Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Kurimanzutto, Inaugural Exhibition [Review]

Dr. Lakra. Photo courtesy of citoyenmag; more photographs available.

[Part 2 of our ongoing feature on contemporary art in Mexico City]

In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that the staff members at Kurimanzutto are among the nicest I have ever met inside an art gallery. We first visited them about a year ago when they were without a permanent spaces, showing work out of their offices in Condesa. Equipped with only an address and a recommendation, we buzzed a random number on the side of an apartment building, walked up the stairs, and were warmly shown around the apartment (our nonexistent Spanish completely excused). A Gabriel Orozco painting hung on one wall, a sign of their centrality in the Mexican contemporary art world.

The venue’s latest show inaugurates their new space in the San Miguel Chapultepec neighborhood, a quiet, largely residential area with a handful of auto repair shops along their block. On the location of a former timber yard, Kurimanzutto (the name is a portmanteau of its founders, José Kuri and Mónica Manzutto) has constructed a warehouse that is, in scale and design, equivalent to the largest, more luxurious Chelsea showrooms. It’s an apt setting for their ambitious roster of well-known Latin American and international artists (Damián Ortega, Daniel Guzmán, Monika Sosnowska, and Tiravanija, who continues to be everywhere).

Installation view of Kurimanzutto, Inaugural Exhibiton. Photo courtesy of B.G.D.

The conceit of the exhibition is to give each Kurimanzutto artist (and six guest artists, including Thomas Hirschhorn and Allora & Calzadilla) space on a series of metal bookshelves, letting them present to the public a selection of their work. The artist’s bookshelf, the press release argues, “… is confidant and witness of the working processes of its owner, neatly reflecting his/her interests, obsessions, references, and current ideas.” There is a lot of possibility in that and, perhaps not surprisingly, the quality of the work varies considerably.

Most of the trademarks one would expect are here. Guzmán presents a skull sitting on a turntable, a summation of his twin interests that almost seems like caricature. Dr. Lakra has a series of his intricate drawings on paper, sculpture, and on top of vintage pinups, whom he’s delicately tattooed. They oscillate beautifully between irony and pure pleasure. First entering the gallery, I had no idea the metal shelves were supposed to represent artists’ bookshelves. They appeared to be simple, spare display cases for products, each artist rendered as a brand. Your détourned hair product boxes (Ortega) could be purchased from one shelf, your pinup photograph on another.

Rirkrit Tiravanija. Photo courtesy of citoyenmag.

This wasn’t quite a store, though. One shelf contained nothing but compact discs, Sosnowska had jammed a boulder between two others. No one was trying to ingratiate him or herself. (In fact, that generosity extended into the gallery's operations: the space was completely empty of employees when we visited, a show of trust that tends to be rare when tiny art pieces are sitting around.) Placing all their work on tiny, spare shelves, Kurimanzutto and the twenty-two artists invite a real critique of the quality of their practice. Ignore the fancy new surroundings, they seem to say: we don’t need charisma to succeed. They’re right.

Monika Sosnowska. Photo courtesy of citoyenmag.

Inaugural Exhibiton
Gob. Rafael Rebollar 94, Col. San Miguel Chapultepec, Mexico City
Through March 21, 2009

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