Critics’ Picks

  • Ida Ekblad, Filles Interdites (Gate), 2017, bronze, 84 x 78 x 12".

    Ida Ekblad

    Museo Tamayo
    Paseo de la Reforma No. 51
    May 2–August 4, 2019

    Ida Ekblad makes curious bedfellows of the most random things. For this exhibition, she scoured the streets of Mexico City for debris—such as a beat-up, yellow metal chair; a piece of wall framing; a porcelain bowl—and mashed them together in slabs of wet concrete, letting the assemblage dry poetically ad hoc. That motley assortment, Gold Bug Drift Sculpture (Tepito and Ecatepec), Amor, 2019, alongside other “drift” jumbles, is perhaps the highlight of “Blood Optics,” Ekblad’s first institutional solo show in Mexico City. Arrayed like an obstacle course in an open-air gallery, Ekblad’s blocky junk traps meld perfectly with the museum’s Brutalist concrete architecture. They diligently lower high culture and heighten the low. Careful where you step: Less observant visitors might get a goalpost to the groin or a tennis racket to the face. A sequined purse resembling a Goodwill find circa 1987 dangles off one sculpture, as if dropped there accidentally.

    Ekblad takes gleeful aim at painting, too; the only thing “fine art” about her canvases’ construction is their stretched fabric surface. Otherwise, they’re made with textile paint, which Ekblad heats in her studio until it puffs up. Dried that way, her heroically scaled, puffy paint–technique depictions of brightly colored fish, broken dinnerware, and unfinished crochet—all redolent in texture and color to the work of someone like Rachel Harrison—look more like goopy Play-Doh than painting. For a long time, craft and fiber art were dirty words in the fine arts. Here, they’re a prized motif, as are ostensible design objects like Filles Interdites (Gate), 2017, a gloriously tacky driveway entrance dropped out of nowhere and decked with a cartoonish bow. Is this the entrance to Snow White’s South Beach estate? The thing would better befit a Disney resort than a museum proper—though, if anything, knocking “proper” onto its face is the head-spinning joy of Ekblad’s work.

  • Cosima von Bonin, OPEN YOUR SHIRT PLEASE 7, 2019, metal and plush toys, 56 x 55 x 39".

    Cosima von Bonin

    House of Gaga | Mexico City
    Amsterdam 123, Col. Condesa
    May 18–August 3, 2019

    Cosima von Bonin, as most familiar with her art already know, works from her bed. From there, she undertakes a collaborative process with craftspeople, modeling artists, musicians, and, in this case, her gallerists to bring her works to fruition. “Shit and Chanel,” her first exhibition in Mexico, could well be the materialization of a collective nightmare: The artist has filled the gallery with plush animal figures in comical situations of entrapment—physical, psychological, or otherwise.

    The show takes as its point of departure an anxiety-ridden GIF, in which Daffy Duck tries to avoid being guzzled by an amorphous black entity. This Sisyphean task arcs across four black canvases placed at various heights on wooden structures—one of which blocks the large windows that connect the gallery space to the street, mimicking Daffy’s claustrophobic situation. Another, more fragmented tale is scattered across the gallery, narrated through nuclei of stuffed animals that are, imaginatively, the artist’s surrogates: Lobster claws try to escape from a crocheted cement mixer; smiling pigs are confined (snuggling or suffocating?) inside a steel-wire cement mixer (which could double as a birdcage or raffle drum); and another porcine squad rests on a metal plate, its members travestied into beached mermaids—a “motionless ballet of cake slices,” according to the gallery text. The associations are cozy but alienating, whelmed by desolation.

    If the recurring appurtenances of sexual and civil submission—oversize handcuffs and inflatable flail maces used in BDSM practices—add no coherent thread to von Bonin’s story, they do reveal that something somber lurks beneath the surface. A certain sense of identification lingers, as Daffy Duck’s struggle against the darkness—against his own erasure—might well be that of the artist or, conceivably, our own.