Gabriel Kuri


View of “Gabriel Kuri,” 2014.

Mexican artist Gabriel Kuri is known for sculptures that mobilize contrasting dualities. Here he speaks about his current exhibitions in Los Angeles: a solo show at Regen Projects, which is on view until June 28, 2014, and the pieces he produced for the Hammer Museum’s “Made in LA 2014” biennial, which closes on September 7, 2014.

WE LIVE IN A GLOBAL WORLD where it seems like everything is available at the click of a button, yet that’s not exactly the case. Everything that I made for these exhibitions I created in Los Angeles, where I currently reside. That is how I make sense of my life. I adjust my work to fit my surroundings because I want it to have that feeling of actuality, of presentness.

Every place comes together by violent contradictions. This is a cue I’ve taken for the Regen exhibition, which includes my “soft metal” pieces, which are made of silver insulation material, and my “hard metal” pieces, which are made of stainless steel. The pairing of hard and soft has been an ongoing and important aspect in my work. It’s not just in the tactile sense, but also because I like to think of some of the sources of my work as being “hard,” as in hard facts, and others as being “soft,” as in being contingent. For instance, in the sculptural series “Stop Start Exponential Growth,” you could also describe this relationship as fast and slow. There is something about the work’s volcanic rock that is really fast. You can almost see the way it was formed, like the results when pouring polyurethane resin. But the inflated condoms placed in between the rocks are fragile. They have to be replaced every few days because they slowly deflate. While finding a place is relevant to my work, I also think that finding the moment is integral to my understanding of sculpture.

I don’t know how this interest in contrasts began. It most likely has something to do with finding my voice as an individual. The soft gesture could be seen as what comes most from me and the hard element could be what comes from society. There are a few hard geometric abstract forms also in this show. The piece Credit Becomes Retail, which includes eight multicolored, circular disks, addresses society most directly. The disks themselves come from the logos of credit institutions such as Mastercard and Maestro. The disks are placed in a physical act of balancing on each other, with padded blankets wedged in between. The metaphor is not one I have to force upon anyone. The idea for this work came from a piece I made for the 2008 Berlin Biennale—at the time of the economic downturn. The disks were placed in the coat check area of the Neue Nationalgalerie and the audience would check in their garments by hanging them on top of or in between these metal forms. By no means was I expressing that what artists create are mere commercial products or commodity goods. Rather, there is a direct parallel between the way that meaning in art is constructed and the way that value is socially constructed. But in order to see it, one must take it apart or see it upside down.

In “Made in LA,” there is a piece titled Donation Fountain, which is composed of a bent pipe, bird spikes, and a shower of coins. There is another work that is made with Carrara marble slabs, the same marble that is used for the skirting boards and doorway frames in the Hammer. Here, the slabs are placed outdoors on the museum’s terraces with small cigarette butts inserted in between them. There is also a variant of Regen’s piece, Thank You, which includes fireproof waste bins. The contrast in this exhibition is more in the works’ displacement. There is often a bubble of protection that forms around the gallery; in a public institution, my sculptures are forced to cohabitate with the museum’s signage, benches, exit signs, and even fire extinguishers. From this juxtaposition, the work acquires a different accent.

— As told to Frank Expůsito