Mexico, Reloaded

Based between Mexico and Berlin for almost ten years, Mariana Castillo Deball knows a lot about back and forth. It is an important concern in her work, the circulation of signs and meanings, this weird loop that makes history build itself constantly in the present and identities define themselves in reaction to fantasized others.

In her show “Who will measure the space, who will tell me the time?” at MACO Oaxaca that opened late January, Castillo Deball goes one step further in her longtime interest in cultural bricolage, tribal appropriation, falsification of history, questions of authenticity and power as well as the performative aspect of identity. The new body of work produced for the show seeks to engage an ontological conversation with the specific nature of sacred objects in the pre-Hispanic era, notably the possibility of being “loaded” or “unloaded” through time by symbolic and phenomenological properties. The artist designed, with a local Coatlicue pottery workshop, a series of ceramic elements drawing from existing archeological figures mixed with more contemporary patterns like gears, nuts or toys. These elements are superposed in order to build columns, each functioning as a distinct narrative that attempts to answer two questions: “How do you tell the story of the universe in a hundred years? How do you tell the story of the universe in one day?” The results, typical of Castillo Deball’s work, play off of the anachronistic confusion created by the forms that compose it, wherein the language of visual art updates and challenges the idea of tradition that still presides over most craft productions. Castillo Deball continues to see contemporary art as an effective means of generating inclusive discussions about broader issues of representation and the actualization of the project of modernity, at a time when globalization seems almost fully achieved, and when local, tribal identities seem to fade ineluctably in front of the omnipresent figure of the Westernized global consumer. The main point of Castillo Deball’s installation, then, is to fight against the essentialization of identities, whether they be indigenous or anything else.

The city of Oaxaca could seem from outside like a multicultural paradise where American tourists, white Mexicans and idealized Indians and Mestizos live in harmony and prosperity. But Oaxaca is in fact one of the poorest states of Mexico; it struggles to adapt its traditional economy to current global demands. Tourism encourages the natives to perform their own culture as representatives of disappearing ethnicities, instead of embracing a more dynamic relationship to society that could save their traditions by updating their values and assets through active citizenship. This risk of thinking of identity as a fixed essence and not as a responsive construction gained an aching accuracy with the Paris attacks against Charlie Hebdo a few weeks ago, shifting our views about the “cultural” as a rallying, friendly concept to a divisive, destructive one. The Western world discovered, horrified, that some people were ready to kill for something they thought was futile: respect. Two characters were thus created: Charlie, the secular citizen educated enough to understand satire and humor in the mockery of institutions, morals and societies; and the radicalized Muslim, tragic symbol of the failure of the European integration model. Both were ready to be instrumentalized within larger political narratives.

It was in the light of these past events and reflections that I went to see Danh Vo’s and Abraham Cruzvillegas’s shows at the Museo Jumex just before leaving Mexico for Marseille (and back again, one more time). The two artists use their identities as strong referential elements in their artistic practices, although in very different ways. Abraham Cruzvillegas draws on a 1970s approach to identity politics — making room for representations of invisible phenomena or people within the field of contemporary art, hoping that this presence will trickle down from high art into more mainstream culture. Dahn Vo’s approach, I believe, is much more contemporary but echoes in a questionable way the tendency of the Western world to essentialize the identities I mentioned above. Indeed, since the beginning of his practice, the artist has devised an ambiguous persona that voluntarily invokes the victim status of a son of migrants, but also a rebellious one whose mission is to avenge its people through a Trojan horse tactic aiming to steal from the rich and give back to the poor, almost literally, in the field of representation. But can “the master’s tools dismantle the master’s house,” as Audre Lorde once relevantly asked? Herein lies the equivocalness of Dahn Vo’s proposal. In this regard, if Cruzvillegas’s show might seem a bit stripped of his formally generous essence in the severe although beautiful white cube gallery of the Museo Jumex, at least it succeeds at communicating in a honest way what’s at stake in the work and especially in the context of this specific museum in Mexico City.

I expect artists to challenge mainstream representations of power, not to validate them. I moved in 2012 to Mexico City because I wanted to know what it was to work and live in a different culture. I just felt there was a possibility for a forest of signs to exist there that would be so radically different from my own that it would change my vision of art forever — and it did. I’m still tremendously affected by the local: and I take the intensity of the successive culture shocks, sometimes back, sometimes forth, as a proof of the righteously changing nature of my own humanity.

by Dorothée Dupuis

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Flash Art International no. 301 March – April 2015

We are pleased to announce the March–April 2015 issue of Flash Art International is now out.

In this issue:

Venus Lau explores how the new political understanding of land in China gives rise to a type of quasi-Land Art that does not directly assault the system but surfs along it, revealing the power vectors that are inscribed upon land as objects and concepts, using land-based systems to open up new regions previously unknown by those systems.

Laura McLean-Ferris digs into on the art of Alex Da Corte.

“Da Corte’s work gives us access to an airy spiritual world that we already partake in as dreaming consumers: we build our identities around branded scents and various seductive consumer products, and fill spaces vacated by previous forms of labor or spirituality.”
Laura McLean-Ferris

Matt Williams hosts a cross-interview with Jeremy Deller and Mark Leckey.

“I think the use of this term ‘popular culture’ is a corral for everything else that’s not… what? Art? That’s a lot of culture. And it’s as if ‘popular culture’ in itself doesn’t have any values. That’s a kind of old-fashioned way of thinking, maybe, but it’s now mutated into this idea that everything’s been flattened out by the Internet, and that everything is somehow equal and therefore dissipated. But it’s not.”
Mark Leckey

Orit Gat discusses the proliferation of online platforms for the presentation and sale of art, and seeks to assess what these new spaces offer, how they are used and what kind of contribution they can make.

Andrew Durbin, Paul Monroe and Wolfgang Tillmans pay homage to the art of Greer Lankton.

“The re-visional quality of Lankton’s dolls suggests a distinctly queer and trans experience of the world, one that is attentive to physical mutability and the rotation and flexibility of ‘roles.’ Lankton knew that what was sewn into a boy can be easily cut into a girl, only to be later made into something else altogether.”
Andrew Durbin

Steph Kretowicz highlights the music of Jam City.

“Jam City’s music sheds the desire for destructive hedonism that both him and his ultra-futuristic end-times Night Slugs labelmates have hitherto been hurtling towards, in favor of something a little less Accelerationist and a little more optimistic. This is music that isn’t blind to the reality of an era of economic hardship but still manages to make something that sounds beautiful.”
Steph Kretowicz

Plus, in the renewed front-section, now called ‘Arena’:

Adam D. Weinberg on the reopening of the Whitney Museum, New York; Sheikha Hoor Al-Qasimi on the UAE Pavilion for the 56th Venice Biennale; Adeline Ooi on Art Basel Hong Kong; José Kuri and Monica Manzutto on Kurimanzutto, Mexico City; Spitzenprodukte’s Chubz: The Demonization of my Working Arse by Montez Press; Andre Walker; Arthur Fink, Fabian Marti and Oskar Weiss on Hacienda, Zurich; Anton Belov on the Garage Museum, Moscow; Sylvia Kouvali on Rodeo, Istanbul/London; Martine Syms and K-Hole on the New Museum Triennial; Lotic’s EP Heterocetera on Tri Angle; Nathalie Du Pasquier’s Don’t Take These Drawings Seriously by Powerhouse Books.

And finally, in ‘Reviews’:

John Waters at Marianne Boesky, New York; Villa Design Group at Mathew, New York; Jos de Gruyter & Harald Thys at CCA Wattis, San Francisco; Anna Sew Hoy at Various Small Fires, Los Angeles; Eric Wesley at 356 Mission, Los Angeles; “Dancing Museum” at MAM, São Paolo; Paul Kneale at Evelyn Yard, London; Ruth Ewan at Camden Art Centre, London; “Melgaard+Munch” at Munch Museum, Oslo; Walter Dahn at Sprüth Magers, Berlin; Jan Peter Hammer at Supportico Lopez, Berlin; Mélanie Matranga at Karma, Zurich; Gianni Colombo at Monica De Cardenas, Zuoz; Dora Budor at New Galerie, Paris; Carol Rama at MACBA, Barcelona; Noa Glazer at Tempo Rubato, Tel Aviv; “1199 People” at Long Museum, Shanghai; Kishio Suga at MOT, Tokyo.

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Flash Art NY Desk /

Hudinilson Jr, Hudinilson Jr / Flash Art NY Desk

Opening: 06.03.15, 6:30 pm
07.03 – 04.04.15

The art of Hudinilson Urbano Junior (São Paulo, 1957 – 2013) emerged in the late 1970s, when Brazilian cultural production was stifled by the military dictatorship, and the avant-garde Concretist project of blending art and life had been appropriated by the bohemia. In a context in which the very few extant museums and galleries were presided over by the establishment, and the only interventions in public space had to assume the posture of a guerrilla action (Hudinilson Jr was originally part of the collective 3NÓS3 who, among their many performances, bagged monuments around the city), the artist turned to the intimate domain of his own body: by using a Xerox machine he accessed, reproduced and learned about every single detail of his anatomy. “Already from the beginning, the topic of my work was the body,” says Hudinilson Jr in one of his last interviews. “If a person is alone with a Xerox machine, what is the first thing this person will do? […] I first Xeroxed the hand, then the face — but then also all the rest. […] I would close the door, undress and continue my explorations.”

The exhibition at the Flash Art NY Desk brings together a constellation of works, mostly from the 1980s, which all insist on Hudinilson Jr’s obsession with the male body. Collages, photographs, found objects and sculptures, along with the trademark Xeroxes, allow for a scrutiny of the traits of virility, from clichéd representations of gay pornography to abstractions that result from the feverish process of enlarging, reframing and collaging together pictures of the artist’s own body. The narcissistic afflatus, which Hudinilson Jr always intuitively recognized as the thrust of his practice, can also be recognized as an empirical exploration of his queer identity — an impending onanism that exhausts the political gesture by imitating a sexual encounter that can only be nonproductive: hence, the artist’s posição amorosa, his “sex position,” fosters little more than the “exercise” of reproducing the self.

Organized by Michele D’Aurizio

The exhibition is generously supported by Galeria Jaqueline Martins, São Paulo.

Flash Art NY Desk / Film Center
630 9th Ave (Btw 44th and 45th St.) 
Suite 403
New York, NY 10036
T : (646) 682-7268
Thu – Sat, noon – 6 pm

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Review /

Hayan Kam Nakache Fri Art / Fribourg

For the first monographic retrospective of Hayan Kam Nakache at Fri Art, the young artist of Syrian origin presented a selection of approximately sixty modestly scaled drawings on paper, framed and arranged at eye level into a parcours.

Sometimes paired, rarely arranged in groupings of four, mostly simply successive, the work manifestly avoided the rhetoric of display to mark a distance from theoretical recuperation. Confirming this rejection, the selection seems to have been extirpated from an infinite series of sketches, mocking the quality of the finished product as a selection criterion. The drawings, some in color, most black and white, evoke with a variety of strokes a vast range of references, from the trashy ambience of Gary Panter-like underground comics, to amateurish third-zone graffiti, to Arabic calligraphy, to the more artsy William Copley or the bizarre humor of Amelie von Wulffen. In Kam Nakache’s world, the expressionist, the abstract and the figurative all loosely jumble together with trivial notes and references to whatever, you name it. Within the mass of lines and surfaces, figures emerge as semi-recognizable aggregates: landscapes turn into faces, while a figure might switch into a letter. Tempted to decipher, the visitor enters into a game of association that makes no sense yet suggests the process of imagination itself.

Against rational consequence, Kam Nakache points at the simplicity of human troubles. The work aims to maintain a practice outside the sphere of instrumentalization. Whereas experts might detect talent and conclude that this insistent messiness approaches wit, distancing the work from that of the amateur scribbler, no doubt the artist would recommend otherwise. Dissolving the dichotomy between adult and child, he might modestly mention the training it requires to master such a high degree of incompetence.

by Nicolas Brulhart

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Arena /

Andre Walker / New York

Is it possible to be influential and not be constantly under the spotlight? Andre Walker has been a point of reference for many fashion designers over the last twenty years.

Born in New York, partially raised in London, Walker debuted at fifteen, showing his first collection at Club Oasis in Brooklyn; that was the start of a rocambolesque career between Europe and the States. Walker has consulted for Louis Vuitton designer Kim Jones and Marc Jacobs, and has inspired numerous young designers. Loved by artists, Walker reemerged on the scene with a capsule collection for Commes des Garçons. Over e-mails between Paris and New York, Flash Art tried to catch up on his life and creative community.


For me you represent the moment when fashion experimented with new representations of beauty. In Paris, where you lived, independent magazines like Purple and Self Service extensively covered this new wave that included your work. Can you tell us how you ended up in Paris, where are you from, and where are you now?

I started living in Paris in 1991 to work on my first collection to be shown there. I’d been visiting Paris since 1982, so it was not surprising to eventually start living and working there. In 1990, the company for which I was working (Willi Wear) went bankrupt. I was floating around Naples and London for much of that year. My friend Carlos Taylor introduced me to Bjorn Amelan and started up a collection under my name. This lasted several seasons and was my entry into the international fashion circuit in a way. At the moment, I’ve been living in New York since 2005.


For a lot of professionals you represent an example of extreme integrity. But what does integrity mean in fashion? Is it about selling a product after all?

Integrity in fashion usually entails a pain in the neck. So, yes, I am an extremist in the midst of the structural and organizational traditions of fashion. Indeed, it is about selling a product, yet for me it was always more about uncovering an idea or a way to meet people. I always enjoy the curious nature of people who work in the arts and/or fashion. There is an honest awareness of the unknown and creation/creativity in general. These vocations thrive on that.


Recently under the wing of Rei Kawakubo and Adrian Joffe, you have made a comeback. How was the experience?

Once again, friendships have played an important part in building relationships. Kim Jones introduced me to Adrian, and Adrian introduced me to Rei. The experience has been such a privilege. There is always something to learn. Obviously I tremble quite a bit before, during and after proposing ideas for the collection they have invited me to create. Yet it’s so amazing to do this as a job, entertainment and a sort of therapy. In the end, there needs to be something shared, a contribution that allows all parties to feel nourished. In one year I have learned with Adrian and Rei that it is important to remain true to the original impulse that guides the thought — that creates the need and the courage for bringing the idea to life. This takes time.


You have collaborated with artists like Bjarne Melgaard and Cedric Rivrain. How did those collaborations begin? Are you preparing similar projects?

Cedric shared his home, hospitality and eventually his artwork with me for some clothing in the SS15 collection. I’ve always been floored by his beauty, the sound of his voice and the shiftless ease of his personality in general. It may just be our mutual chemistry, but from what I’ve noticed, it’s a primal resource for anyone in his environment and serves as a catalyst or introduction to his work… if that makes any sense.

Bjarne Melgaard was working on his shows at the Munch Museum in Oslo and at Galerie Thaddaeus Ropac in Paris with Bob Recine and mentioned to Bob that he would like to work with me on the one scheduled for Paris! Bob was delighted because we have a deep admiration for each other, and he introduced us both. Over some weeks of observing and three visits to Bjarne’s super-active studio, we decide to collaborate on the show together. I had mixed feelings about Bjarne’s approach and was a bit intimidated by him; also, it felt like there was not enough time to do the project well. I’d had some experience working on an installation in 1997 at the Mattress Factory in a trio show with Greer Lankton and Yayoi Kusama. The show was curated by Margery King from the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh…

Bjarne’s work terrified me, to be honest. I had this impression that all he wanted to do was devour his invited collaborators and absorb their identities. His novels and the perpetual disdain apparent in his work sincerely put the fear of God in me, and I was truly conflicted about whether to participate or not. Bob and Bjarne did a great job of convincing me in the end, even if I held true to my belief that he was surely going to slaughter us all somehow. I was so wrong. I didn’t make it to the opening, as a work task for the upcoming AW15 collection stole all of the available time on the night. Cedric and I went the following day and I was blown away. I always asked Bjarne during the early days of prepping the job, why me? His answer was, “Because you have so much integrity.” I think he has an endless amount of integrity beyond a reasonable doubt. It dawned on me the sheer courage Bjarne exercises by simply being himself and recognizing his perceptions that have led to his current peak. He is obviously fearless, kind and super confusing. In other words, crucial.

Yes, I’m looking forward to more projects like this. It’s like having a laboratory exclusively for researching ideas.


Is there any room for independent designers today?

Always. We used to talk about a saturation of the market. We should not exclude a saturation of the population either. Sure, we may start to erode the current infrastructures that organize the distribution of independent designers’ work, yet there will always be a need for clothing/design, even if the industry starts to devolve otherwise.

by Daniele Balice

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Review /

Villa Design Group Mathew / New York

An omphalocele, a rare birth defect in which a fetus’s intestines or other organs develop in a transparent membrane sac ballooning outside of the body, is an abnormality upsetting not only for its bodily consequences but in small part for its material reminder of one’s fragile, porous substance, a reality often taken for granted in good health.

Walking through Villa Design Group’s installation “One Blow in Anger (Evidence 2011–2014),” their first exhibition in New York, at recent Berlin transplant Mathew, evokes a similar sensation — a sinking admission that, like intestines and nerves, what literally keeps us going is actually quite twisted and grotesque.

In a perimeter of nineteen sketches of nonsensical objects on drafting paper, each frame mounted above a plaque engraved with a corresponding chapter of the group’s nineteen-part text piece Evidence of Childhood I-XIX, the plates narrate a contortion of overlapping, forbidden love affairs. The floor is papered with large acetate sheets printed with pages of Patricia Highsmith’s 1984 Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction, the artists’ notations in the margins. Meanwhile imitation Barcelona chairs, van der Rohe’s persistent midcentury object of aspirational-lifestyle fetish, sit under plastic sheeting (Suffocation Harp 1–4). Nestled within this cellophane layer are cold, steel forensic tables holding alternately wooden architectural models of impossible structures and brand-new Calvin Klein sweatshirts, stitched with names of his evocative early ’90s fragrances: Escape, Eternity and Obsession.

Softer is the adjoining den, with an imposing, geometric charcoal-colored lamp (Futurized Mussolini Meteorite Lectern); and Carrion Circle, an installation of fluffy floor pillows and another indicator of high taste: a sinister redesign of Eileen Gray’s sleek side table, creating an inviting setting for thumbing through the group’s new publication, REPERTORY 2011–2014 — a hefty report of clinical case studies in “queering the object,” using symbols of refined luxury and design as a means of dismantling relentless consumer desire.

by Jennifer Piejko

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