Critics’ Picks

Mexico City

Théo Mercier

Berlín 37, Col. Juárez
November 10, 2017–January 13, 2018

The title of Théo Mercier’s first solo exhibition in Mexico, “Phantom Legacy,” refers to relics of a time that never existed. The show largely features more than a dozen assemblages made by the Mexico City–based artist during a residency at the gallery this year, which overlapped with the city’s devastating earthquake in September. The concerns of Mercier’s work, such as conflating the aesthetics of archeology with those of contemporary art, as well as the precariousness of objects, find added poignancy in the timing of this show.

After a renovation of the gallery, the artist took the debris of the original ceiling to create a rubble floor that crunches under one’s feet, in what is meant to add a performative element to the show. It could have been read as a heavy-handed gesture, given recent events, in a less cohesive installation. But Mercier wryly mirrors the pervasive cultural impulse to piece things back together.

In the first room, he exhibits an untitled 2017 series of plinths piled with stone, building materials, and constructed artifacts, presenting works as if they were historical relics, but rendered in the tranquil, easily digested pastels of trendy au courant design. Though shown individually, like totems, the sculptural array resembles a cityscape consisting of materials such as brick and the pink marble common in local apartment complexes, many studded with faux pre-Hispanic artifacts. This subtle sense of humor buoys works throughout the display. In the next room, one walks among a handful of similar pieces, crowding with them instead of beholding them. Mercier’s practice describes a world falsely assembled from the past and present; ironically, it looks much like the masks we put over just about everything.