10 Artists Shaping the Future of Mexico City’s Art Scene
Ana Segovia, Huapango Torero , 2019. Courtesy of the artist and Karen Huber Gallery.
Mexico City’s art system is growing and thriving. Although other art hubs around the country are gaining traction—such as Monterrey and Guadalajara—the capital is still the heart of contemporary art. Despite a cultural policy that aims to redistribute cultural resources and power throughout the territory, Mexico City concentrates a huge number of important public, private, and independent contemporary art spaces, both commercial and nonprofit. Due to this centralization—combined with the cosmopolitan global image that the city projects internationally—during the city’s annual Art Week in early February, with ZsONAMACO and Material Art Fair, it’s overwhelmingly saturated with art.
Despite all that we have to offer, it is important to point out that the art communities in Mexico City are hard-pressed to achieve stable economic structures. So while approaching the topic of “emerging artists” based in Mexico City, I could not help but consider how restrictive that term can be.
What defines an emerging artist? Where do they emerge from? Where are they being projected? (I hope they are wearing a good helmet.) We could say that an “emerging artist” is anyone who has struck a balance between aesthetics and critical discourse, who pours time and energy into research and production, and ultimately, who contributes to their artistic community. But isn’t that any artist? Unfortunately, according to the global logic of the contemporary art world, the figure of the “emerging artist” tends to be shaped by the desire and speculation for certain young artists’ work. In some ways, it can reinforce elitism and privilege.
In most major art hubs, the term tends to apply to artists who are represented by a local gallery, gained some recognition from important museums, had a couple solo shows, and are starting to develop international reach—through art fairs or group shows organized by prominent curators. In Mexico, identifying artists by those criteria would lead me to write mostly about the work of heterosexual male artists, almost all of whom are over 35 years of age.
In Mexico City, there are many artists of my generation (between 25 and 35 years old) who have long made a great effort to maintain their rigorous art practices. However, despite their sustained trajectories—almost always with difficulty—they would not be considered “emerging artists” according to the aforementioned definition. For one, they are rarely represented by local galleries. Of 11 prominent galleries in Mexico City, only two represent more than two artists of my generation, while the majority represent one or none.
Other channels through which artists can gain recognition in Mexico are via grants by cultural authorities and private foundations, as well as curatorial research for institutional exhibitions, locally or internationally. Commercially, the vast majority of young artists in Mexico City don’t have a gallery that is stimulating their production and fostering a market for their work. What does this reveal?
I present here a list of 10 artists based in Mexico City—some of whom show with local galleries, some who do not—who I believe deserve recognition for the artistic, poetic, and cultural power of their work. I recognize that every list is an act of exclusion, so I urge readers to approach this list, and others, with healthy skepticism, remembering that an artist is always part of a support network of various other artists who are equally important.
B. 1989, Mexico City
How do our dreams influence our everyday decisions? Yollotl Gómez Alvarado currently works with dreams—specifically, the sensibilities that lie in the darkness of our eyelids. In his work, he develops narratives that rethink relationships between bodies, objects, and energies. Alvarado’s works are not simply installations, or sculptures, or objects, but also spaces to commune and think together. During Art Week, at Parque Galería, he will activate Templo del sueño (Dream Temple) (2020), a project that seeks to bring us together to reflect on how tiredness can affect whether or not we have healthy relationships with each other.
B. 1989, Guadalajara
Javier Barrios’s current work involves drawings of flowers. For previous bodies of work, he drew donkeys, bees, or penguins to illustrate fictional stories about relationships between humans and nature; or political organizing and protests, always skeptical of the clichéd images that build cultural and cognitive perception around politics. Recently, Barrios, who shows with Páramo, has been obsessed with orchids; through impeccable draftsmanship, he considers the flower’s sociohistorical narratives and the book The Orchid Thief (1998). He approaches the flowers by drawing them between fiction and reality; depicting the blooms as though they were scanned on a photocopier, resulting in dreamlike evocations; creating comic strips for botany lovers; inventing languages based on the shapes of plants; and representing them as erotic monstrosities in a bestiary—actively departing from the simplicity of symbiosis.
B. 1992, Río de Janeiro
Every day, our eyes wander through multiple screens, consuming endless images. For some time, Lucas Lugarinho has been researching the relationship between those screens of digital devices and our eyes. He makes physical paintings that remove any sense of perspective by presenting opposing screens and objects within his field of vision. With a mixture of colors and material experiments in acrylic and oil, Lugarinho’s paintings question the possibility of contemplating and taking advantage of the visual abundance that is part of our contemporary culture. During Art Week, he will present his first solo show, “HyperTale,” at Licenciado gallery; the exhibition seeks to combine nature, humanity, and images to open questions about our relationship to the Earth.
B. 1988, Mexico City
Life often happens in moments that we underestimate as mundane. Diego Salvador Ríos collects records of the spaces and places he encounters: apartments, drawers, archival warehouses, borders. These records take shape as notes, objects, images, texts, smells, or sounds that he channels into his work—meditative paintings, sculptures, installations, or poems. Ríos is interested in experimenting with the exhibition space to make us conscious of our sensitivities to material, spiritual, and planetary relationships. He aims to record and unfold memories and reflections that blur boundaries between individual and collective experiences. During Art Week, he will present his exhibition “Vistas del Arkivo Altavista” at Lodos gallery, which will gather the archive of the Altavista Co-Operative Federal High School to reflect upon social disobedience, his education as a self-taught artist, and the links between archives, storytelling, and speculative narratives.
B. 1991, Mexico City
As a gay man, one of the images I treasure the most is being on a dance floor surrounded by couples of older cowboy gentlemen dancing closely together. Ana Segovia paints moments like this, where figures that are socially defined as “masculine” show vulnerability through their body language: They are exposed, their guard is down, they are not defensive, they reveal intimacies. Segovia, who shows with Karen Huber, is one of the few artists who is stressing the cultural archetypes around masculinity in Mexico—something very important given how increasingly hostile the country is for women. She paints colorful situations where toxic masculinity does not dominate male bodies. We could say that in her narrative paintings, Segovia is committed to depicting a radical tenderness that dismantles macho culture while revealing truths about gender.
Lía García La Novia Sirena
B. 1989, Mexico City
Describing Lía García La Novia Sirena’s work in words is an exercise that will never fully capture her rabidly affective power. As a pedagogue and transfeminist activist, Lía found in performance—usually done in populated public spaces—a strategy to make us realize how we accompany her throughout her trans* presence in the macho context of Mexico. Drawing on autobiography, she tells us her (our) story through narratives of female archetypes socially reserved for women (the bride, the mermaid, the quinceañera) to reveal the weakness of the cis-hetero-patriarchal, racist boundaries that form social constructs around gender. Lía’s poetry and prose, through voice and touch, make us complicit, raising awareness around those singularities that surround us on a day-to-day basis.
B. 1993, Mexico City
The culture of dominance in the United States is one of the imperialist strategies that has maintained unequal relations between that country and Latin America. Wendy Cabrera Rubio’s work pays attention to narratives that limit cultural relationships. For example, to address mass media, such as film and the internet, she explores Disney’s exotic look when portraying countries like Mexico, Brazil, and Peru, and blogs where white supremacy builds community. Through embroidered collages and puppets and botargas—which she creates and employs in installations, theatrical performances, and videos—Rubio dislocates both images and discourse of recent (but constant) nationalist ideologies linked to racism and developmentalism. Through satire and irony, she enables us to reflect on the normalization of such violence in daily life.
B. 1987, Mexico City
A couple of days ago, Circe Irasema uploaded an Instagram story of a small painting that portrayed a sweet-and-sour powder that I used to eat very often as a child. Through her art practice, Irasema researches collective memory through seemingly mundane objects: On one hand, she emphasizes objects that are part of our daily routines that often go unnoticed, and on the other, she dismantles art-historical landscapes through abstracting their visual elements (color, composition, chiaroscuro) in eyeshadow cases. Sometimes with paintings and sometimes with ready-made sculptures, Irasema is curious about the opaque process of retrieving memories. Her work is part of the next edition of the Femsa Biennial to be held this year in the cities of Morelia and Pátzcuaro, Mexico.
B. 1985, Montevideo
Fascinating everyday moments, like witnessing the passing of the day towards the night while immersed in a landscape, are central to the work of Ana Bidart. She makes drawings of space-time transitions we experience in the day-to-day: the opening of a door, the shadow of the sun sliding on the wall, the weight and power of a body, the subtlety of the wind blowing a sheet of paper. Her work questions the borders between fine art and performance; this allows her to do poetic experiments that challenge our perceptions of various art forms. She’s described her work in her artist statement as “a sculpture that becomes a game, which in turn is a drawing and a time machine.”
B. 1983, Mexico City
Caught in the maelstrom of the art world, many of us can forget that the white cube is a living space. Gabriel Rosas Alemán’s sculptures, paintings, performances, and videos introduce movement into the stiffness of the exhibition space. The works multiply the possibilities of walking through an exhibition, proposing new architectural configurations that engage the viewer. In this way, his works function as both subjects and objects that encourage subtle interactions between the audience and the work, and dismantle existing ideals about how ideas are communicated in art spaces.
Correction: A previous version of this article linked to an unrelated Artsy artist page for Lía García La Novia Sirena. The link has been removed.