Though the first week of February draws herds of international art dealers and collectors to Mexico’s capital city, its thriving contemporary art scene is the unrivaled art destination of Latin America year-round. Steeped in a tradition that leans toward the avant-garde – Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera made the city their home in the early 1900s, leaving immersive surrealist murals painted across public spaces and storied monuments – Mexico City’s artists don’t shy away from imbuing their practices with some of the most pressing issues facing their communities today.
Kicking off today and running through February 10, Mexico City’s art week offers a respite from the noise-polluted streets, but it also represents a chance to explore works by artists so furtively honoring the city’s vanguard legacy. In Polanco, the tonier Zona Maco offers a variety of blue-chip and emerging artists; Material Art Fair in the Tabacalera neighborhood showcases a dynamic array of fresh new voices; while Salon Acme, the relative newcomer, falls somewhere in between. Of course, you can always skip the fairs in favor of a more guerilla experience – there’s more than a handful of local galleries and artist collectives putting on exhibitions across the city this week. Here, we highlight the 10 Mexican artists worth scoping out this week.
Tania Franco Klein
At just 29 years old, Tania Franco Klein is quickly becoming one of Mexico’s most prolific young photographers. The artist, who started out her career studying architecture in Mexico’s capital city, transitioned to photography as a more suitable medium for transmitting her fascination with social behavior.
Blending portraiture and landscape, her photographs often reveal banal scenes from everyday life, with her subject’s expressions suggesting an empty disconnection to the world that surrounds them. Frequently incorporating shadow play into the frame, Franco Klein infuses her photographs with a quiet sensitivity and longing, hinting at societal pressures to conform while simultaneously bringing out her subject’s refusal to do any such thing.
Franco Klein will be showing her photographs at Material Art Fair at Almanaque Gallery.
Throughout her long career, Betsabeé Romero has rarely adhered to any one media, preferring instead to expand questions of migration, urban consumption. and colonial histories through dynamic installations, conceptual sculpture, and painting. These three media often clash delightfully in a single work, as Romero laces quotidian objects with indigenous influences tied to her own Mestizo roots: In one work, a worn tire is painted with golden Maya figures; in another, a vintage car is painted with a checkered bright blue, stripped of its wheels, and positioned atop dozens of oddly shaped bicycle tires. Through incredibly diverse in their format and presentation, Romero often works with used tires and car parts to underscore the destruction of time-honored rituals and processes in favor of harmful technological practices.
You can catch her work at Maia Contemporary’s booth at Zona Maco.
Breaking away from the fairs, the pop-up collective Modern Love will once again present a site-specific installation during Mexico City’s art week, featuring a dynamic array of artists from both inside and outside the country’s borders. With a goal of perpetuating conversations between artists and curators, Modern Love typically takes place in an abandoned space, in an effort to break away from the stuffy white cube. This year, we’re especially excited for JuanJo Soto’s elaborate, octagonal wire sculpture, which embodies the artist’s proclivity toward geometric abstraction and the physics of space.
Modern Love will take place in the Colonia Roma neighborhood, opening on February 7 and running through February 9, at Tonalá 149.
Violence frequently takes center stage in Joaquín Segura’s work, who meditates on the current drug-fueled terrorism that dominates Mexican headline’s through minimalist conceptual works. Though bloodshed and gore often lace images of violence in his country, Segura manages to capture the roar of this brutality with deafening quietude. Shying away from the use of color, and incorporating assemblage, sculpture, textiles and texts, Segura questions the political ideologies that allow persistent violence and corrupt structures to remain in place.
Segura’s work will be on view at Zona Maco with his long-time gallerist, Hilario Galguera.
Claudia Peña Salinas
Scrappy Puerto Rican gallery Embajada consistently showcases dynamic emerging voices from across Latin America and the Caribbean, and while it’s bringing along a handful of compelling Puerto Rican artists to Material Art Fair, we’re especially excited for Mexican artist’s Claudia Peña Salinas work. Working primarily with sculpture, Salinas is deeply influenced by her native hometown of Nuevo León, collecting materials like river stones, matchboxes, and wooden animals that invariably wind up in her works. At Material, Salinas will show a series of miniature clay sculptures resembling Aztec deities and glyphs.
Exhibited widely internationally, Abraham Cruzvillegas is certainly one of the most prolific Mexican artists working today. Kurimanzutto, a local gallery renowned for presenting some of the most established artists of the region, will present a solo exhibition by the artist at their gallery. Collaborating with craftsmen specialized in the art of maqué – a lacquer-on-wood technique commonly used in P’urhépecha culture – Cruzvillegas assembles sculpture and installation utilizing this ancient technique.
In Chantal Peñalosa’s single-channel video, Los Otros Dias, the artist embeds miniature ceramic animals onto shabby scenes of quotidian life: A lonely duck lays languidly on an open windowsill; a playful cat chases a bird atop a rusted stove. Absurdly humorous yet brought to life through a meditative gaze, Peñalosa’s ceramic animals are a stand-in for the home’s invisible dweller, drawing to the surface the artist’s propensity to discuss labor through repetition and small gestures.
At Salon Acme, Proyectos Monclova will be showing the video and offering stills of this young artist’s work for purchase.
José Dávila builds on a literary tradition of cutting up and cropping text to form new, abstract methods, applying this process to his sculptural works. He often assembles a variety of materials into complex, non-linear shapes, which come together to form a delightfully symmetrical diorama. Additionally inspired by architectural traditions, Davila’s work is constructed out of cement blocks, geometric shapes and stones to present his own formal struggle between the organic and the man-made.
His work is on view at Zona Maco with one of the city’s most celebrated local galleries, Galería OMR.
Federico Martínez Montoya
Toying with principles in minimalism and conceptual realism, Federico Martinez Montoya works across mediums to create works that explore the meaning of labor, and particularly, professional creative work. Architectural principles heavily inform this young Mexican artist, whose work is being exhibited by Galería Breve at Material Art Fair.
Local gallery guadalajara90210 is skipping the fairs this year in favor of a more unconventional experience. Taking over a building that is currently under construction, “pabellon de las escaleras” brings together artists working across architecture, visual art, and industrial design to construct a dreamlike, surrealist scenography. Jay Velez, whose previous shows include a recent exhibition at casa wabi, will install a grid-like wooden work that hearkens everyone’s favorite pub game. Working additionally with stone, these works allow Velez to explore the concept of freedom, asking viewers to consider their own relationship to such a complex concept. Pabellon de las escaleras will open on February 8 with a special preview.