This past week, art lovers, international collectors, galleries travelled to Mexico City, for Mexico City Art Week coinciding with the 19th edition of Zsona Maco, a contemporary art fair which features more than 210 exhibitors from 26 countries. Well known for its beautiful, vibrant cultural sites like the Teotihuacan pyramids, La Casa Azul, or the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, as well as its significance as one of the largest and oldest metropolitan hotspots in the world, Mexico City’s galleries reflect the mixture of the old and new culture of its city center, which has been growing internationally for the past 30 years. In the aftermath of Mexico City Art Week, we reflect on some of the Mexican contemporary artists we love.
Born 1972 in Mexico City, Mexico. Lives and works in Mexico City.
Pedro Reyes is a multidisciplinary Mexican artist who uses sculpture, architecture, video, performance, and interactive participation to present his creative process and work. As a prominent artistic figure, Reyes’ work requires attention from the public for its powerful messages and lessons addressing humanitarian and political issues that matter at a global scale. Reyes is deeply concerned by the inequality and violence that beholds the world. Through various practices, Reyes explores the power of individual and collective organizations to incite change through communication, creativity, happiness, and humor. His constant intention is to improve lives through artistic expression.
Born 1982 in Mexico City, Mexico. Lives and works in Mexico City.
Hilda Palafox paints elegant, commanding women with outsized bodies in compositions that envision a matriarchal society. The line, as a continuous succession of points, becomes important in Palafox's work, in which it is possible to observe the intersection of disciplines. The movement of the brush in both curved and straight lines traces the bodies of her figures that cover large parts of the canvas, made up of colorful and textured planes.Trained in graphic design, Palafox is best known for large-scale canvases and murals in which these women are portrayed alongside symbols such as snakes, vessels, columns, and celestial orbs. She focuses on the color and syntax of the image, as well as on the connection with the viewer through images that show daily activities turned into subtle analogies about emotions and intimate experiences of the human psyche. The legacies of local art icons like Frida Kahlo, José Guadalupe Posada, and Nahui Olin have inspired her creative contemporary interpretations of Mexican mythology and folklore. Her art has appeared in cities like Denver, Montreal, and Madrid, at times signed with her pseudonym, Poni.
Born 1972 in Mexico City, Mexico. Lives and works in Mexico City.
Orlaineta’s creative practice focuses on hybrid sculptural forms that are inspired by modernism, pop culture, and moments from history. He primarily explores post-war design and architecture that ordinarily depicted biomorphic shapes owing to strong surrealist influence. In his body of work, Orlaineta explores the symbolic and economic value of industrial design objects, which began as mass-produced products and later transformed into coveted collector’s items, by either combining craft elements or combing them into assemblages with everyday items that lack historical significance. In these interventions and collections, Orlaineta seeks to create new perspectives around these design objects through denial of their functionality, and historical or cult value in order to reinvigorate the legacy of the historical avant-garde.
Born 1936 in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico. Lives and works in Mexico City.
A pioneering force in the Mexican contemporary art scene, the career of Eduardo Terrazas has been characterized by fifty years of dedication to the areas of art, architecture, design, museology, and urban planning. Terrazas first came to prominence as a young architect when he was selected to co-design the logo and prevalent design elements for the 1968 Olympic games in Mexico City. The logo, which was traced in concentric circles, was inspired by Huichol artisan techniques from Jalisco, Durango, and Nayarit, setting a precedent for the geometric forms that have come to define the artist’s visual language. In the following years, Terrazas began his experimentations of the relationships between geometric elements through drawings. These investigations, combined with the use of elements from Mexican folk art, have resulted in a unique creative language that navigates both contemporary art and craft traditions in Terrazas’ body of work.
Born 1974 in MexicoCity, Mexico. Lives and works in Mexico City.
Héctor Zamora's work surpasses the conventional exhibition space, reinventing it, redefining it, and generating friction between the accepted roles of public and private, exterior and interior, organic and geometric, savage and methodical, real and imaginary. From his technical expertise and knowledge of architecture, and a cautious emphasis on the process of conceptualization and construction of each piece, Zamora implicates the viewer's participation and requires them to question the everyday uses of materials and the functionality of a space. The artist provokes surprising and unexpected situations, through determinate and often repetitive actions. "Outside the museum, there are no barriers: any person is going to have an interaction with the works, and I think I force it in someway to that. In this way, you get reactions that often surprise more than you can find within the space of the museum. Obviously, this also comes from my concerns about social and political issues, " says Zamora.
Born 1953 in Mexico City, Mexico. Lives and works in Mexico City.
Perla Krauze is a Mexican post-war and contemporary artist that utilizes numerous materials from lead, clay and water to stone in her body of work. Using graphite from stones and pavements and engraved volcanic rocks from El Pedregal, her paintings are considered to be abstract topographies and mappings. Stone is a fundamental material in her practice, it can be transformed and eroded yet it is also linked to memory and durability. The patterns in her paintings derive from the lines made in stone cutting, emphasizing the transformation of stone from raw material to an object of art. Krauze’s technique in altering and arranging stones to make miniature landscapes, complete in themselves but still referencing their origins. Much of her work welcomes the discussion of geography and petrology, documenting the El Pedregal area of Mexico City in particular. Mythical and raw, this region houses the ruins of Cuilcuilco, the oldest city in Mexico, and Copilco, both covered by lava from the eruption of the Xitle volcano three thousand years ago.
Born 1967 in Mexico City, Mexico. Lives and works in Mexico City.
Damián Ortega is famous for deconstructing familiar objects and processes, altering their functions and transforming them into novel experiences and scenarios, with his sense of wit and humor. Ortega’s work plays with a scale that ranges from the molecular to the cosmic, and combines the cosmic with the accidental, applying the concepts of physics to human interactions where chaos, accidents and instability produce a system of relations in flux. Ortega explores the tension that underlies every object and the infinite world inside them, inverting and dissecting, reconfiguring and zooming in. The results of this process reveal the interdependence of diverse features either within a social system, or a complex engineered machine. Envisioning his projects in forms such as sculpture, installation, performance, film and photography Ortega views the work of art to always be an action: an event. His experiments envision a space where possibility and the everyday converge, to activate a transcendent new way of looking at simple objects and daily life.
José León Cerrillo
Born 1976 in San Luis Potosí, Mexico. Lives and works in Mexico City.
José León Cerrillo is a multifaceted artist who explores the possibilities and contradictions of thinking about genuine abstraction through a wide range of media, from printed posters to sculptures, installations and performances. Often using creative language as a starting point and drawing from different sources. Cerrillo also works from simple geometrical systems and reinvents the symbols and iconography of modernism and constructivism. His objects, sculptures and installations disturb the space in which they are presented, echoing its architecture and at the same time deconstructing it. He interprets the legacies of modernist design, architecture, and art, which are particularly palpable in Mexico City by working with simple geometric structures. Cerrillo’s oeuvre could be defined by two types of work: glass panels layered with geometric figures, and large metal forms, which act as framing devices for exhibition spaces. For Cerrillo, these symbols and shapes imply to the kinds of modernist tones advocated by the Bauhaus school and Russian constructivism. In Cerrillo’s mind, the meaningless juxtaposition of forms and symbols suggests the failure of modernism and highlights its status as a purely explicit language.
Born in 1962 in Jalapa, Veracruz, Mexico. Lives and works in Tokyo, Mexico City and New York.
Gabriel Orozco’s multidisciplinary practice includes sculpture, photography, painting and video, and questions of philosophical enigmas through a series of random encounters and spatial connections. He works with found materials that are altered and then photographed to create surprising, often whimsical scenarios from their basic, daily uses. Using everyday objects in the contemporary urban environment, Orozco makes visible the poetry of chance connections, humor and paradox. An essential component of Orozco’s artistic lexicon is his interest in mapping and geometry, overlaid and colored ellipses and spheres in his paintings are evidence of this. More recently in his creative process, Orozco has explored the phenomenology of structures, in which the symbol of the circle acts as a bridge between geometry and organic matter, and the layering of color is based on the principles of movement.
Born 1967 in Mexico City, Mexico.
Rafael Lozano-Hemmer is a multidisciplinary media artist who envisions platforms for public participation using technologies such as telematic networks, digital fountains, computerized surveillance, robotic lights, and media walls. Infamous for his poetic and critical digital artworks,Lozano-Hemmer’s body of work is situated at the intersection of architecture and performance. Through his large-scale installations, he has questioned and examined literary histories, and natural, scientific, and physiological phenomena. Being the first artist to represent Mexico at the Venice Biennale with an exhibition at Palazzo van Axel in 2007, Lozano-Hemmer has also shown at biennials in Cuenca, Havana, Istanbul, Kochi, Liverpool, Melbourne, Moscow, New Orleans, New York, Seoul, Seville, Shanghai, Singapore, Sydney, and Wuzhen.