Critics’ Picks

View of “Juan José Gurrola: Duchamp’s Bee,” 2015.

View of “Juan José Gurrola: Duchamp’s Bee,” 2015.

Mexico City

Juan José Gurrola

House of Gaga | Mexico City
Amsterdam 123 Col. Condesa
September 18–November 7, 2015

Although Juan José Gurrola has suffered from relative anonymity outside specialized circles in Mexico, his work spans many genres—from theater and opera to painting and performance, not to mention a few precious films and collaborations with figures such as Alejandro Jodorowsky and David Hockney. For Gurrola’s current show at House of Gaga, Fernando Mesta, the space’s director, unearthed (literally) and restored two of the artist’s large-scale paintings, which are here presented with a fake flying bee that circles overhead.

The installation works beautifully and includes video documentation of Gurrola’s 1997 adaptation of Leonard Bernstein’s 1952 opera Trouble in Tahiti that featured one of the paintings as a backdrop. The installation (two paintings, plus bee), titled Duchamp’s Bee, was shown for the first time in 2002. The canvases show a cartoonish guy, resembling Dagwood Bumstead (from Blondie), taking a nap and being woken by the bee’s buzzing (one thinks of the bee as a dream, an idea, a nuisance). The paintings also fit into Gurrola’s so-called dom art (short for domestic art, which also recalls the Mexican pronunciation of the word dumb) that he began thinking about in the 1960s as a satire of the imported American way of life in Mexico, in addition to ideas surrounding New Realism and Pop art. In 1996, Gurrola’s said that dom art’s tongue-in-cheek epitome would be an effortless creation of works of art with a Diners Club Card. The effortlessness is here, in the image of the couch potato, but surely these works are neither conceptually nor formally lazy.