REVIEW: Disponible: A Kind of Mexican Show at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts

Hector Zamora, White Noise – Shed 6 Installation (detail), 2011. Installation originally developed for the Auckland Arts Festival, New Zealand. Courtesy of the artist and XXXXX

This Fall there are two exhibitions in Boston that originated in San Francisco: Shahzia Sikander: The Exploding Company Man and Other Abstractions and Disponible: A Kind of Mexican Show, both curated and co-curated respectively by Hou Hanru for the Walter and McBean Galleries in San Francisco.

Hanru is director of exhibitions at the San Francisco Art Institute and an internationally known writer and curator with a “reputation for staging thematic exhibitions.” The more exhibitions curated by Hanru I experience, the more I fall in love with his curatorial approach.

Disponible: A Kind of Mexican Show is a group show of eight contemporary Mexican artists that “frame two major tendencies in the current creative scene – social critique and witty design solutions – as entangled and reinforcing strategies to face the complex reality of life in modern Mexico. ” The message, although delivered with humor and irony in most of the works, lingers on with intensity and a sense of “urgency and importance.”

Manuel Rocha Iturbide, I Play The Drums With Frequency (detail), 2007–11. Drum set, sound installation. Courtesy of the artist.

With a focus on the effects of globalization on the Mexican economy, politics and society, “Disponible” is a universal kind of show. Any dense urban setting with empty billboard advertisements with the words “disponible” (“available”) printed on them, is a setting that “allows contemporary art and other experimental and creative practices such as architecture, design and music to flourish, forming one of the most original and intriguing art scenes in the global landscape.” The works in this show are poignant and reinforce the current conversations we’re having on environmental sustainability, social justice and alternative design solutions that foster a safer, healthier and better world.

Among some of my favorite works in the exhibition include Teresa Margolles’ Las Llaves de La Ciudad (The Keys to the City), a performance based installation conceived in collaboration with Antonio Hernandez Camacho, a former small business owner from Ciudad Juarez. On opening night, both Ms. Margolles and Mr. Camacho interacted with those in attendance while Mr. Camacho carved messages of hope into keys. Today, what’s left behind are Mr. Camacho’s carving tools, his desk, metal shavings on the floor and carved keys hanging on a cord. Acting as a metaphor for Ciudad Juarez, this installation also speaks to the violence that plagues the city. Today, an audio recording of the performance played throughout the installation allows for a haunting experience.

Teresa Margolles, Las Llaves de la Ciudad (detail), 2011. Installation performance. Photograph by Rafael Burillo. Courtesy of the artist.

Teresa Margolles, Las Llaves de la Ciudad (performance with Mr. Camacho), 2011. Installation performance. (iPhone) Photograph by Anulfo Baez.

Teresa Margolles, Las Llaves de la Ciudad (performance with Mr. Camacho), 2011. Installation performance. (iPhone) Photograph by Anulfo Baez.

Teresa Margolles, Las Llaves de la Ciudad (Key I had made while I interacted with Mr. Camacho), 2011. Installation performance. (iPhone) Photograph by Anulfo Baez. The message (in Spanish) I chose to be engraved into the key was "compasion" because we all need a little more compassion to save the world.

Other works rely heavily on sound and noise to emphasize the human condition. Hector Zamora’s White Noise (Part 2) an installation in its own separate gallery comments on the freedoms available in public and private spaces, while Mauricio Limon’s video Bizco Merolico Chorus examines the subcultures of Mexico City’s street vendors by asking them to repeat their sales pitches, in the process creating a universal chorus often ignored in societies all over. Disponible: A Kind of Mexican Show leaves little to be desired. It reminds us that there is much to be done in the world.

Hector Zamora, White Noise (detail). Photo Courtesy of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts

Hector Zamora, White Noise (detail), 2011. Photo Courtesy of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts.

Mauricio Limón, Bizco Merolico Chorus, 2006. Video still, duration: 2 minutes, 22 seconds. Courtesy of the artist and Galería Hilario Galguera, Mexico City, Mexico.

Disponible: A Kind of a Mexican Show is on view through November 19, 2011 and was co-curated by Hou Hanru and Guillermo Santamarina. On October 18, 2011 there will be a screening of Natalia Almada’s film El General at the Museum of Fine Arts.

*unless linked to a direct source of reference, quotes were taken from the exhibition brochure.

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