Alexandra Pechman

  • Mateo López

    “Don’t ask me about this or that building,” Luis Barragán once said. “Don’t try to do what I do: See what I saw.” With “X, Y, Z,” Mateo López proved himself a fitting interpreter of one of Barragán’s spaces, this one inspired by Hispano-Islamic architecture: The gallery Travesía Cuatro, which hosted López’s recent show, is located in the Casa Franco, a former private home built by Barragán in 1929 as one of his earliest projects. Trained as an architect, López has said that all objects begin as drawings. His work tests the boundaries of drawing, and his investigations into line encompass sculpture,

  • picks November 30, 2017

    Théo Mercier

    The title of Théo Mercier’s first solo exhibition in Mexico, “Phantom Legacy,” refers to relics of a time that never existed. The show largely features more than a dozen assemblages made by the Mexico City–based artist during a residency at the gallery this year, which overlapped with the city’s devastating earthquake in September. The concerns of Mercier’s work, such as conflating the aesthetics of archeology with those of contemporary art, as well as the precariousness of objects, find added poignancy in the timing of this show.

    After a renovation of the gallery, the artist took the debris of

  • diary October 25, 2017

    Flora and Fauna

    IN COLOMBIA,everything grows. All flora seems to flourish in its environment of extremes.

    Yet the area of deforestation jumped 44 percent in 2016 from the previous year. This was, ironically, due to historic deals with the FARC rebel group. As FARC demobilized, criminal factions moved in to control rainforest areas. And though the country has largely welcomed a hard-won period of peace, the internally displaced population, a result of the decades-long conflict, is higher than Syria’s.

    Bogotá is both the capital and the center of the country’s art scene, and it is currently in a state of self-reflection.

  • picks July 31, 2017

    Julia Haft-Candell

    A glossary that accompanies this exhibition opens with lines from Ursula K. Le Guin’s introduction to her 1969 novel The Left Hand of Darkness: “I am an artist too, and therefore a liar. Distrust everything I say. I am telling the truth.” Julia Haft-Candell’s thirty sculptures similarly operate as a collection of playful hypocrisies, suggesting that the gray area between binaries is more productive terrain than any stable point.

    From the “Infinity” series (all works 2017), twenty-four of the symbols, in black clay, rough and burnt-looking, appear in a tight grid of plinths on one gallery wall.

  • diary June 09, 2017

    Sea Change

    SAN JUAN, DESPITE ITS RECENT BILLING as one of the art cities of the future, has none of the splashy hallmarks of a twenty-first-century art hub. That is, there are no grandiose private museums, no sterile government-funded arts districts, no starchitecture vanities.

    The city’s art scene, instead, exists in a strange symbiosis with a long-simmering financial crisis, concentrated in the neighborhood of Santurce, where unused commercial buildings beget studios, artist-run galleries, and sprawling murals. (And real-estate boons: Klaus Biesenbach and Alanna Heiss both own homes on the island.) The

  • picks May 26, 2017

    Lauren Greenfield

    This survey, titled “Generation Wealth,” is promoted as a morality tale, but it’s more of a master class in dramatic irony. For twenty-five years, Lauren Greenfield has photographed those who see money and fame as vehicles to happiness—celebrities, Ponzi schemers, wealthy teenagers, Russian oligarchs, the list goes on—while highlighting the vacancy of that pursuit. Donald Trump is exactly the sort of person Greenfield might photograph, and her artist statement included in the show plainly states that she sees his election as a symptom of such generational sickness. This exhibition sometimes

  • diary April 15, 2017

    No Time Like the Present

    “SÃO PAULO IS WHAT WOULD HAPPEN if New York threw up on LA,” Alex Cuadros wrote in last year’s Brazillionaires, about the meteoric rise and fall of the country’s rich from the aughts to the 2016 Rio Olympics. I thought of the line often during this year’s Sp-Arte, while overlooking Paulista Avenue and the Lina Bo Bardi–designed Museu de Arte de São Paulo from the perch of an Airbnb in Oscar Niemeyer’s Edifício Copan downtown. Twisting the comparison could work for politics, too. Look at the crisis in Brazil last year in a funhouse mirror, and one might see something similar to the US at present;

  • diary March 21, 2017

    Weekend Update

    THE WEEKEND BEFORE the fifth edition of Art Basel in Hong Kong, a rivalry of sorts peaked between the Beijing and Shanghai art scenes. Expecting to divert the art world en route to Hong Kong, amid lifted visa requirements to allow visitors to the mainland for seventy-two hours, both cities packed the weekend with openings. Shanghai, with its meteoric rise in the art world, has worked hard to eclipse Beijing’s status as the country’s art capital. This year, Beijing pushed back, inaugurating Gallery Weekend Beijing, a spinoff of the Berlin edition helmed by Thomas Eller, who reached out to a mere

  • slant August 26, 2016

    Leap of Faith

    ART AND THE OLYMPICS have a long, intertwined history. The ancient art created in competition to memorialize the earliest games eventually defined the vision of its modern iteration. In the early twentieth century, there were also art matches: Beginning in 1912, artists competed in fields like painting and sculpture, accompanied by exhibitions and new architecture. The tradition ended by 1948, but the 2016 Summer Olympics inaugurated the first artist-in-residency program. Combined with Rio de Janeiro’s new museums and public art competing for the city’s attention, art was an occasional tonic to

  • diary April 16, 2016

    Party Politics

    IN BRAZIL, when things go badly you make it into a party. Take the infamous 1919 carnival after the Spanish Flu, or the recent protests calling for impeachment—or protests of those calls for impeachment—which often devolve into long, beer-soaked nights. So perhaps it’s no surprise that this year’s SP-Arte, Latin America’s largest art fair, held in the middle of the country’s worst recession in decades and political upheaval, charged on with a determined gaiety.

    The lines of communication appeared aggressively open to the friendlier, more stable market in North America: The fair’s talks program

  • diary March 29, 2016

    X-Files

    RIO DE JANEIRO WAS INUNDATED. On March 16, the night the Cultural Secretary of São Paulo spoke at Studio-X Rio, I was elsewhere, shin-deep in rain-mud before my bus got stuck in traffic as water and protests surged. #OcupaBrasil had exploded. There was a pour-over from the weekend’s millions-strong marches against the incumbent Workers’ Party president, Dilma Rousseff. Her ministry appointment earlier that day of ex-president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a gesture some assumed meant to shield him from prosecution in an ongoing corruption scandal, was blocked, and further stymied by the release of

  • picks February 15, 2016

    Chiara Banfi

    Chiara Banfi’s “Notações” (Notations) opened just weeks after the journal Science heralded Earth’s official entrance into the Anthropocene; aptly, her exhibition is a study on her discovery that human manipulation of geology is invisibly essential to music. An extremely accurate indicator of frequency and rhythm, quartz is here poised as a technically proficient object, while musical scores are altered to more closely resemble patterns of the natural world.

    Banfi plays with the visual metaphor provided by tourmaline, a thin onyx-like mineral that naturally embeds in quartz. A wall installation,

  • diary June 05, 2015

    High Five

    FIVE YEARS is a long time in Shanghai. Way back in 2010, the city’s World Expo attracted seventy-three million visitors: There were thousands of new taxis, half a dozen new subway lines, and new art spaces like the Rockbund Art Museum, the retrofitted former Royal Asia Society building off the Bund, all banded together under the slogan “Better City, Better Life.” Now there are also better museums, or certainly more of them. Five years on, the Expo’s Chinese Pavilion is home to a one-million-square-foot government-run museum, and the once-deserted industrial zone on the other side of the river

  • picks September 23, 2014

    Agnieszka Kurant

    On encountering the empty wall-mounted tubing of Agnieszka Kurant’s End of the Signature, 2014, it is possible to miss the mere seconds it takes for dark neon to shoot through the twisting structure—as if suddenly scrawled by an invisible hand—and materialize into a sign. For this work in the artist’s current exhibition, “Variables,” Kurant collected more than one hundred signatures and used specially designed software to merge them into a single, collective one, which a nearby machine writes and rewrites with a pen. Maps of phantom islands, one topographical, one color-coded for