PRINT December 2012

Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy

Neil Beloufa, Kempinski, 2007, video, color, sound, 14 minutes. From “Edificio Metálico” (Metallic Building).

1 Edificio Metálico” (TEOR/éTica, San José, Costa Rica; curated by Inti Guerrero) Closed for months following the death of its founder, Virginia Pérez-Ratton, this key Central American cultural space reopened in February, to the pleasure of all, with an international group exhibition. Taking inspiration from the so-called Metallic Building (an early example of prefab architecture, shipped from Belgium to San José in the nineteenth century), TEOR/éTica’s new artistic director, Guerrero, gathered artworks and materials from the Americas, Africa, and elsewhere, ambitiously illuminating tropical modernity’s contested fortunes and competing temporalities.

2 Tania Pérez Córdova (Proyectos Monclova, Mexico City) With her first solo exhibition at the gallery Proyectos Monclova, Pérez Córdova elucidated the infrathin character of intimacy. For an ink-jet print, the artist superimposed landscape images from Flickr, and to create a series of small sculptures, she called a model to her studio to recline on orbs and slices of a malleable material made from a combination of alginate and pigments, allowing bodily impressions to literally shape the work. Sustaining a complex syntax in which the handmade met the administered, and objects were construed as unfolding, interrelated events, Pérez Córdova proved herself one of the young artists whose work is defining a fresh—and much-needed—emerging art scene in Mexico.

3 Fernanda Laguna, Control o No Control (Mansalva) Though not well known outside her native Argentina, Laguna is undoubtedly one of the most interesting visual artists in the Americas, and this book proves that she is also one of its most interesting poets. Her written works revolve around affection—not passion, but caring—while her direct and unstudied language is infused with pop-culture references, indefatigably but effortlessly showing beauty in everyday moments rather than in lyrical or rhapsodic meditations.

4 Leonilson (Iberê Camargo Foundation, Porto Alegre, Brazil; curated by Bitu Cassundé and Ricardo Resende) In the 1980s, new artistic sensibilities, practices, and communities emerged in profusion across Brazil’s cultural landscape. José Leonilson Bezerra Dias, known as Leonilson, was among the artists who gained recognition, but his life was cut short by AIDS—he died in 1993, at thirty-six—and critical attention turned elsewhere. This elegant retrospective brought together a large selection of the artist’s fragile, minimal works—mainly precise ink drawings or embroidery on paper or fabric, each figuring a character or two, a landscape, a brief poem, or a combination of these. Presenting his illustrations for the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo from the early ’90s along with his diaries and notebooks, the show made clear that the artist, however introverted his work may appear, was an active participant in the public sphere and in shaping the representations that animate it.

5 Juan José Gurrola (House of Gaga, Mexico City) A commercial gallery with the spirit of an alternative space, Gaga presented this posthumous exhibition as a “live archive.” In an on-site work space, visitors perused materials related to Gurrola’s activities in performance, music, and film, while researchers went about preparing a catalogue raisonné. Those who possessed works by Gurrola (1935–2007) were invited to bring them in to be registered, generating vital knowledge about the practice of this underknown, discipline-hopping artist.

6 Juan Pablo Garza (Al Borde, Mara­caibo, Venezuela) For this exhibition, Garza, one of the founders of the dynamic new artist-run space Al Borde, carefully arranged washed-out photos and Polaroids drawn from family albums, darkroom trays painted in pastel tones, and a variety of discarded objects, from a friend’s unfinished painting to a tree branch. The result was a lyrical mise-en-scéne and a nuanced exploration of photography’s uses, its presence in our domestic lives, and its place in, or replacement of, memories.

Karel Martens, untitled, 2012, letterpress monoprint on archival card with printer marks, 5 3/4 x 8 1/4". From “Process 01: Joy.”

7 “Process 01: Joy” (P!, New York) Prem Krishnamurthy, the founder of this new gallery in New York’s Chinatown, is a graphic designer and curator; he also started the studio Project Projects with Adam Michaels, who has his own publishing projects. P!’s program is a mix of art and design and an investigation of communication’s uses and applications. Its inaugural exhibition this past fall focused on joy in work and included photography books by Chauncey Hare, monoprints by Karel Martens, and a “Volksboutique” project by Christine Hill inviting neighborhood businesses to bring in their handmade store signs and take versions newly designed by P! Critical, experimental, and participatory—the exhibition was less about joy than joyful itself.

8 Karin Schneider (Periférico Caracas; curated by Jesús Fuenmayor) In this solo exhibition, Schneider realized the full potential of community art, collaborating with residents of Caracas’s Barrio la Bombilla de Petare to set up a ceramic workshop that operated during gallery hours. A long shelf displayed the objects—from conventional vases to inventive sculptural forms, all in shades of blue—created by participants. One of the gallery walls was painted red, another yellow, while videos by the artist juxtaposed images of modernist urban planning and contemporary vernacular architecture. The primary colors did not simply reference a favorite modernist palette; these are also the colors of Venezuela’s flag, and the hues favored for the exteriors of the country’s slum dwellings.

9 “Yanomami Ethnografica: The Baumgarten/Sugai Collection” (Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany; curated by Lothar Baumgarten) Part of a wave of artists and filmmakers who, in the 1970s, left so-called modern civilization behind in a quest to explore traditional indigenous ways of life, Baumgarten spent two years living in the Amazon with the Yanomami. He bartered his possessions for those of his hosts, eventually amassing more than one thousand objects, which have been donated to the Museum Folkwang Foundation. Curating the first exhibition of his extraordinary collection, Baumgarten used his own photography and sound works, rather than traditional didactic texts or labels, to contextualize and complement the objects. His decisions exemplified the kind of sensitivity capable of overriding the romantic exoticism that has often inflected such ethnographic enterprises.

10 Terry Smith, Thinking Contemporary Curating (Independent Curators International) Smith, an Australian art historian, productively historicizes the concept of “contemporaneity” and charts the multitudinous activities and theoretical programs by which curators now seek to “become contemporary.” Along the way, he argues that curatorial innovation requires the development of formats that are “highly specific to this present” and asserts that curators now must “unmask uncritical, unhistorical, art market ideas such as ‘the contemporary’ and ‘Contemporary Art’ and replace them with ideas that speak from our actual contemporaneity.” I hope the rest of the series will offer similarly thoughtful polemics.

Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy is curator of contemporary art at the Colección Patricia Phelps de Cisneros and artistic director of the 9th Mercosul Biennial, opening on September 13, 2013, in Porto Alegre, Brazil. She lives in New York.