Contemporary Mexican Artists You Need to Know
Due to unique and recognizable artistic styles and important 20th-century artists such as Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, Mexican artistic scene is the most recognized of all the other Latin American countries. Drawing from the country’s aesthetic traditions to answer pertinent questions regarding life in Mexico and the world today, contemporary Mexican artists turn the local into the conceptual for international appetites. Despite the heavy influence of the major European movements, Mexican art has managed to create a distinctive language and style that has been manifested through important historical movements of Mexican Muralism or The Rupture movement – the heritage that still majorly influences contemporary practices.
In order to move away from their colonial past, Mexican artists started using more traditional style during the 1930s that has been rooted in the Mexican folklore. This native influence could be identified through every major Mexican artistic movements of the 20th century and it is still very strong in today’s Mexican urban and street art. Drawing from the heritage of the Mexican Muralist movement and its specific artistic style, Mexican urban and street artistic practices are still very much rooted in the folklore and it still reflects on the everlasting tendency for emancipation and liberation from the dominant European artistic movements. With strong social and political legacy of the Mexican Muralism movement and more contemporary practices introduced by The Rupture Movement, contemporary Mexican artists still react to the sociopolitical climate in their country and the rest of the world incorporating their contemporary regional politics within a wider understanding of their diverse heritages.
On a slow but steady rise over the years, Mexican artistic scene should not be overlooked. Mexican artists and galleries have been gaining great attention from international curators, arts writers, and collectors. With local fairs such as Zona Maco, Material Art Fair and the national biennial and the abundance of new museums and galleries, it seems that contemporary artistic practices in Mexico are flourishing. With the advent of international fairs and biennials, Mexico has managed to maintain a presence in the international market, but it is still struggling with the power and influences that Europe and especially the United States hold in the global market. Still, there is a number of amazing artists that have succeeded in penetrating the global market due to their innovative artistic practices and unique approaches. We have made a selection of contemporary Mexican artists coming from various backgrounds and working in various media that you should definitely know about.
With one of the richest, most complex cultural traditions in Latin America deeply rooted into the ancient Mesoamerican culture, Mexico is on the forefront of the global scene. After a violent struggle in 1910 that lasted for almost two decades, the identity of this Latin American country was completely changed. This has influenced Mexican art greatly, from the socially and politically charged muralist movement to more contemporary practices of today. Mexico is definitely on the map of many international artists, curators, galleries and collectors. This book highlights 110 of the most prominent players including seventy artists and forty personalities and institutions. The book features artists such as Graciela Iturbide, Eduardo Terrazas, Gabriel Orozco, Teresa Margolles, Melanie Smith, Edgardo Aragón, Inaki Bonillas, and Marco Rountree Cruz, among others.
Gabriel Orozco - Providing New Ways of Looking at Familiar Things
With a diverse practice that includes sculpture, photography, painting and video, Gabriel Orozco creates unique intellectual pieces that explore philosophical problems through chance encounters and spatial relationships. Blurring the boundaries between the artistic object and the everyday environment, he works with found materials and recovered trash such as a ball of clay, a deflated football or an abandoned kite. These objects are transformed into unexpected scenarios and removed from their simple means. He is fascinated with finding new ways of looking at familiar things.
Minerva Cuevas - Advocating For Equality Through Art
Inseparable from her social activism, Mexican artist Minerva Cuevas explores different methods of intervening in the public space and galleries with conceptually and socially engaged artistic practices. She creates site-specific interventions, compelling videos, murals and photographic works co-opting various means of distribution in the capitalist society. Providing insight into the complex economic and political structures of the social realm, she appropriates the language and identities of the establishment such as branding, advertisement and commerce in a critical and subversive way. Through her artistic practice, she advocates for equality through local action and the redistribution of monetary flow.
Curiot - Combining The Folklore and Imaginary
A painter and street artist from Mexico City Curiot is famous for his colourful paintings featuring mythical half-animal half-human figures and scenes. Most of them are rooted in Mexican traditions and executed in meticulous details, geometrical patterns and vibrant colours. From Aztec prints to sugar skulls, he has completely embraced the bright colours, folklore, ancient cultures and beautiful handcrafts from his home country and incorporated them into his work in a contemporary way. These creatures are often depicted surrounded by small people who worship them. Combining real symbolism with his imaginary world, his pieces send the message that men will always be an integral part of nature and that this mutual relationship should be carefully maintained.
Gabriel Kuri - Repurposing Everyday Objects
Working from repurposed natural, industrial, and mass-produced objects, Gabriel Kuri creates visually refined sculptures collages, installations and photographs. Throughout his practice, he explores questions of form and the nature of sculpture as well as the social, political and economic issues regarding the circulation of commodities and information within a global market. Since all of these everyday objects he uses mediate human relationship, he explores the potential for transformation by looking familiar things from an unexpected angle. Everyday objects that become a part of his sculptures include plastic bags, advertising flyers, receipts, cigarette buts or coins and a lot of industrial material.
Emilio Chapela - Exploring The Technology and Communication
As a conceptual artist with the background in mathematics and communication, Emilio Chapela explores the technology and its effect on human communication in our media and internet-based society. Approaching the subject from a philosophical and critical point of view, his work often addresses themes of classification, networks, systems of data, language, translation and interpretation. Even his artist statement is computer generated. His work is guided by the principle that data and its (mis)representation are forms of expression. He is also inspired by the origin of the universe and The Big Bang, and his work draws various literary influences including the works of Roland Barthes.
Pablo Rasgado - Freezing a Moment In Time
The paintings of Pablo Rasgado, reconstructed of everyday materials into original abstractions, represent a specific moment frozen in time. The majority of his works have been created from painted public walls extracted from various places such as city streets or temporary museum exhibitions. While some of these walls have a political or social context, the others simply present an image that the artists wanted to capture. His process includes ‘finding’ the materials, selection, physical appropriation, transportation and reassembly. He takes the idea of painting to its basics, but still pushing its limits by removing traces of his hands. In this way, unidentifiable workers share the title of the ‘painter’ with the artist, but without the same professional standing.
Featured images: Pedro Reyes – Dream – MAP IT, 2015, via fluxprojects.org
Damian Ortega - Exploring The Commodity Consumption
Largely influenced by Gabriel Orozco, Damián Ortega explores specific, economic, aesthetic and cultural situations through his sculptures, installations, videos and actions. With intellectual rigour and sense of playfulness, his pieces explore how regional culture affects commodity consumption. His sculptures are made of the wide range of mundane objects that are subjected to his distinctively ‘mischievous process of transformation and dysfunction’. His works are punning commentaries on politics, consumer culture and the process of perception that underlie material culture. Often presented in 3D displays, these everyday objects are explored through their complex social and political implications. For him, the meaning is something that is produced through various relationships and interactions.
Pedro Reyes - Fighting the Injustice With Art
The artistic practice of Pedro Reyes carries strong messages and lessons for all of the humanity. Troubled by the injustice and the violence in his country and the rest of the world, Reyes tries to confront these problems through his artistic practice. Working in various mediums including sculpture, performance, music and painting, Reyes turns tools such as guns into weapons of good. In this way, he raises awareness that these technologies and tools do not carry a necessary evil within themselves, but are dependable on those who use them. His pieces demand the public as someone who would be influenced by them. His great artistic inspiration is Francisco Goya.
Jose Leon Cerrillo - Deconstructing The Legacy of Modernism
The diverse practice of José León Cerrillo includes posters, sculpture, installation and performance employing abstraction in order to disarm the relationship between the object and subject. Through his simple geometric systems, Cerillo deconstructs the legacies of modernist design, architecture and art. He uses large metal forms acting as framing devices for exhibition spaces and glass panels layered with geometric figures. Alluding to the kinds of modernist vocabularies advocated by Russian constructivism and Bauhaus school, the artist juxtaposes these forms meaninglessly to suggest the failure of modernism and reveal it as a purely formal language. The significance and meaning of his works is in their emptiness.
Featured image: An installation by Jose Leon Cerrillo, via andrehn-schiptjenko.com
Rafael Lozano-Hemmer - Artistic Use of Technology
A work of Rafael Lozano-Hemmer can be described as a bridge between art and pure technology. Employing his vast knowledge of electronics, he makes some really impressive installations. Including everything from simple computer chips nailed to the wall to interactive installations that are at the intersection of computer and performance art, his pieces include a wide variety of audiovisual technologies to achieve his expressive goals. Blurring the line between art and technology, he creates platforms available for public participation by diverting technologies including robotics, computerized surveillance or telematic networks. He is a great example how the artistic practice can keep up with the technology-based culture of today.