Gallery
Painting by Raffi Kalenderian at Miles McEnery Gallery
Jaume Plensa at Galerie Lelong & Co
Jaume Plensa at Galerie Lelong & Co
Paintings by Jerrell Gibbs at Miriane Ibrahim Gallery
IK Projects
Lina Iris Viktor at Mariane Ibrahim, Chicago
Ana De Orbegoso at Rofa Projects of Potomac, MD
Katya Zvereva at Hofa Gallery, Los Angeles / Londres / Mykonos
Dalila Gonçalves: Epoxy resin and pigment cast from a burnt tree
Cara: I was weirdly obsessed with this piece at Rodriguez Gallery
The Plaza de la Informalidad was a collective, feel-good market area that I wanted to love but didn't.
The Plaza de la Informalidad
Rachel Hellman at Archivo Colectivo, CDMX
Rachel Hellman at Archivo Colectivo, CDMX
adhesivo magazine booth
HOTBOOK Magazine booth
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