Critics’ Picks

Gustav Metzger, Liquid Crystal Abstraction, 1965–2013, HD video projection, dimensions variable.

Mexico City

Gustav Metzger

Museo Jumex
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra 303 Colonia Granada
July 19–October 25, 2015

Gustav Metzger, theorist of “auto-destructive art,” is best known for his avant-garde experiments in 1960s Europe—the heyday of Fluxus and Situationism and an emerging environmental ethics. This exhibition, surveying more than fifty years of his work, demonstrates that Metzger’s practice and polemics are as relevant as ever.

Like his Dadaist forebears, Metzger directed his practice toward destroying art from within, enacting what he called a “deep surgery” on its institutions. Working outdoors in 1961, he enlisted passersby to help make his Acid Action Painting, which involved literally dissolving three canvases with corrosives; in 1996, he publicly destroyed a car in the Camden Town area of London. Documentation of these works and models for unrealized projects are displayed here, each underscoring Metzger’s anticonsumerist and climate-conscious inclinations. More surprising is the formal innovation he continues to wrest from entropy. One location-specific project, for example, presents a stack of hundreds of Mexican periodicals and invites viewers to collage their contents on the wall. In a more abstract mode, on the far side of the gallery is Liquid Crystal Abstraction, 1965–2013, a massive screen capturing projections made through mechanized LCD filters that produce a postauthorial, if psychedelic, riposte to modernist painting.

Taken together, eighty-nine-year-old Metzger’s ongoing engagement with antiformalist techniques is revealed here to be as committed as it is relentless. But this show is also a melancholy reminder of art’s limited ability to truly self-destruct and of the persistence of a great many problems that bedeviled another era.