Critics’ Picks

View of “Federico Herrero: Letters and Volumes,” 2014.

View of “Federico Herrero: Letters and Volumes,” 2014.

Mexico City

Federico Herrero

Proyectos Monclova
Lamartine 415
April 10–June 21, 2014

Costa Rican artist Federico Herrero’s solo exhibition “Letters and Volumes” is a refreshingly light read on the subject of painting—a light read that is, however, not devoid of a solid measure of complexity. For the artist’s first show at this gallery, he has occupied both levels of the space—the main gallery and the basement below. The space above features five of the large-scale abstractions the artist is known for alongside a selection of basic wood and concrete sculptures, which the artist sees more as supports. These include a miniature Ping-Pong table, a concrete floor-bound plane, and a U-shaped table whose surface has been partially animated with strips of blue and green paint.

The paintings themselves, particularly Amansalva and Zipacná, both 2014, are characterized by a predominance of flat, uninflected integers of bright, luminescent color, which stack up and accrue, like so many uneven shingles, with the daydreamy logic of a baroque doodle. Despite all the crowded activity, which seems more analogous to unchecked urban growth than anything pastoral, the dominance of blues and greens renders the works more evocative of a rural setting. They could be improbable cartoon landscapes seen from a plane window.

Contrary to the antic mood here, the atmosphere in the basement is more serene and seductive. The artist has bathed the entire floor and the base of the walls with a sky-blue paint. Leaning along the walls are smaller, sparer works made out of linoleum and canvas on stretchers. Untitled, 2009–2014, full of smudges and splotches, was fashioned out of Herrero’s studio floor, while Letras y numerous (Letters and Numbers), 2014, is the result of an attempt to approximate the accidents of the former. But it is the blue floor that most thoroughly enchants, gently hammering home Herrero’s project: An earnest if rigorously playful investigation of support, asking and cheerfully problematizing where, not to mention how, painting begins and ends.