The Modern to mount exhibit of powerful works by Mexican artists

Posted Wednesday, Sep. 04, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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Sept. 15-Jan. 5 Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth 3200 Darnell St. $4-$10 817-738-9215 www.themodern.org

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The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth this fall is mounting its most ambitious exhibition in more than a decade — the work of 23 living, mid-career Mexican artists.

The exhibit, “Mexico Inside Out: Themes in Art Since 1990” — on display Sept. 15-Jan. 5 — will showcase the work of artists who came to prominence in the wake of Mexico’s devastating 1985 earthquake and the generation that followed.

The temblor caused more than destruction; it became a watershed moment in the art communities between artists who stayed and those who fled, the work that was created before and the work after.

The instability within the earth magnified the destructive forces above ground, and the artists redirected their focus to themes that are common to everyday life and the issues that violently intrude — border wars, murder, corruption, drug cartels, economic and civic unrest, and revolution.

The artists’ responses are often dark, others are subversive and, occasionally, the heavy clouds are leavened with humor.

The exhibition’s title asserts that what is local, or inside, is also global, or outside, and the viewpoint is abetted by the artists, who are not all native. Many of them have come from other countries and now call Mexico home, so the works often are interior-looking but also reach across borders and oceans to make global connections.

One of the works hits close to home. The artist Artemio asked that the Modern supply 2 tons of dirt from the border between El Paso and Juarez for his Untitled (Portrait of 450 Murdered Women in Ciudad Juárez), 2009.

The dirt represents the combined weight of the murdered women, whose bodies were found dumped in the Chihuahuan Desert. This piece is a monument to workers in factories that are called maquiladoras, in what is now the most violent frontier town in all of Mexico.

The murders, although they number in the hundreds, have been overshadowed by the drug wars.

Andrea Karnes, the Modern’s curator and organizer of this show, notices a consistent thread among the artists’ pieces, including Artemio’s.

“Theories on the motives for these murders are variously couched in discussions of domination, gender control and oppression, as well as dysfunction and structural crisis within the government,” she says. “The materials used in the work relate to a kind of contemporary archeology that many of the artists in ‘Inside Out’ explore, in which current history is monumentalized in a way that connects to the rich pre-Hispanic ground that lies underneath Mexico,” she writes in the catalog essay.

Another take on the rampant and random violence is addressed by Teresa Margolles in Sin titulo/(Untitled), 2010.

She made six concrete lounge chairs by mixing cement with the liquids used to wash the bloodied corpses of murder victims from the Guadalajara morgue. The resulting chairs are positioned around the Modern’s pond and look innocuously resortlike.

On the benches, there are even faint outlines of human shapes left by the body oils of visitors who have unwittingly stretched out on them before reading the signage that reveals their bloody history.

In a more lighthearted vein, Gabriel Orozco uses intersecting ping pong tables for an eight-person game in Ping Pond Table, 1998. In the center, where the tables join, is a square pond with water lilies. To keep the ball in play, the players must “cross the pond” — a metaphor for traveling.

“The work explores geographic mobility with the idea of traversing space by moving and thinking innovatively,” Karnes writes. “Orozco accesses the viewer/player through the familiar with this work, but he also changes the game entirely.”

Artist Gustavo Artigas is asking for a local landscape change. He wants the residents of Fort Worth to choose what they think is the most heinous building, and he will erase it from existence, temporarily, via video manipulation.

He, with the guidance of some local architects, has chosen six buildings for imagined annihilation. For the public’s consideration are: Bass Towers, the AT&T building, the Tarrant County Convention Center, the Texas and Pacific (T&P) Warehouse, the Tandy Center and Westchester Plaza.

Votes can be cast at one of several voting booths around town — Hulen Mall, TCU’s art building, the AIA office, and Fred’s Texas Cafe and the Gold Standard. After the votes are tabulated, he will make a digital demolition of the offending edifice in Vote for Demolition.

Ah, if only it were that easy to rid ourselves of any building we consider an eyesore.

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