Dwelling Poetically: Mexico City, a case study

ACCA Chelsea Culprit, Charm bracelet 2017Considering the ways artists and cities mutually inform and transform one another, the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA) presents Dwelling Poetically: Mexico City, a case study, on display from 21 April 2018.

One of the great cross-roads of north America, Mexico City has taken prominence not only as one of America’s most populous urban centres, and as Latin America’s strongest economy, but as a node of rich and potent cultural production.

This is in part thanks to a whole generation of artists from the ‘90s, which includes Francis Alÿs, Abraham Cruzvillegas and Melanie Smith, as well as a complex, burgeoning and much-discussed contemporary scene in the early twenty-first century.

Authored by the city as much as they are authors of it, the work of these contemporary artists is crucial in the development and cultivation of Mexico City as a place, myth, metropolis and site of cultural production in the global imaginary.

In this new exhibition curated by Chris Sharp, assisted by Fabiola Talavera, Dwelling Poetically proposes a portrait of the Mexican capital through a selection of artists that live, have lived in, or frequently pass through, the city, all the while contributing to its composition.

“A city, it could be argued, is the sum of its portrayals,” says Sharp. “The more it is depicted, the more it enters the symbolic and global imaginary, as both what a city is and what it can be. It has been claimed that if Paris was the capital of the 19th century, and New York the capital of the 20th, then Mexico City is the capital of the 21st.”

As a case study of one of the cultural capitals of the twenty-first century, the exhibition is intended as a portrait of the city itself – albeit partial and subjective – and a reflection upon the global megalopolis today. The exhibition does not seek to present an objective, historiographic representation of recent contemporary art from Mexico.

Rather, Dwelling Poetically takes a literary and more cosmopolitan approach, focusing upon the objective conditions of the urban metropolis, and the subjective perspectives of its inhabitants, through the perception of artists whose works explore the material realities and psychogeographic intensities of the city itself.

Dwelling Poetically explores architectural forms emblematic of Mexican modernity and more improvised architectures and folk-art traditions which reflect the social spaces of the city and the detail and density of its cultural, commercial and libidinous economies.

The exhibition reflects upon the work of artists whose practices move beyond the realm of the studio to engage directly with the fabric of the city and the contingencies of everyday life, and those whose works harness the materialities of the urban metropolis, drawing upon narrative, myth and readymade forms found in the urban environment, which are incorporated back into the studio and transformed through aesthetic and poetic means into new artistic compositions.

The form of the exhibition expands and contracts, from macro to micro perspectives, and from the harsh light of day to the delirious glow of the nocturnal imagination, also reflecting cycles of collapse and renewal that characterise the ever-expanding and transforming metropolis.

“ACCA is especially excited to be working with curator Chris Sharp and participating artists to present this rich and complex exhibition, through the work of some of its most prominent artists and emerging figures,” says ACCA’s Artistic Director and CEO, Max Delany.

“From Francis Alÿs and Abraham Cruzvillegas whose works reflect the transition of artistic practice from the studio to the streets, to the moving video works by Melanie Smith and Jaki Irvine which consider the concrete realities and poetic qualities of the urban metropolis, to the paintings and assemblages of Andrew Birk, Chelsea Culprit and ektor garcia which register the layered textures and vernacular languages of the city itself.”

Chris Sharp is a writer and independent curator currently based in Mexico City, where he runs the project space Lulu with Mexican artist Martin Soto Climent. A contributing editor of Art Review and Art Agenda, Sharp was recently appointed co-curator (with Dr Zara Stanhope) of New Zealand artist Dane Mitchell’s presentation for the 58th Venice Biennale.

He has curated numerous international exhibitions, including most recently, Against Nature, co-curated with Edith Jerabkova at the National Gallery of Prague, 2016; A Change of Heart at Hannah Hoffman gallery, Los Angeles, 2016; As if in a foreign country, at Galerie Nächst St. Stephan Rosemarie Schwarzwälder, Vienna, 2016; The Secret and Abiding Politics of Stones at La Casa del Lago, Mexico City, 2015; The Registry of Promise at La Fondazione Giuliani, Rome, 2014, Le Parc St. Léger, Pougues-les-Eaux, France, 2014, Le Crédac, Ivry, France, 2014, and De Vleeshal, Middelburg, Holland, 2015; The 12th Swiss Sculpture Exhibition in Biel/Bienne, Switzerland, entitled Le Mouvement, co-curated with Gianni Jetzer, 2014.

Dwelling Poetically: Mexico City, a case study
Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), Sturt Street, Southbank
Exhibition: 21 April – 24 June 2018
Free entry

For more information, visit: acca.melbourne for details.

Image: Chelsea Culprit, Charm bracelet 2017, neon, 120.0 cm x 330.0 cm. Courtesy of BWSMX, Mexico City