Unstocked Contemporary Sculpture from Mexico – The Brooklyn Rail
May 5, 2022–Spring 2023
As Senior Curator of the Noguchi Museum, Dakin Hart knows only too well how many fine works of art languish in storage after brief visits to the public eye. To make amends, Hart organized Assemblage 1: Not stored, Contemporary Sculpture from Mexico, a collective exhibition of eighteen notable Mexican and Mexican artists, some of whom participated in the 2015 Venice Biennale – José Dávila, Gabriela Galván, Ale de la Puente, Tania Candiani – whose works needed air. The variety and quality on display testify to the artistic vitality of Mexico. Hopefully some of that energy spills over to the main street of Monticello, Broadway, where this spring Mexican artist Bosco Sodi and his wife, designer Lucia Corredor, completed the renovation of a former Buick dealership with the help of the Mexican architect Alberto Kalach. The result: Assembly, a 23,000 square foot open space museum with a hand-poured cement floor and lots of windows. Much of the sculpture in this first exhibition has a post-minimalist vibe that feels right at home in the understated elegance of the former exhibition space, but even pieces that lean towards something more figurative benefit space and natural light from Assembly. If you’re heading upstate this summer, put Assembly 1: not stored on your route.
Among the works that would not be out of place in Dia: Beacon, Alejandro Almanza Untitled (5×5) (2015) has a particularly pleasing fantasy. A concrete block rests on twenty-five light bulbs in the 5 by 5 network described by the title of the work. Part of the fun of seeing this piece is the question of how something so massive could sit on delicate glass. It’s a study in contrasts – a dark gray, angular, light-absorbing mass against a collection of bright, delicate, curved yellow shapes – that accentuate its aesthetic appeal. Beyond the “wow” factor of simply succeeding Untitled (5×5), it’s also funny in its improbability. In an equally implausible vein, the work of José Dávila Los Límites de lo Posible IV (The Limits of the Possible IV) (2019), features a large block of dark stone cut at a right angle on top of which is perched a light gray boulder cantilevered to the side. Again, it’s a study in contrasts that enhances the viewer’s experience: the quarried base, made of Recinto stone, a beautiful black basalt found in Mexico, against the rock, worn naturally smooth.
Humor also plays a powerful role in two of Mario Navarro’s works, The island of the future (2016) and Life goes on (2019), made from ordinary chairs subverted in absurd ways. In spirit, they recall the work of Gabriel Orozco from the 90s, as The DS (1993), a Citroën DS reduced to a one-person vehicle. The island of the futureit is chair has a concrete shaft, about four feet high, fitting snugly into the circular opening where the seat of the chair should be. Life goes on modifies a similar chair by giving it two backs that face each other. There’s a beautiful assonance of shapes here, from the reflective curves in both backrests, to the heart-shaped details in each backrest, to the circular seat that connects the backrests. Mario García Torres transforms an ordinary object with similar verve into his bronze garden hose, Honestly, I feel like it’s all about belief, nd (2022). Even with a gallery map showing where each piece of art is, it’s an easy to miss piece lying on the floor and so realistic. Perhaps the title refers to the classic example of Vedantic philosophy of the power of belief: the rope on the ground that one mistakes in the dark for a snake.
Hard to miss, however, the aptly named facility Dreams of innocence and perversion (2007–ongoing), by Gabriela Galván. On the floor, Galván places around thirty pillows, each topped with fluffy cotton balls that look like clouds. On the wall above the pillows, she pins sinister holographic paper cutouts of suggestive biomorphic shapes: breasts, buttocks, genitals, etc., all associations no doubt shaped by the title. Another must-see installation is the tour de force of Ale de la Puente …dividirse en el tiempo (…divide in time) (2015), in which tiny gold magnets thread through and through delicate glass jars with stunning precision. Assembly 1: not stored is a wealth of awe-inspiring works, including Sodi’s gigantic moody canvases, Lorena Ancona’s delightful quasi-traditional terracotta sculptures, Paula Cortázar’s striking forms of cotton pulp and many more not mentioned here. . This is all world class art.