A satellite fair to Zona Maco in Mexico City, Material opened its ninth edition with a VIP preview on Thursday. Located at the Expo Reforma, where the fair previously hosted its third and fourth editions, the fair has brought together 67 exhibitors from 15 countries. The works on view here are exceptionally strong, presenting a mix of innovative approaches to photography, sculpture, and exhibition practices. It’s a great contrast to the city’s main fair.
Below, a look at the best on offer at Material.
Fabiola Menchelli at Proxyco
Proxyco’s booth is one of the first you see upon entering Material; it’s also among the fair’s best. The New York gallery, which focuses on Mexican, Colombian, and Latinx artists, has given over its booth to a striking photographic presentation by Mexico City–based artist Fabiola Menchelli. Unlike most booths at the fair, it is painted a sharp magenta, to match the new photograms she made for this presentation.
Working in five-hour sessions in a small darkroom in her home-studio, and wearing a hazmat suit and protective gloves, Menchelli creates these works by creasing light-sensitive paper to light, then exposing it to illumination via a green filter, magenta’s opposite. (At the fair, she wore emerald-hued pants, whose color she said was about the same shade as the filter she uses.) Exposed for just a second or two several times over, the works are produced in total darkness. She called this laborious process a “conscious choreography of movements in the dark.”
The artist’s use of pink relates to her experience of growing up hating the color for its associations with the sweetness and gentleness that is often expected of girls and women in a patriarchal society. Magenta, with its “pure saturation and weight,” is meant to subvert that, Menchelli said. The presentation’s title is “Velar a Verde” (“Through the Green Veil”), a pun on the word “velar,” which can mean overexposed, and a nod to the political Green Wave movement that has taken hold in Latin America in recent years. That movement has seen women take to the streets calling for abortion rights and bodily autonomy. Pink has never been more powerful.
Maria José Karaman at El Arenero
Two floors up from Proxyco’s booth, artist Maria José Karaman has also used magenta as the background for her wall-hung assemblage. To this canvas, she has affixed a steel armature and what appears to be a car seat. This is, in fact, a fabricated sculpture of the most common car seat in Colombia, the artist’s home country. In the seat’s center, she cut out a square and filled it in with a magenta-toned block of resin filled with flowers. Karaman, who graduated from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and is now based in Cali, had her first solo show in Mexico, at El Arenero, only six months ago. The gallery has been in business for only a year and a half, making it one of the fair’s youngest participants.
Kristopher Raos at Charlie James Gallery
Los Angeles–based artist Kristopher Raos is also interested in everyday objects. He’s presenting a suite of 10-inch square canvases that crop into the packaging of cleaning products, one of which is the Brillo box, which Warhol famously made into art 60 years ago. Other products include All, Ajax, and Jabon Zote, a rose-scented bar of soap popular in Mexico. The strongest piece is Untitled (+ tax, + tax), 2023, showing three layers of price tags, with the final one reading “$149 +tax + tax.” In another artist’s hands the work could come off as kitsch, but in Raos’s, the crops and details he provides breathe new life into the timeworn subgenre of art about commodification.
Darwin Cruz at Galería Muy
Galería Muy, from San Cristóbal de las Casas, in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, is one of the country’s few galleries that is both Indigenous-run and focused on contemporary Indigenous art. Three works by Darwin Cruz (Ch’ol de Chiapas) at Galería Muy’s Material booth are especially impactful.
In one corner is a work consisting of a found piece of black, burnt wood that Cruz recovered from a housing construction site in Chiapas. On it, he has painted a scene of two Indigenous women who hold a vessel from which incense burns. Cruz sees the work as a form of protest, one that not only gives a voice to the forests and trees that are cut down but also as a critique of the extractive practices of all natural resources on Indigenous lands, particularly those belonging to the Ch’ol (Maya) people in Chiapas. Cruz, who was on hand during the preview, said it was important to protect all living things, like trees, which have their own spirits.
Another piece by Cruz depicts a nude Indigenous man who is covered only by two contorted American one-dollar bills. Once again, Cruz wants to highlight through his art how globalization and colonization have impacted Indigenous people, some of whom have departed their ancestral lands and migrated north in pursuit of the American dream. In doing so, Cruz believes, they leave a part of their identity behind. Speaking in Spanish, which he noted was forced upon his people by Spanish colonizers, Cruz said he also wanted to give visibility to how Indigenous people’s dress and healing practices have been appropriated by others.
Georgina Treviño at Embajada
Born in Tijuana and now based in San Diego, Georgina Treviño is better known for her inventive jewelry line. (She’s made earrings for Beyoncé.) Treviño is now merging her design practice with her artistic practice, and she’s created a range of intriguing sculptures. At San Juan–based gallery Emabajada’s booth, she has two exceptional pieces on view. The first is a fútbol (soccer ball) that she has bedecked with various jewels and chains; the second is a silver sculpture that could double as a handbag. The various cutouts in the latter work feature pop cultural icons like Tweety Bird, Pikachu, and Lisa Simpson. The bag’s clasp is made up of the word “Carnitas” in the same typography that’s often seen at taco stands around Mexico City. Since last year, the local government has tried to outlaw the kinds of displays that typically feature in this font in some neighborhoods, like the working-class enclave of Cuauhtémoc, in an effort to “clean up”—or gentrify—the city.
Beverly’s, the artist-run bar and exhibition space in New York’s Lower East Side, has partnered with Material for each edition since the fair was founded nine years ago. Its presentation this year contains the work of 12 artists alongside what may at first appear to be little more than a bar. The team behind Beverly’s views it as more than that, however: a space for gathering, and a take on Joseph Beuys’s concept of social sculpture. Accordingly, the artists presented here have work that directs its attention beyond the art world. Highlights from this presentation include textile works by Azikiwe Mohammed and an abstract painting by Carlos Rosales-Silva. Works in their vein will likely continue to appear at Beverly’s when it moves to its new location, at 297 Grand Street, later this year.
Sergio Miguel at Deli Gallery
Mexicali-based artist Sergio Miguel is showing a suite of new paintings that reference the colonial-style Cusco School, from the 16th to 18th centuries, the era when the Spanish forced Peru’s Indigenous people to “learn” painting in Western styles. Sergio Miguel has created these devotional scenes of saints (Jose, Miguel) and angels (Gabriel, Uriel) that aim to subvert that practice all while reflecting on his own background as a Mexican artist and his path to art. The works are encased in custom-frames that where done in collaboration with an artist in CDMX who created their own version of the gilded frames that often accompany Cusco School works.