the air is blue

the air is blue

Casa Museo Luis Barragan

October 29, 2002

the air is blue
02 November 2002 - 03 March 2003

Casa Museo Luis Barragán
Gral. Francisco Ramírez 12
Col. Amp Daniel Garza
Mexico City, Mexico
Tel: +52 (55) 52 72 49 45

Gilbert & George photographed in Casa Barragán, photo credit Xavier Hinojosa

curated by Hans Urlich Obrist

When I visited Mexico City for the first time, Pedro Reyes told me a lot about the Casa Barragán, which inspired a first visit in the house of the same name. After a while, the idea of an imaginary exhibition began to take shape and in the course of the following year it crystallized in conversations with the Director of the Barragán house, Catalina Corcuera and LCM, a visionary urban laboratory who had already organized several very intense research projects in Mexico City. LCMs openness and inventiveness allowed us to define this exhibition as a Laboratory where the emphasis lies on the process of research and knowledge production.

Throughout the year 2002 the following artists visited the Museum and made their research in situ.: Anri Sala, Cerith Wyn Evans, Claudia Fernandez, Damian Ortega, Dan Graham, Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, Dorit Margreiter, Douglas Gordon, Gilbert & George, Iñaki Bonillas, Koo Jeong-a, Lygia Pape, Niele Toroni, Olafur Eliasson, Pedro Reyes, Peter Fischli / Davis Weiss, Philippe Parreno, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Roni Horn, Kazuyo Sejima / Ryue Nishizawa SANAA, The Laboratory year at the Barragan House is about how experiments, ideas and concepts work between art and architecture, how bridges can be built where we go beyond the fear of pooling knowledge.

The two parts of the exhibition, which open in November 2002 and January 2003, aim at rendering public what happened during the one year of research. The wonderful and enthusiastic organization of this exhibition through LCM and the Barragán House has been a stimulating and rewarding experience, enriched by the vision of the artists themselves. I would like to thank all the artists and Fernando, Tatiana, Rita, Jose at LCM wholeheartedly for making all this possible.

There are many posthumous museums and memorials devoted exclusively to one artist or architect, or designed to preserve the namesake’s original working conditions, or living conditions. Much rarer are the museums conceived by artists in their lifetimes as an environment and preserved as such, which – similar to the Sir John Soanes Museum in London – clearly is the case with the very consciously constructed house of Barragán.

The project which started to evolve in the Barragán House is the continuation of the exhibition which Cerith Wyn Evans and I had organized in 1999 /2000 at the Sir John Soanes Museum in London, which focused on the interstices of what happens between the “various narratives, various objects, and these extraordinary vistas that you come upon by accident, and then you catch a reflection of yourself.” (1)

Since the Museum has the dimensions of a home, visitors do not have the same relationship to the works on display as they would in monumental museum architecture. The gulf between the museum and the world of living experience, criticized by Adorno, has been bridged.

An obsession with color and light are a read-thread of Barragáns universe, Barragán achieved his effects, not through ornamentation or ornamental reduction, but through space, color, and light. The Museum reveals various superimposed and merging states of color- light, constructed by Barragán. Visitors encounter direct, indirect, reflected, broken, dispersed, or refracted light, BARRAGAN: SPACE – COLOR – LIGHT: INVENTION (2). Color / light also plays an important role for artists in their dealings with the Museum.

The garden and pavilion form an inseparable unit of rare beauty, the artistic interventions will take place both inside and outside the house. Both garden and house are accessible and open to visitors who are invited to discover Barragán’s private library, archives (personal documents and photographs), art collections; ongoing conservation of Barragán’s work; and publications. The exhibition “The Air Is Blue” (title conceived by artist Douglas Gordon), invites the viewer to see contemporary artists’ interventions, dealing with the water-fountain / garden, the colored walls, the sky, the sound of the building, the silence, the kitchen, the garage, the stairways / labyrinth, clothes and textiles, flowing space, seamless space, stage architecture – “monumental in quality, static in feeling” – as Emilio Ambasz defined it. The user introduces the tension / presence-absence issue, memory: “Art is memorys mise- en- scéne”.

As Emilia Terragni shows in her text “Art within Architecture”, Barragán’s lifelong search for the integration of the arts and architecture led him to intense dialogues with visual artists and their work: Jose Clemente Orozco, Dr. Atl, Chucho Reyes, Mathias Goeritz, de Chirico, Josef and Anni Albers, and many others.

In “Origins of Modernism: Luis Barragán, the Formative Years” Marco de Michelis reveals the importance of several journeys for Barragán’s life and work: in 1924/25 his first European Grand Tour and his longer stay in Paris in 1925 (the confrontation with the works of Le Corbusier, Mallet Stevens, Melnikov or Kiesler in the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes and the discovery of the garden of the exhibition and the related writings of Ferdinand Bac). This trip was followed by important trips to New York in 1931 where Barragán met Orozco and Kiesler. The meeting with Kiesler is particularly interesting for the bridges between art and architecture, between art and life.


1. Cerith Wyn Evans

2. Lygia Pape

Text on Barragan by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster:

Walking mentally through the house

A golden square floating above the stairs

Remembering the gray telephone ringing

Ringing several times no answer ringing again

Pink interior walls and green garden darkness

The futuristic reflection of each room into a mirror ball

A spheric and permanent sense of photography

A mirror ball like a mental swimming pool in a room

Diving into reflected space

Built spaces photographed spaces fluid spaces

Photo-spaces spatial image – mirrored space

Intense iconographic metabolism and deep emotional


Barragan and photography and images – and space

The terrace of the house is the spatialization of an image

A photographic iconographic relation to architecture

its a space-image a reproduced space

A recorded space

A transferred picture

An empty terrace or an empty picture

During the first visit to the house

a clear impossibility to take any pictures

of a space totally connected to pictorial emotions

A visit to El Pedregal Some places dont exist anymore

some parts of El Pedregal only exist through photography

now -

photographic feelings emotional spaces

images in Barragans house paintings, windows,

screens, color walls, mirror balls




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Casa Museo Luis Barragan
October 29, 2002

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