A new gallery is joining the fast-changing gallery scene on New York’s Lower East Side. Opening November 16, Proxyco, at 168 Suffolk Street (between Houston and Stanton), will focus on emerging and mid-career artists from Latin America, especially from Mexico and Colombia—with an inaugural show titled “Talon Rouge: Six Mexican Artists Revisit José Juan Tablada and His New York Circle.” The space, which is supported by the architect Enrique Norten, will be run by art adviser Alexandra Morris and Laura Saenz, who was formerly director of Leon Tovar Gallery.
Norten originally proposed opening a gallery to Morris around two years ago, but she was working on other projects at the time. “Enrique told me, ‘It’s been a very long time since there’s been an art gallery that represents mostly Latin American artists, with a focus on Mexican art,’ ” Morris recalled to ARTnews. She decided to join him in remedying that.
Only a handful of galleries represent Latin American artists as a majority of their roster, and oftentimes those artists come mainly from Brazil, Argentina, and Venezuela, Morris noted. “There are so many artists in Latin America that we admire and would love to see on a global stage,” she said. “That’s why the focus is on Latin American art.” The team devised the Proxyco name as a portmanteau of “proxy” (the founders see themselves as representatives of their artists abroad) and “co-,” the prefix of a few buzzwords they had in mind (contemporary, connect, contemplate, collect).
The opening exhibition, which will be curated by Daniel Garza Usabiaga, artistic director of the Zona Maco art fair in Mexico City, will look at the legacy of Mexican poet and art critic José Juan Tablada. Between 1914 and 1935, Tablada periodically lived in New York, where he founded the bookstore La Librería de los Latinos and the magazine Mexican Art and Life. One of the foremost Mexican modernist poets, Tablada is often credited with bringing the form of haiku, which he encountered while traveling in Japan, to Latin America.
“He took his role as a cultural promoter very seriously, and he wasted no time in constantly pointing out to New York the great talents from Mexico and how they have something to contribute to the U.S.,” Morris said. “What he did back in the 1920s and the 1930s is what we’re trying to do now.”
The exhibition will include new work by six contemporary Mexican artists—Verónica Gerber Bicecci, Javier Hinojosa, Ivan Krassoievitch, Edgar Orlaineta, Marco Rountree, and Fabiola Torres-Alzaga—that responds to Tablada’s time in New York, alongside some of the poet’s writings and work by his artistic contemporaries, among them José Clemente Orozco, Marius de Zayas, and Miguel Covarrubias.
The gallery’s opening coincides with a swell of attention around Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, a Getty Foundation–funded initiative in Southern California that looks at the complex relationships between Los Angeles and Latin American and Latinx artists. The 70-plus exhibitions have been promoted as a way not only to exhibit and discuss art from Latin America but also to complicate the entire notion of what constitutes Latin American art. For her part, Morris said she hopes the gallery’s program will further contribute to that ongoing conversation, noting that she’s always been conflicted about the term “Latin American art.”
“We don’t really know what Latin American art means,” Morris said. “It’s not that localized. It doesn’t feel regional to me. It’s exactly the right time to realize that maybe there are more differences between these countries, that it’s not necessarily fair to box all of these countries [together]. We’re excited to be opening the gallery at this moment—it couldn’t be any better.”