Zona Maco

Kate Sutton

April 19, 2012
Various locations, Mexico City
April 18–22, 2012

Art fairs—unlike biennales—aren’t allowed the luxury of an “off year.” And so it is that Zona Maco finds itself sandwiched between two Very Big years—with the opening of Carlos Slim’s Soumaya Museum last year and the debut of the David Chipperfield-designed facilities for La Colección Jumex slated for 2013. Now in its eighth year, the fair provides a much more relaxed alternative to Art Brussels and Art Cologne. But just because a fair takes lunch breaks—four hour ones at that, and always at Contramar—doesn’t mean it can’t be taken seriously.

As the Soumaya and Jumex museums chart out new territory for art in the city, galleries and smaller projects are gravitating towards older ones. In the Ampliación Daniel Garza area, just south of Chapultepec Park, Casa Luis Barragán serves as the elegant anchor for a fresh crop of initiatives, two of which opened Monday, two days before the fair. I started off at Labor’s new space, housed in the former workshop of Soumaya architect Fernando Romero, who has since moved next door to Casa Barragán, directly across the street. “I love how this address acts as a type of filter,” Labor’s Pamela Echeverria sighed between sips of mescal. “The type of people who would come to see Casa Barragán are the type of people who would be interested in my artists.”

It’s true. It does take a certain type of attention to truly appreciate all the intricacies and accumulations of Pedro Reyes’s “Rompecabezas” (“puzzle” or “jigsaw”). The exhibition arranged Mano-sillas (2012), hand-shaped wooden chairs, around Pico della Mirandola (2012), a Mr. Potato Head-like sculpture fashioned from volcanic rock. Along one wall, a series of twenty canvases proposed How to Overcome Your Fear of Painting while on the other, a periodic-element-esque chart tracked various mutations of man, woman, and animal. (The combination of man and wolf leads first to a still of Chewbacca, then devolves into David Bowie from the Diamond Dogs album cover.)

In his multi-tiered office cum exhibition space across the street, Romero has launched the Archivo Diseño y Arquitectura (ADA), which draws from the combined collections of the architect and his charming collector wife Soumaya Slim. “We’ve been building up the collection for four years now,” director Regina Pozo explained. “But we thought calling the project a ‘museum’ would be like starting off with the noose already around our neck.” Instead, they opted for the more flexible term of an “archive,” bringing in curator Guillermo Santamarina to curate its inaugural iteration. “A few years back, Guillermo curated a show at the Jumex and it really left an impression on us,” Romero would reminisce later. “I knew this had to be the guy.” Entitled “Happiness is a Warm (and Cool) Sponge,” the exhibition mixes Martin Margiela glass slippers with Chuck Taylors, tape dispensers, clothespins, aspirin boxes, digital watches, sugar cubes, shopping carts, and a Macintosh Power Book from 1991.

A reception for Labor and ADA followed at the Romero residence in the well-heeled Las Lomas district. The former home of the US Ambassador, the two-story Modernist L-shaped structure is glassed-in on all sides and features a wrap-around balcony overlooking the three-inch-deep reflecting pool. The terrace was lined with all manner of high design seating, plucked from the collection. “Is it wrong that this kind of looks like one of those roadside motels outside Phoenix?” I ventured, from my chosen perch. “It’s a masterpiece of Modernism,” artist Yoshua Okon clarified from two cushions over. “Those roadside motels try to look like this.”

The next morning, forces gathered over brunch at Peter Kilchmann’s five-day pop-up gallery in the home of gallery artist and vintage furniture restorer Claudia Fernández. Works by Francis Alÿs, Teresa Margolles, and Tercerunquinto were interspersed throughout the house’s collection of knick-knacks. Strolling through the upstairs promenade, Artist Space director Stefan Kalmar paused to admire a dusty painting of an octopus: “I wish they had a check-list of the owner’s things. The furniture here is unbelievable.”

That night, the sudden downpour meant cabs were nearly impossible to snag, and once you did, they were not guaranteed to move. Arróniz Arte Contemporáneo would debut new sculptures from D.F.-fixture Moris and Galeria OMR had both Jorge Méndez Blake and Rafael Lozano‐Hemmer at bat, but we set our sights (or at least our taxi) on Kurimanzutto, where Gabriel Kuri was testing out what he called the “aesthetics of bureaucracy” with his show “2012,” a collection of office-themed arrangements. After an hour’s worth of traffic, we decided to abandon the car and dash through the pouring rain to get a look at Jan Mot’s new space, where David Lamelas’s projection had not yet been installed, but previous exhibitions by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster and Joachim Koester remain on view. Having made the rounds, we retreated to the office to wait out the rain, chasing tequila shots with Turkish cigarettes while the thunder competed with the Robert Barry sound piece. “You know, it’s really not a bad place to be stuck,” Mot mused. As we rigged raincoats out of our jackets for the three-block sprint to Kurimanzutto, Mot tucked backed inside. “I think I’ll wait for a cab.”

By the opening of the fair Wednesday afternoon, the idea of an “off-year” no longer held currency. For its eighth edition, the fair sees dependable entries from heavy-hitters like Continua, Lisson, Friedrich Petzel, and Sadie Coles (who set tongues wagging with a feisty solo show of Sarah Lucas), supplemented by Zona Maco Sur, a selection of 22 solo projects by Latin and South American artists like Tania Pérez Córdova, Wilfredo Prieto, and Jimmie Durham, curated by the new Jumex director, Patrick Charpenel. For the New Proposals section, Pablo León de la Barra was beckoned back from London to pull together 26 of the most promising galleries under 5 years old. Among his selections were recent Mexico City transplant Galeria Massimo Audiello, Madrid’s Formato Cómodo, and New York-based Henrique Faría, who presented a stunningly spare installation of Emilio Chapela’s Homage to Roland Barthes (2012), a wooden bookshelf stacked with wooden books.

Abstract paintings lurked on every other wall, but few did them better than Marine Hugonnier, whose monochrome silk-screened collages stopped traffic around Max Wigram. Local favorites Proyectos Monclova broke the pattern with challenging pieces from Nina Beier, Marie Lund, and Mario Garcia Torres. Punctuating the booth was a set of photographs by Tercerunquinto, who relocated debris from housing slums outside Madrid into the city’s government buildings. Across the aisle at I-20 Gallery, Moris’s screenprints enlarge crime scene photography and then collage monochrome geometric shapes over the corpses. (Sort of like thought bubbles for the unthinkable.) Around the corner, Máximo González’s Fission Flow (2012), cartography constructed from out-of-circulation currencies, traveled the entire wall at Madrid’s Travesía Cuatro.

Hours into the fair, I still found myself returning to Pablo Rasgado’s Unfolded Architecture at Arratia, Beer. Director Euridice Arratia talked me through how the artist repurposes the temporary walls used in museums—in this case, the Mexico Museum of Modern Art—by collecting the demolished drywall as is and then fitting pieces back together in a mosaic-style that references both Modernist traditions and those of Mexican murals. “We’ve been working with this artist a year now,” Arratia continued. “He’s one of the reasons we were eager to do this fair.” And it’s exactly this type of work that will keep visitors coming back to Zona Maco, “off year” or not.


Kate Sutton is a writer based in Zagreb.

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April 19, 2012

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