Critics’ Picks

Isabel Nuño de Buen, Extracted segment, 2018, steel, wire, papier-mâché, plaster, foam, Styrofoam, rubber, cardboard, dimensions variable.


“Dwelling Poetically”

ACCA: Australian Center for Contemporary Art
111 Sturt Street Southbank
April 21–June 24

There is an inherent artifice in all representations. This exhibition, which offers a portrait of Mexico City by a dozen artists who live or have lived in the capital city, is no exception. Yet it raises an immediate question: While Mexico has attracted a diversity of foreign artists over time, how does one stage a show about the megalopolis and include only three Mexicans? Curated by Chris Sharp, this show is organized around the idea that a city’s identity is always in flux, that a city is almost impossibly composed anew each day by the millions who move through it.

Mirroring how cities are experienced in a fusion of external surroundings and internal associations, Jaki Irvine’s melancholic film Se Compra: Sin é, 2014, marries the traditional songs of her native Ireland with the wistful cries of Mexico City’s itinerant street vendors. The streets’ nightlife is present in Chelsea Culprit’s Charm Bracelet, 2017, a neon sign that depicts a busty devil and an angel drawn from both her former experience as strip dancer and the bold decoration of the city’s dark, iconic cabarets. Isabel Nuño de Buen’s Extracted segment, 2018, consists of modular, vaguely ship-like structures whose foam plinths support steel geometrical patterns that hold up elaborate white sails of papier-mâché. The sculptures’ many materials hint that Mexico City is a space in an eternal state of becoming, one that comprises several coexisting cultural layers from pre-Hispanic to postmodern. In Buen’s work, Mexico City’s history is always permanent, always fleeting. After all, at the heart of the urban landscape, this show suggests, lies enthralling contradiction.