Gabriel Kuri was pleasantly surprised—and a little perplexed—when, this past fall, the Armory Show invited him to be the featured artist for the 2011 fair. The assignment, to “create the visual identity” of the show, meant that Kuri worked with the fair’s graphic designer Reed Seifer on the catalogue, website and promotional materials. “I didn’t actually do much,” Kuri demurred, when we spoke on the phone as he waited in line for a coffee at the fair. “I chose some images, but mainly he did all the work.”
Kuri is best known for large, mixed-medium pieces that reference some of the common, throwaway objects that are a part of everyday life. Hand-woven tapestries that reproduce banking and supermarket receipts and a glowing fiberglass sculpture meant to look like a fried pork rind on steroids are some of his most popular works. These and many others are currently on view in a survey of his work at the Boston Institute of Contemporary Art.
The Mexican artist, who for the past seven years has lived mostly in Belgium, was somewhat blasé about his involvement with the fair. “I don’t really think of art fairs as anything more than what they are. I’m not against them, let’s say . . .” But, he admitted, “Sometimes they do bring good things.” Kuri saw his participation in the fair as an opportunity to draw international attention to his less recognized collages and works on paper.
Like much of his work, the collages are a product of Kuri’s compulsive collecting and record-keeping. What started as “a very peculiar fiscal situation”-for a period of time, Kuri hoarded all his receipts, because he wasn’t paying taxes while living between Europe and Mexico-developed into an obsession. Column (2009–10), on view at the ICA, consists of two thin metal rods, spanning almost floor to ceiling, that spear hundreds of receipts that Kuri collected over the course of several years. Kuri’s page on the Armory’s website features a 2006 collage, Untitled (Montañas) (pictured above). He attached four ticket stubs—the kind you might get while waiting in line at a bakery or butcher shop—to a vintage magazine spread of a snowy mountain range. Their placement on the page makes the pale yellow and pink stubs look like oversize alpine huts.
Kuri expects that his experience at the Armory show will factor into future work. Perhaps the receipt from the macchiato he ordered when we spoke on the phone will make its way into one of his giant tapestries. “No, no, it was free, since I’m in the exhibitor’s lounge.”
“Gabriel Kuri: Nobody needs to know the price of your Saab,” opened at the Blaffer Art Museum in Houston and is currently at Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art, through July 4. Kuri’s work is also on view at the Armory booths of the galleries that represent him: Franco Nero, Turin, and Esther Schipper, Berlin.