Re-purpose & Re-assign

Art 21: Art in the Twentieth Century, Season 8 Episode 2: Mexico City

Living in Mexico City may seem calamitous to outsiders. We hear conversations and breaking news stories about the problems that people face there. We jump to conclusions and assume stereotypes that harbor no truth only speculation. In fact, a beautiful city lies beneath the surface of all that prejudice and political turmoil. Art thrives in Mexico City and is the driving force of every movement worth fighting for and worth dying for. Through re-purposing and re-assignment, the mundane and sometimes forgotten objects of the world begin to have new life and flourish under the wings of such artist like Damian Ortega, Pedro Reyes, Minerva Cuevas, and Natalia Almada.

In Episode 2, there is an evident passion for art and an equally deep passion for Mexico City. Each segment is partially narrated by the artists themselves and partially explained by candid, interview-like monologues. The transitions are sudden and barely noticeable as one voice changes to the next but the imagery always remains consistent to the City.

The first two artists, Ortega and Reyes, seem to have the most similar themes among all four artist. The theme of re-purpose seems to echo quite elegantly as you view each artist using the everyday objects and turning their purpose into something else quite differently altogether. The use of “found materials” helps Ortega (Cosmic Thing) find a commonality between the representation and presentation of political expression. While, the reinvention of rules assists Reyes (Disarm) in his quest for the alternative uses of not only material but for substance as well.

The latter two artists, Cuevas and Almada, fairly differ from Ortega and Reyes in the fact that they are not re-purposing but instead have chosen to re-assign the meanings of things through interpretation and graphical orientation. Cuevas  uses popular nostalgia to convey messages of oppression and murder, while Almada simply re-assigns certain memories of the past in order to present current issues with new more meaningful demeanor.

All of the artists share a love and devotion not only to Mexico City but to Mexico, the country, as well. That same devotion and love is reflected in their expressions of political motivation and the art in which they submerge themselves. It is clear that at the end of the episode the true essence of Mexican art lies not just within the people and the culture but lies more deeply rooted in the passion and fervor of the socio-political fabric that bankets itself over a country seeped in prejudice calamity and overwhelming stresses of  faction and diversity.

-Joseph Warren


Minerva Cuevas, Del Montte, 2003 (installation view: Museo de la Cuidad de México, 2012).



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