Mexico City is a nexus of muralism, modernism, and the revolutionary and communal thinking behind both movements. The shows up during this year’s Zona Maco Art Week seem particularly suited to their surroundings, as if born from the city’s unique visual lexicon—even the work brought in from other corners of the world.
Themes for the week include surreality, crisis, and inquiry around humanity’s “big questions.” The shows ask viewers to reimagine commonly held concepts and delight in material experiments, whether it’s Rufino Tamayo’s one-of-a-kind mixografía prints or Nairy Baghramian’s abstract figures.
During the week, the city will light up with openings, concerts, and other art-related events in the orbit of the main fair at the Citibanamex Expo Center. Below is a guide to some of the week’s must-see shows spanning the city so that the adventurous traveler can experience CDMX as comfortably as a local (but still with the fascination of a tourist).
Miguel Angel Ríos at Galería Karen Huber
Galería Karen Huber is situated in la Colonia Juarez, an art- and design-forward district that hugs the center of the city and la Colonia Roma. The gallery, the only one in the city solely dedicated to contemporary painting, will host a solo show of Argentine artist Miguel Angel Ríos. Ríos is a painter, video artist, and, arguably, cartographer who dissects colonial ideals and considers the power of Indigenous art as a counter-force. The paintings on view are surreal, seemingly gesturing to elements of Cubism and CGI, two visual forms that deconstruct our ideas of faces, landscapes, and other facets of daily life, giving way to the uncanny. In these works, anything can happen: a leaf replaces a human head, and borders exist even in worlds that don’t.
Opens February 7
Galería Karen Huber, Bucareli 120-piso 1, Colonia Centro, Centro, Cuauhtémoc, 06040 Ciudad de México, CDMX
Mirosław Bałka at Nordenhake Gallery
Polish sculptor and video artist Mirosław Bałka’s first exhibition in Mexico features two installations at the Nordenhake Gallery, one a comment on the prevalence of cloud technology, the other a commission for the space’s showroom. “La Nube” (The Cloud) is a stark display of 650 black plastic buckets spread across the gallery’s floor. Each bucket contains a liter of water, a literal representation of technology’s intangibles: what were once humanity’s contained physical archives are now dispersed, cloud-hosted digitalizations. As is the case with this show, Bałka’s work often features everyday materials (other times, felt, salt, hair, and soap) that encapsulate daily rituals and collective ideas. Bałka’s commissioned installation is a nod to his usual way of working, in which the artist uses space or his body as a starting place for forming sculptures.
February 7–March 10
Nordenhake Gallery, Monterrey 65, Roma Nte., Cuauhtémoc, 06700 Ciudad de México, CDMX
Alicja Kwade at OMR
OMR sits on one of the most frequented corners of the La Colonia Roma, but upon entering the gallery, it’s easy to shut out the world, finding, instead, Alicja Kwade’s take on the universe. “Silent Matter” is a comment on the compression of time and humans’ (attempted) expansion of understanding. Kwade’s “solar systems,” rendered from obsidian and other local stones, dangle from the ceiling, subtly moving in irregular orbits. For this series, Kwade took inspiration from materials endemic to Mexico and was committed to producing work with a low carbon footprint. As such, the Polish-German sculptor collaborated with local artisans to lessen the show’s environmental impact and immerse herself in centuries-old production techniques. The exhibit also includes a four-piece series comprised of clock hands representing the hours of a year, further and further distorted until the markers no longer represent time as we know it. An unknown force exerts itself in Kwade’s show, one that topples our conventional understanding of science, positing that it is yet another form of art and human invention. The more we shine a light on the questions of our existence, the artist says, the more we end up in the void.
February 7–March 25
OMR, Córdoba 100, Roma Nte., Cuauhtémoc, 06700 Ciudad de México, CDMX
Josué Mejía at Proyectos Monclova
Josué Mejía’s show at Proyectos Monclova, a warehouse-style gallery in the Polanco neighborhood, uses caricature to criticize the categorization of Mexican art. The artist uses a 1940 exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which placed the country’s art into four periods (pre-Hispanic, colonial, popular, and modern), as a jumping-off point. In his institutional critique, Mejía combines history and fiction and an exploration of muralism laced with a parody of it. Mejía’s show shares the space with German sculptor Michael Sailstorfer’s Forst, a hanging forest whose name has no literal translation to English or Spanish but refers to a wooded area created to be destroyed, populated to be cleared.
February 7–April 1
Proyectos Monclova, Lamartine 415, Polanco, Polanco V Secc, Miguel Hidalgo, 11560 Ciudad de México, CDMX
Elsa-Louise Manceaux and Erika Verzutti at Museo Experimental el ECO
The ECO, an avant-garde multidisciplinary space founded by German painter and sculptor Mathias Goeritz and built under the banner of emotional architecture, will host two shows during Zona Maco: “Orgasmos en el fondo” by French artist Elsa-Louise Manceaux and “Tantra” by Brazilian sculptor Erika Verzutti. Manceaux’s painting and sculpture show explores historical, linguistic, and pictorial fondos (backgrounds or backdrops) and literal ones by way of her former paintings, which she has cropped and reused as canvases for these new, corporeally focused works. Verzutti’s show also draws on erotic themes, as well as on repetition and mantras. The pieces, made in collaboration with Guadalajara’s Suro ceramics studio, establish an evocative visual rhythm through repetition—Verzutti’s nod to Goeritz’s belief that form, texture, and color can elicit maximum human emotion.
February 8–April 16
Museo Experimental el ECO, C. James Sullivan 43, San Rafael, Cuauhtémoc, 06470 Ciudad de México, CDMX
Jesús Rafael Soto at Galería RGR
Galería RGR commemorates the 100th anniversary of the birth of the late Venezuelan experimental sculptor Jesús Rafael Soto with a solo outing of his kinetic works. “The Instability of the Real” gives viewers access to an exclusive curation of five decades of sculptures from the artist’s estate, Atelier Soto, including one of his immersive “Pénétrable” pieces. Soto’s sculptures, rendered from simple materials like plastic cords and metal frames, venture into complex questions about space and how to transform two-dimensional surfaces into three-dimensional ones through serial line arrangements. Seriality may generally seem like an exercise in organization and stability, but Soto’s work upends this notion, introducing vibration and penetrability into the pieces.
February 10–April 15
Galería RGR, Calle Gral. Antonio León 48, San Miguel Chapultepec I Secc, Miguel Hidalgo, 11850 Ciudad de México, CDMX
“Desert Flood” at Lago Algo
Lago Algo is a gallery with the soul of a museum. Situated on one of the lakes of Bosque Chapultepec, this parabolic concrete structure has been recently inhabited by a project with a mission to make art more accessible. Passersby on a park stroll can stop in to enjoy one of the gallery’s exhibitions, marvel at the space’s architectural interventions, or have a bite at the site’s farm-to-table cafe. For Zona Maco, Lago Algo has installed a group show, curated by Jérôme Sans and Cristobal Riestra, with work from Claudia Comte, Gabriel Rico, and SUPERFLEX that incites conscientiousness and conversation. Viewers move through Rico’s hanging neon sculptures that forge a timeline of humanity and his video installation that comments on science turned destructive (think: the atomic bomb). And destruction is the name of the game throughout the show. Comte’s installation contrasts photographs of natural disasters against superimposed repeating texts reading “HA”—the artist’s commentary on society’s flippancy about the climate crisis. After walking across Comte’s literal desert (the floor is covered with sand and dotted with marble sculptures representing cacti or bleached coral), visitors enter SUPERFLEX’s exhibit: a flooded room with a billboard-size appeal to humanity in bright letters reading “WE ARE ALL IN THE SAME BOAT.”
February 10–July 2023
Lago Algo, Bosque de Chapultepec, Pista El Sope S/N, Bosque de Chapultepec II Secc, Miguel Hidalgo, 11100 Ciudad de México, CDMX
Nairy Baghramian at Kurimanzutto
Kurimanzutto, in the architecturally rigorous and trendy yet still somewhat undiscovered neighborhood of San Miguel Chapultepec, isn’t just a gallery but a work of art in and of itself. Designed by Alberto Kalach (the same architect responsible for the physics defying Vasconcelos Library, which is also worth a visit), the gallery features high pitched ceilings, warm wooden beams, and industrial details. The temporary shows that inhabit this space often strike up conversation with it, as is the case with Iranian-German artist Nairy Baghramian’s sculpture exhibit, which opens February 11. “Modèle Vivant” plays on linguistic ideas and those of traditional figurative painting as well—the name of the show nods to both a portrait model and humans’ ability to mold shapes in our likenesses. Visitors won’t find literal representations of the human figure here but referential ones that invite them to consider the body’s capacity for fluidity and rigidity within the societal contexts of femininity, functionality, and abstraction. Baghramian’s work is seemingly unstable yet defined in materials, like metal, that couldn’t be less so. Visitors are invited to walk around the forms and experience human corporeality in a new way.
February 11–March 11
Kurimanzutto, Cda. Gobernador Rafael Rebollar 94, San Miguel Chapultepec I Secc, Miguel Hidalgo, 11850 Ciudad de México, CDMX
Lari Pittman at Museo Jumex
Visitors to Polanco’s Museo Jumex will find an exuberant, unflinching exhibit of paintings and sculptures by queer Latinx artist Lari Pittman. They will also be met with a content warning and a verbal explanation of the two suggested ways for walking the show. “Lo que se ve, no se pregunta” refers to a response musician Juan Gabriel gave in an interview when asked about his sexuality. And the question of sexuality, and the politics and violence around it, are the matter of this show, which spans decades of Pittman’s work in the airy confines of an entire floor. At once bright and inviting, the work also unnerves by questioning conventions. Latin American and North American cultural references abound, as do thought-evoking nods to traditional gender and societal constructs. So tactile are the pieces in the show that my phone’s camera understood Pittman’s rending of a Visa credit card as real, searching for a 16-digit number the device could register.
On view through February 26
Museo Jumex, Blvd. Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra 303, Granada, Miguel Hidalgo, 11520 Ciudad de México, CDMX
Rufino Tamayo at Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo
Rufino Tamayo’s “mixografías,” on display at the museum by the artist’s same name, is a comprehensive collection of the Oaxacan painter’s post-1978 works created using a proprietary technique developed in collaboration with Luis Remba at the Taller Grafica Mexicana. This printing style involves taking molds from a master plate, relieving them in negative, inking them, and transferring images to handmade, high-pulp paper. The results are prints with sculptural texture—somewhere between 2D and 3D—and intense color. Tamayo’s surreal figures feel at home in the imposing yet seemingly weightless structure by architects Teodoro González de León and Abraham Zabludovsky. Visitors can move between the Tamayo show and Raphael Montañez Ortiz’s retrospective, traveling from El Museo del Barrio in New York, which includes similarly radical work in various mediums by artists like Ana Mendieta and Faith Ringgold. These two exhibitions are nicely complemented by Miguel Calderón’s mixed-media social criticism and ten years’ worth of Tania Pérez Córdova’s sculptures that embrace quotidian objects and temporal inquiry.
On view through April 2
Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo, Av. Paseo de la Reforma 51, Polanco, Bosque de Chapultepec I Secc, Miguel Hidalgo, 11580 Ciudad de México, CDMX
Ben Vautier at MUAC
UNAM’s contemporary art museum (MUAC) in the far south of the city and at the edge of this renowned university’s campus is the temporary home for a retrospective from French artist Ben Vautier (also known simply as “Ben”). The show is an object lesson in the most literal sense: signage in the artist’s distinctive script, maps, toy guns, and lamps are visuals intended to instruct conversation. Such was the interest of the artist and his Fluxus contemporaries, who challenged the idea of art—Vautier postulating that art is everything. And while the conceptual artist’s theory may ring true, this work also doesn’t advocate for a lack of intention. In fact, Vautier used the term “egoism” to describe the need for unique minds to make new and different work. In a thought exercise on ego, the artist argues that to stop making art is to die. The name of the retrospective, translating to “Death Doesn’t Exist,” succinctly postulates that where there is art, there is life, and vice versa. What better place for these types of philosophical conjectures than a university campus? While there, visitors should feel free to explore. The humanities quad alone boasts David Alfaro Siqueros’s murals and Juan O’Gorman’s mosaics, and this is just the start to what is, essentially, a walking tour of Mexico’s most prolific modernist painters and architects.
On view through April 2
MUAC, Av. Insurgentes Sur 3000, C.U., Coyoacán, 04510 Ciudad de México, CDMX