Mexico City

Pablo Andino, Ojos nuez #1 (Walnut Eyes #1), 2023, rum, resin, nut, teak, salvaged fabric, knife, shoe sole rubber, 13 3⁄4 × 7 7⁄8 × 2".

Pablo Andino, Ojos nuez #1 (Walnut Eyes #1), 2023, rum, resin, nut, teak, salvaged fabric, knife, shoe sole rubber, 13 3⁄4 × 7 7⁄8 × 2".

Pablo Andino

The first solo show in Mexico City by young Ecuadorian artist Pablo Andino opened during the city’s Art Week, but it worked even better a few days after all the brouhaha was over: “Como un tiro, un clavel” (Like a Shot, a Carnation) excelled at capturing the hangover. The ambience of the installation felt laden, the air smoky, the floor slightly sticky. In the middle of the room stood an odd structure, an open circle made out of concrete, each half of which was fixed with a curved railing. It nodded to the idea of a sunken dance floor, or one of those ridiculously restricted VIP areas where three or four miserable rich kids bounce off-beat with their paid companions, bottles in hand.

The rest of the exhibition skirted the periphery of this esoteric structure, vestiges of a phantasmal party only obliquely suggesting bodies or the leftovers of sensual, gluttonous consumption. On the walls hung four unusual sconces, shaped like fried turkey legs and bearing candles that dripped their milky wax all over them. They had been made from wooden vases that hold a single flower stem, panko coated and fried whole before being turned upside down—blossom dangling from what is now the bottom. It’s hard to convey how weird and yet appropriately situated these objects were. They are all about the unnecessary boundary crossing, the shitty decisions, even about what to eat, that humans make while drunk, high, or hungover. Nothing can get you through the aftermath of that kind of physical and psychic crisis like one of those disgustingly unhealthy fried animal meals. In fact, these pieces are not actually works, and they were not for sale; they were merely greasy torches guiding our way through this dense, intense experience.

Karaoke con cuentas (Karaoke with Beads, all works 2023), one of three pieces created in collaboration with writer Carolina Benalcázar, further expands on the relentless party motifs. The piece is modest: a spreadsheet printed on see-through paper with a pair of squiggles cut into it, pinned to the framed rectangle of a rubber shoe sole. “There is no gap to fill,” according to Benalcázar. “There is no star to return to / there is no tape to stick / there is no sleep to survive last night’s salt.” Nothing really makes that much sense—something I appreciate; after all, what makes sense inside a party spiral? Penas con pan (Sorrows with Bread) is a special little work, featuring two flowers painted atop an MDF board that has been breaded and fried, then framed in steel. Ojos nuez #1 and #2 (Walnut Eyes #1 and #2) are two striking sculptural compositions. The central feature of each is two eyes made out of nutshells filled with rum and sealed with resin, surrounded by little wooden white stars. The eyes and stars in #1 rest on a knife wrapped in fabric—only its tip is menacingly visible—on top of a rubber sole cutout of amorphous shape; in #2 they hover over an old T-shirt that once belonged to the artist’s mother. Estrella caída (Fallen Star), the show’s main feature, sat at the very back of the gallery. The huge star carved out of teak wood, with three of its six points broken off, leaned against a huge smoke machine that would periodically start huffing and puffing, turning the space into a cavern of noxious sensations.

Andino really nails the lingering smells and the twitchy warped experience of substance use and the absurdity of submitting one’s body to it ritualistically—religiously, almost. Partying, he suggests, can be a deeply individual experience that also necessitates a collective environment of mutual self-destruction. Luckily for us, in art we also get to call it work.