ounded in 1981 by Mexican painter Rufino Tamayo and bequeathed to the nation after his death, the Tamayo increasingly has a reputation for innovative shows of contemporary art. Its ambitious curatorial program continued with this 30-year retrospective of the work of Brazilian artist Jac Leirner, who first achieved international recognition in the mid-1980s and early ’90s.
Like many postmodern artists of her generation, Leirner repurposes modernity’s leftovers. Each consisting of accumulations of similar items, the sculptures here took the viewer on a tour of consumer culture via its detritus. Spread out on the museum’s floors, looped from its ceilings, and covering its walls were airline tickets threaded onto wire, and bank notes fanned out and fixed loosely to the walls. Leirner’s pieces are at once clever, achingly banal, and even decorative, with color gorgeously deployed in works that snaked around the space.
While adhering to a minimalist esthetic, these ordered arrangements of paper and plastic goods nevertheless seem imbued with personal meaning. There is wit in Lung (1987), a collection of empty cigarette packets deconstructed and compressed into stacks, while Nice To Meet You (1997), a long row of calling cards saved from innumerable art-world events, reminds us that the art world runs, as it always has, on social currency.
A version of this story originally appeared in the September 2014 issue of ARTnews on page 111.