Mateo López, Ojeras (Eye Bags), 2018, vinyl paint on wall, dimensions variable.

Mateo López, Ojeras (Eye Bags), 2018, vinyl paint on wall, dimensions variable.

Mateo López

Travesía Cuatro | Guadalajara

Mateo López, Ojeras (Eye Bags), 2018, vinyl paint on wall, dimensions variable.

“Don’t ask me about this or that building,” Luis Barragán once said. “Don’t try to do what I do: See what I saw.” With “X, Y, Z,” Mateo López proved himself a fitting interpreter of one of Barragán’s spaces, this one inspired by Hispano-Islamic architecture: The gallery Travesía Cuatro, which hosted López’s recent show, is located in the Casa Franco, a former private home built by Barragán in 1929 as one of his earliest projects. Trained as an architect, López has said that all objects begin as drawings. His work tests the boundaries of drawing, and his investigations into line encompass sculpture, installation, and performance, all of which were on view in this exhibition. The show elaborated on his eponymous 2015 publication (also on view) while introducing objects and interventions in conversation with the building. Like architectural plans, López’s works imply a potential for movement; the practice of drawing begets possibility. He seems to add to Barragán’s directive an additional injunction: “Draw what I drew.”

In a departure from past shows, such as his 2017 solo exhibition at the Drawing Center in New York, López did not significantly alter the viewer’s path through the space. Instead, he played within Barragán’s architecture of partitions and walls—or, put another way, of mystery and surprise. Ojeras (Eye Bags) (all works cited, 2018), comprised two arched windows whose shapes were mirrored immediately below in yellow paint; the resulting forms had the comical look of pills. López often doubled down on Barragán’s sense of whimsy: In an otherwise unremarkable doorway, López placed Apóstrofo (Apostrophe), a red-vinyl-paint punctuation mark that appeared folded, its contours occupying both the interior and the exterior of the doorway. The artist’s flirtations with poetic metaphors appeared throughout, for instance in Poema de papel (Paper Poem), paper sculptures rhythmically arranged on two wooden shelves. Some works could have their syntax altered: Estructura modular No. 2 (Modular Structure No. 2), a steel-and-automotive-paint piece made up of interlocking grids, could be pulled apart and pieced back together on wooden pegs. Its companion piece, Estructura modular No. 3, fit into a corridor, slowing one’s movement into the next room. Other works actively revised one another, such as Umbral (Threshold), a painted model for a structure López used in a performance at the Museo de Arte de la Universidad Nacional de Colombia in Bogotá in 2017. Its form was modified through choreography by Lee Serle; a recording of Serle performing with it was on view in a two-channel video of the same name. Such connections implied the effortless progression through form that the drawn line allows, but also the vulnerability of its easy undoing.

López has long explored the intimacy between artworks and the places where they were created. In his 2006 show at Bogotá’s Galería Casas Riegner, he replicated his studio inside the gallery, and at Galeria Luisa Strina in São Paulo in 2011 he showed constructions made from drawings in his notebooks; the exhibition was a precursor to the 2015 book XYZ, which includes López’s plans for three-dimensional paper sculptures. In this former residential space, sculptures suggesting domestic objects (a lamp, an armchair, porcelain crockery) read like drafts of unfinished works. Two of these had the subtitle Casa desorientada (Disoriented House). The peculiar presence of the word disorient subtly accentuated López’s theme: The drawing of lines—architectural, utilitarian, cardinal—can lead us through space while also playfully misleading us.

Alexandra Pechman