Misogyny and the Myth of the ’90s

XYLAÑYNU: Taller de los Viernes
Kurimanzutto Gallery, Mexico City
06.02.16 – 17.03.16

Kurimanzutto is a pristine, vaulted gallery in the San Miguel de Chapultepec neighbourhood of Mexico City. As part of the recent exhibition XYLAÑYNU: Taller de los Viernes, cumbia music drifts over the guard onto the sidewalk, casting a nostalgic spell on the airy space.

The tropical rhythms flow from the radio of a car parked in the entranceway, its windows rolled down. The 2002 Skoda Octavia station wagon has been hand-painted Kelly green and bubble-gum pink, and has chicken bones dangling from an extended front windshield wiper. A gnarled length of two-by-four is strapped to the roof of the car and a baby’s car seat is buckled into the back. The whole assemblage, titled Autoconfusión ( 2015 ), is a piece by Abraham Cruzvillegas. Just beyond, in the gallery’s vine-draped atrium, lounge four Gabriel Kuri sculptures from his series This, Please ( 2010 ). The vaguely corporate-looking slouched circles are finished with stubbed-out cigarettes wedged into their perforations and creases.

The conceptual jumping-off point for the show is a revisiting of the eponymous gatherings ( Taller de los Viernes translates as ‘Friday Workshops’ ) that took place at the home of Gabriel Orozco from 1987 to 1992. Curated by Guillermo Santamarina, the exhibition presents recent works by five artists: Orozco, Damián Ortega, Abraham Cruzvillegas, Gabriel Kuri and Dr. Lakra ( also known as Jerónimo López Ramírez ). These artists met over the course of five years in what has been described as ‘a playful space of collective work, exchange of information and ideas, experimentations and coexistence’.

In theory, a curator’s statement contextualises its show. Santa-marina’s idiosyncratic piece, however, flings around red-herring declarations in a winking and theatrical un-logic. He appears to take to heart his own notion of the exhibition, that the creative process should be played like a game.

Contrary to the protests of this deliberately confusing text, the framing of the exhibition insinuates that Mexican contemporary art owes a credit to the legacy of the Taller de los Viernes and the work of these five artists as a starting point for the artistic practices we see today. It begins:

‘I declare that I care very little about the crowning via the promulgation of another ( or even an undoubtedly-true-and-everyone-might-as-well-know-it ) genealogy of contemporary art in this country […] and even less so about the resulting elbow in the face. Or the little air guitars held up in glory of “ha, ha! I said it first”s.’

The statement reads like a nonsensical smokescreen thrown up to avoid accountability for conceptual holes and what looks like a deliberate lack of curating, prompting the question, why did Kurimanzutto think a curator was necessary for this commercial gallery exhibition? Meanwhile, a vacuum where context should be provided makes Santamarina’s apparent humility difficult to take.

Informal artist gatherings can leave a lasting imprint on the artistic landscape of a place; they’re well worth reflection and documentation. It’s a tricky proposition to attempt this in a commercial space rather than a museum or cultural centre, however, as commercial galleries utilise a shorthand or incomplete allusions to history for market gain. As a retrospective of the Taller, the Kurimanzutto show does not deliver any contextualisation, nor historic, nor anecdotal media. There are no images, ephemera or texts relating to the gatherings. None of the work was produced in the years during which the Taller were held ( the oldest piece is from 2007, fifteen years after the end of these gatherings ). Similarly, there is nothing to explain why these artists’ production methods were important or unique in Mexico at the time the Taller was in session. No mention is made of the then-dominant mode of classical academy-style art making, or that pre-NAFTA Mexico was – for better or worse – effectively sealed off from the world commercially, academically and artistically. The sole justification we are given for the exhibition and the specific works included is an unspecified ‘game’ for which the artists gathered and ‘proposed new works made in the last decade that have never been shown in Mexico’.

Perhaps the exhibition’s premise and execution could be forgiven if the timing wasn’t so conspicuous. However, the show was aligned with the Mexican art world’s most visible moment internationally, the Zona Maco contemporary art fair. No doubt this positioning was attractive to Kurimanzutto’s directors ( José Kuri and Mónica Manzutto, from whom the gallery gets its hybrid name ), as they work to underscore the myth of the Taller de los Viernes as the starting point of contemporary Mexican art, and their gallery as the seat of authority regarding contemporary art history in Mexico.

Certain aspects of the story are true. Gabriel Orozco did host these gatherings at his home in Tlalpan from 1987 to 1992. Participation was limited, albeit informally to all five of the show’s participating artists, as well as to Gabriel Kuri’s brother, José. In the late 1990s Orozco came up with the idea for a gallery in Mexico to represent his work. He recruited José Kuri and Mónica Manzutto as directors, and, according to some, he retains part ownership ( Kurimanzutto denies this ). Today the space is one of the most prominent and powerful galleries not just in Mexico but in Latin America.

However, as Etgar Hernandez explains in his review of the show, the myth of the Taller, as seminal to Mexican art today, is a fabrication that was still congealing as a dictum as recently as 2000. It seems unbelievable that anyone could maintain that the contemporary artistic production of an entire nation might be traced and reduced to the work of five artists. I regard this as a story told to justify the concentration of certain voices in the field, by silencing the contributions of others, through omission. When Santamarina claims not to care about coronations or accolades, it smacks of false modesty.

His curatorial approach, which he describes as ‘a game of parrhesia and theft’, is the equivalent of a curatorial exquisite corpse. Further contributing to the show’s visual confusion is his election to show only recent pieces, which leaves the presented works with little apparent dialogue between them, beyond the ‘mere series of moments’ the artists spent together thirty years ago.

Artistic processes, media and subjects are left to intermingle with all the complementary sophistication of a neighbourhood potluck meal, but they’re lacking the charm. Gabriel Kuri’s Bilateral Growth ( 2013 ) looks lost between Santamarina’s wandering exercise of a text and Untitled ( 2014 ), Dr. Lakra’s visually domineering record collection. Orozco’s chromed balls, G01174 ( undated ), are placed almost apologetically, hung low and hidden behind his Blind Signs ( 2013 ) installation. The snowy Styrofoam spillage of Damián Ortega’s large vaginal cube, Paisagem ( 2015 ), blocks the viewer from getting close enough to see Dr. Lakra’s collages of nude pinups, lost amid the white expanse of an enormous and otherwise blank gallery wall.

The accompanying promotional poster, featuring five ageing artists ( and I assume the curator ) in Peruvian quolla masks brandishing beers, books and backpacks, brings to mind El Chavo del Ocho’s later days played by an ageing Chespirito. At least Kurimanzutto seems to be aware that the self-congratulatory myth of the Taller is growing dated. The yearlong Project Room programme launched this September, to exhibit the work of six young Mexican artists, is evidence that the gallery knows that their enfants terribles of the 1990s are no longer enfants. But the motivations behind the Project Room are still unclear. Whether these emerging artists have the real support of the gallery, or the gallery is just using their youthful voices as a relevance-refresher, remains to be seen.

Taken in light of the gallery’s exhibition history, XYLAÑYNU is a self-serving monument to the mythos behind an old boys’ club. All-male origin myths are depressingly common in Mexico ( and beyond ), and it’s business-as-usual to see few women artists represented at this gallery. Kurimanzutto’s last two group shows were all male; there hasn’t been any work by a woman in the main space since Minerva Cuevas’s exhibition in October 2015 ( which came a full year after the previous such exhibition, by Mariana Castillo Deball ). Worse was the two-year gap between Marieta Chirulescu ( 2013 ) and Monika Sosnowska ( 2011 ). Perhaps this is a rhetorical question, but why do we continue to accept a commercial gallery’s programme as a just-this-side of our art-historical canon, when it so noticeably excludes women’s voices?

Amazingly, sexism and nepotism are minor crimes in this exhibition. The real issue with XYLAÑYNU: Taller de los Viernes is the self-indulgent repackaging of a gallery’s private history as the entire narrative of Mexican art. Any time a claim that bold is made, it should give us pause, whatever the relationships between the institution’s founders and the artists it presents.

90年代的厌女症和神话

“周五聚会”
库里曼祖托画廊,墨西哥城
2016年2月6日 – 2016年3月17日

库里曼祖托( Kurimanzutto )是一个原始的拱形画廊,地处墨西哥城中圣米格尔德查普尔特佩克( San Miguel de Chapultepec )区域。作为近期展览ÑYNU,周五聚会”的一部分,滚比亚音乐( cumbia )飘散在人行道护栏之上,为这个轻快的空间注入了一股怀旧之风。

这段热带节奏来自入口处停泊着的一辆汽车里的广播。这辆2002年斯柯达明锐( Skoda Octavia )的车窗被摇下,车皮被手工绘制上了凯利绿和泡泡糖粉红两色,还有一些鸡骨头悬挂在前挡风玻璃那里竖直的刮雨器上。一段矩形截面为2乘4英寸并且毛毛糙糙的木料被绑在车顶,另有一个婴儿座椅扣在后座上。所有这些组合在一起,就是亚伯拉罕克鲁兹威力戈斯( Abraham Cruzvillegas )的作品《自动连接》( 2015 )。不远处,在画廊满是藤蔓垂悬的中庭里,放着四件加布里埃尔库里( Gabriel Kuri )《这里,有请》( 2010 )系列中的雕塑。它们的形状有点像办公用品但又懒懒散散耸拉着的圆,在雕塑的孔洞里和褶皱的缝隙中则堵着好多烟头。

这个展览在概念上的出发点,是重新回顾了1987年到1992年间在艺术家加布里埃尔奥罗斯科( Gabriel Orozco )家中举办的聚会,这也成为了展览的同名标题( Taller de los Viernes意为“周五聚会” )。策展人吉勒莫圣塔马里纳( Guillermo Santamarina )呈现了五位艺术家的近作:奥罗斯科、达米安奥尔特加( Damian Ortega )、克鲁兹威力戈斯、库里、Dr. Lakra( 又名Jeronimo Lopez Ramirez )。这些艺术家在那五年里,总是聚集在“一个有着协同工作、信息和想法交换,以及满是实验和共生共存的充满乐趣的空间”之中。

理论上,策展人的陈述总是应该对展览进行背景补充。不过,圣塔马里纳的写作比较特别,他好像眨着眼睛用戏剧性的非逻辑围绕那些令人分神的话题论述进行嘲弄。看起来他真心地感到,这个展览的概念就在于创造性的实践过程应当就像是玩游戏那样。

与这篇刻意使人费解的文本所自带的反对立场不同的是,展览的框架结构暗示着墨西哥当代艺术对于“周五聚会”及其宝贵的财富还缺乏充分认识,而这五位艺术家的作品也应当被视作我们今天所看到的种种艺术实践的起点。文章是这样开篇的:

“我宣布我对于在这个国家中通过发布另一套( 或者,甚至是一套无疑的-真正的-并且-人人-都可能-对此-熟知的 )当代艺术谱系所带来的加冕兴趣甚少而且,对于那些由此所带来的打脸攻击的兴趣更少。或者还有,那些摆出空弹吉他的姿势然后满脸骄傲的说辞‘哈哈!我是第一个这么说的人’。”

这篇陈述读起来就像是为了避免陷入概念黑洞的责任义务而没头没脑写就的烟雾弹,而且看起来仿佛刻意地让展览显得缺乏策展,这倒是提出了一个问题,为什么库里曼祖托会认为对于这个商业画廊的展览而言,一个策展人是必需的呢?

与此同时,应当提供的背景补充又的确是缺失的,这使得圣塔马里纳这种表面上的谦逊有些难于接受。

非正式的艺术家们的聚会,确实会对一个地方的艺术面貌施以持久的影响;它们是极其值得反思和纪录的。要在一个商业空间,而非美术馆或是文化中心,达成这样的努力是个有些棘手的命题,因为商业画廊主要是为了市场收益而对历史典故进行快速或并不完整的应用。作为一次对于“周五聚会”的回顾,库里曼祖托的展览并没有提供任何语境化的背景补充,既无历史也无秩事。有关这些聚会,人们看不到任何的图像、票券档案或是文字。没有一件展览的作品创作于“周五聚会”发生的那些年( 展览中最早的一幅作品创作于2007年,发生在聚会结束的15年之后 )。类似的,为何这些艺术家的创作方式在墨西哥是重要而独特的,观众也并没有读到相关解释。同样没有提及的,还有当时非常主流的经典学院风格的艺术创作,或是在北美自由贸易协议( NAFTA )制定之前的墨西哥如何( 无论好坏利弊 )在商业、学术和艺术上都隔绝于整个世界。我们所能看到唯一合乎展览而又具体的作品是一个不太详细的“游戏”,这些艺术家们会聚在一起然后“提出过去十年在墨西哥从来没被展出过的新作方案”。

或许,如果时机并非如此重要,那么展览的前提和具体实施也都可以得到谅解。可是这个展览又恰逢墨西哥艺术界最受国际关注的Zona Maco博览会的举办期间。这样的时间节点对于库里曼祖托的画廊主( 何塞库里[José Kuri]与莫妮卡曼祖托[Mónica Manzutto],俩人的姓氏组成了画廊的名字 )而言是极具吸引力的,他们想要倾力而为地强调墨西哥的当代艺术就起始于“周五聚会”的神话,而且他们的画廊又在墨西哥当代艺术史中坐拥着权威的宝座。

故事中的某些内容是真实可信的。加布里埃尔奥罗斯科确实在1987到1992年间他位于特拉潘区( Tlalpan )的家里组织过这些聚会。参加者非常有限,除了非正式地面向展览中提及的这五位艺术家之外,还包括加布里埃尔库里的亲兄弟何塞库里。到1990年代晚期,奥罗斯科提出想用一间墨西哥的画廊来代理他作品的想法。他聘用了何塞库里和莫妮卡曼祖托来担当总监,并且,据说,他自己仍然保有部分所有权( 不过库里曼祖托画廊否认了这一点 )。今天,这个空间成为了不止墨西哥,更是整个拉美地区,最突出而有影响力的画廊之一。

然而,正如埃格尔埃尔南德斯( Etgar Hernandez )在他的展评文章中所解释的那样,被认为是墨西哥当下艺术发端的“周五聚会”神话,是直到2000年左右才开始逐渐凝固成专有名词的一种人为概念。同样似乎令人难以置信的是,任何人都会感到整个民族的当代艺术创作可以被追溯并剧减到五位艺术家的作品。我个人将这样一个神话当作故事来看待,它的存在通过忽视、省略其他人的贡献从而合理化地将关注重心聚焦于艺术领域中的一部分声音。而圣塔马里纳表明自己对于加冕或赞许都无兴趣这一点,倒是透露出了一种假谦虚。

他的策展方式,被自述为“是自由言论( parrhesia )和偷盗的游戏”,实则是一具策展上精致考究的尸体。而进一步加重了展览在视觉上种种含糊不清的,是他选择了只展览艺术家的近期创作,这使得作品与作品之间,除了这些艺术家在30年前共度了“一些时光”之外,并不能形成更多显见的对话。

艺术创作的过程、媒介以及主题,这些都被遗留下来去混淆言谈,那些像邻里间一餐家常便饭所附带着的世故交谈,更何况它们都缺乏魅力。加布里埃尔库里的《双边增长》( 2013 ),几乎要被吞噬在圣塔马里纳漫游练习的文字和Dr. Lakra一组视觉上很强势的唱片收集作品《无题》( 2014 )这两者之间。奥罗斯科的镀铬球《G01174( 未标注年代 )》几乎是充满歉意地被低低地悬挂在墙上,而且躲在他自己《盲人标志》( 2013 )的装置作品后面。达米安奥尔特加巨大的阴道形立方体作品《景观》( 2015 )泄出白雪般的聚苯乙烯泡沫塑料,它们挡住了观众,使他们没法细看Dr. Lakra用裸体画报制作的拼贴,而后者只能怅然若失地被遗弃在画廊展墙延展而开的巨大空白之中。

在展览的推广海报上,五位日渐年迈的艺术家们( 我猜也有策展人 )戴着秘鲁面具,挥舞着啤酒、书、背包,叫人想起由年老的切斯里图( Chespirito )出演的墨西哥情景喜剧”来。至少,库里曼祖托似乎很清楚地知道,自行欢庆的“周五聚会”神话还在日益增加光环。这间画廊非常明白他们1990年代“儿童组织”里培养出来的都早已不再是孩童了,一个明证就在于他们从今年九月开始要开展长达一年的“项目房间( Project Room )”计划,用以展出六位年轻的墨西哥艺术家的作品。不过“项目房间”背后的动机仍不明朗。这些新兴艺术家是否会真正地得到画廊的支持,还是画廊仅仅在利用年轻的声音来保持更新,都有待日后的观察。

考虑到画廊的展览历史,XYLAÑYNU是一个躲在“老男孩俱乐部”神话背后的、自给自足的纪念碑。令人沮丧的是,在墨西哥( 以及其他很多地方 ),这种全部由男性主导的神话非常常见,人们一如既往地鲜少看到这间画廊代理女性艺术家。库里曼祖托刚过去的两个群展全部由男性组成,而自从2015年10月密涅瓦奎瓦斯( Minerva Cuevas )的展览( 这与之前玛丽安娜卡斯蒂略德巴尔[Mariana Castillo Deball]的展览已经时隔一年之久 )以来,画廊的主厅中至今还没有展出过任何一件女艺术家的作品。更糟糕的是在玛丽埃塔克鲁莱斯库( Marieta Chirulescu )2013年的展览和莫妮卡索斯诺斯卡( Monica Sosnowska )2011年展览之间长达两年的空档。或许这只是一个修辞学上的问题,但是为什么我们仍然能够接受这样的现状,一个商业画廊将女性的声音如此显见地排除在外,而只呈现我们艺术史中的单一面向?

令人惊奇的是,性别歧视和裙带关系还只是这个展览中罪行较轻的过失。ÑYNU,周五聚会”真正的问题在于,这个画廊放任地将自己的个人史重新包装成了整个墨西哥艺术史的叙述。无论任何时候,一个如此大胆的声明被提出之时,它都应该让我们能够暂停下来,不去理会究竟这个机构的创始人和所展示的艺术家之间到底有着什么样的关系。