Timothy Taylor 16×34
515 West 19th St
February 22 - April 14
The artist Eduardo Terrazas is famous, of course, for his part in the urban design of the Mexico City Olympics in 1968. That year’s games are legendary: Remember the raised fists of African American sprinters on the winners’ podiums; George Foreman knocking out a Russian boxer and waving an American flag; the boycott of South Africa; and, just days before the festivities began, the government’s massacre of Mexican students. Remember too the indelible “Mexico 68” logo, melding optical illusion, modernism, and folk art. Born in 1936, Terrazas had trained as an architect and urban planner. His first appearance as an artist wasn’t until 1972. But from the beginning he had an entire cosmic system of artmaking worked out—and this, his first show in New York since 1974, fits a perfectly compatible little piece into his painting project, “Possibilities of a Structure,” ca. 1973.
All but one of the sixteen small- to medium-size geometric abstractions on view are part of Terrazas’s “Cosmos” series, ca. 1973, which offer seemingly endless variations on the same arrangement of two concentric circles nestled into four squares (Terrazas has assigned all of his shapes meaning, from planet Earth to the age-old celestial orb, with gravity cutting between them). What changes from one piece to another is the unpredictable placement of colors, which appear woven but are in fact made of wool thread pressed into layers of Campeche wax spread into wooden panels. The technique, from the Huichol people of western Mexico, is ancient, but Terrazas gives it real zip—so much so that that the writer Martin Herbert once noted that it is perhaps most interesting to think of Terrazas’s work as a problem. Why is it so likable? What accounts for its magic? Maybe it’s the artist’s capacity to bring codes of visual pleasure into dramatic political circumstances, without being oblivious to either.