Critics’ Picks

View of “Thomas Glassford: Siphonophora,” 2016.

View of “Thomas Glassford: Siphonophora,” 2016.

Mexico City

Thomas Glassford

Museo Universitario del Chopo
Dr. Enrique González Martínez no. 10Col. Santa María la Ribera Col. Santa María la Ribera
March 12–July 24, 2016

A discrete but elegant forty-nine-foot-tall slender and white-colored structure floats in the museum’s central gallery. It evokes the formal features of Siphonophora, a type of marine animal from the order of Hydrozoa composed of various physiologically integrated polypoid and medusoid zooids all with specialized survival functions. Like the sea creatures, Thomas Glassford’s Siphonophora, 2016, is a single body made up of an amalgamation of individual entities. Leaf-like protruding shapes, little stalks, or trailing tentacles form a rhythmic colony, resembling at once both an animal and a plant that, like an invisible jellyfish, merges with its surrounding space. This quality effectively turns the museum’s architecture into an essential part of the work, enhancing its condition as a container and conduit, as well as an environment and object. The piece also commingles the building’s dual histories—it now serves as an art space but was formerly a natural history museum.

Glassford, in a continuation of his exploration with everyday objects and construction materials, utilized white cement, polyurethane, and steel rods for this installation. The result is a delightfully contemplative exhibition that makes evident the artist’s enlightened understanding of the role that architecture plays in the perception of and reflection on artworks. Siphonophora itself also serves as metaphor for notions of self and community: Similar to ocean organisms, humans’ survival as an ecological entity is dependent on one another.