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With 96 galleries from 20 different countries, works by approximately 900 artists and more than 30,000 visitors, the seventh edition of Mexico Cityʼs art fair ZONAMACO®, which took place from April 14-18, 2010, constitutes an important manifestation of the vitality of the Latin American art world and provides a meeting point to Latin American and international collectors alike.

While the fair included works by several blue chip artists, such as Urs Fischer, Rudolf Stingel and Hiroshi Sugimoto, its focus is on emerging artists and it intends to enable collectors to discover new artists according to fair director Zelika Garcia. This mission is particularly evident in ZONAMACO®SUR (South), a section curated by Adriano Pedrosa, a Sao Paolo based curator and writer who will co-curate the International Istanbul Biennial in 2011. In its second edition, it featured 20 solo show booths of artists not only from the Southern hemisphere, but also of artists responding to the more poetic notion of being on the margins and exploring the limits of geographic and aesthetic realms alike.

Highlights in this section included Horizon (Southern Sundrawing) by Swedish artist Runo Lagomarsino, a laconic suite of 90 drawings on newsprint paper framing the booth at eye height and tracing the quest for the essence of the line.

Runo Lagomarsino, Horizon (Southern Sundrawing), 2010 (Photo: Courtesy of Elastic Gallery, Malmö)

Equally noteworthy was the constructivist take on the Duchampian bicycle wheel by Venezuelan artist Jorge Nuñez Pardo in his sculpture Etre Tordue (Being Twisted). And a white on white booth showcasing Brazilian artist Fernanda Gomesʼ post-minimalist rendering of the different components and residues of the fair installation process.

Jorge Pedro Nuñez, Etre Tordue, 2009-2010 (Photo: Courtesy of Galerie Crevecoeur, Paris)

Pedrosa deliberately chose not to include any Mexican artists in ZONAMACO®SUR because of their home advantage, but the fair and the multitude of related cultural events gave a comprehensive overview of the effervescence of the host country’s art scene. To many, Mexican art is synonymous with the colorful figurative art of muralists David Alfaro Siqueiros and Diego Rivera, or the dramatic self-portraits of Frida Kahlo. Some may in addition be familiar with the work of Gabriel Orozco, an important conceptual artist who was instrumental in the internationalization of the Mexican art world and was honored with a MoMA mid-career retrospective earlier this year.

Yet, these names represent only a small fraction of what Mexico has to offer to the art world. According to OMR director Patricia Ortíz Monasterio from OMR Gallery, a multitude of young new galleries, such as Gaga Fine Arts, La Estacion and Arte Talcual, as well as informal exhibition spaces have come to life in the past five years as a response to a lively artistic creation which is mainly focused on drawing, as is typical of emerging art scenes, as well as on a reinterpretation of sculpture. And while being of international breadth, the Mexican art scene has managed to preserve its own identity which makes it particularly interesting.

Amongst works by Mexican artists, Gabriel de la Moraʼs installation, Mesa III, was one of the most popular in the fair. It featured a studio table combining 15 independent pieces meticulously mounted in small plexiglas containers. The combination of delicate drawings with human hair reminiscent of the lines of Gego and Leon Ferrari, a cube of white oil paint placed on a canvas, signifying a potential painting, as well as a burnt page, the ash of which can be read as a sculpture and a drawing alike, provide an insight into the diversity of his artistic practice.

Gabriel de la Mora, Mesa lll, 2010 (Photo: Claudia Paetzold)

Other favorite works by Mexican artists included Ale de la Puenteʼs installation of a witch-like sweeping broom painted in white and placed amidst thousands of centavo coins on the floor, Iñaki Bonillasʼ poetic lightboxes and Emilio Chapela Perezʼs installation of 50 digital prints of chairs identified through a google search paired with an online definition, a virtual reality comment on Kosuthʼs chair.

The other place of choice to discover promising young artists for fair visitors is the Jumex Collection which is principally dedicated to the promotion and support of contemporary Mexican and international artists from the 1990s on, but also owns representative pieces of conceptual and minimal art from the 1960s-70s. This year Pedrosa was invited to curate two simultaneous exhibitions in the foundationʼs exhibition space based in Jumexʼs Ecatepec plant.

One of them, The Traveling Show, examines the theme of traveling and displacement through nineteenth century paintings reflecting European views of journeys to Mexico, conceptual and in particular earth art pieces from the 1960s and 70s from artists such as Vito Acconci, Richard Long and Robert Smithson as well as works by emerging artists, such as Italian artist Lara Favarettoʼs abandoned plastic suitcase sculptures and a meticulous installation featuring a habitat beneath a staircase by Colombian artist Mateo Lopez.

Through four narrow pathways, mimicking North, South, East and West, the visitor reaches the center of the exhibition which is home to Sentido Unico (One Way), an installation composed of seven independent kinetic pieces. Here Argentinean artist Eduardo Basualdo, who participated in the Southern Exposure exhibition at the Dumbo Arts Center in 2008 and is one of the 2010 recipients of the prestigious Kuitca grant, operates a welcome shift of the paradigm of traveling: instead of focusing on the displacement of humans or objects, the artist explores the movement of the earth which unites us all in a journey which remains imperceptible, if it was not for the shifting tides and the sequence of night and day.

Eduarda Basualdo, Viajando Hacia Ti, 2010 (Photo: Eduardo Basualdo)

One of the pieces in the installation, Viajando Hacia Ti (Traveling to You), consists of a wig mounted on a head-shaped eroded stone facing a ventilator. The resulting movement of the fake hair can be mistaken for the head marking a progression in space, yet the figure remains static, only to be subject to gradual decomposition on its journey carried out by the earthʼs movement. The simultaneous presence of fairy tale like playfulness and the uncanny in Basualdoʼs work are reminiscent of the visual vocabulary deployed by Marcel Dzama.

The second show, El Gabinete Blanco (The White Cabinet), plays with the evolution of exhibition registers. It relies exclusively on white works, alluding to the ideal of the white cube introduced by MoMAʼs Alfred Barr in the twentieth century, which are mounted in a floor to ceiling display characteristic of nineteenth century salons. The true protagonist of the exhibition is the color or non-color white which is namely staged in the works of Robert Ryman for whom it is above all an instrument to see more. And this affirmation holds true, for after a little while the viewerʼs perception shifts from the white surfaces to the worksʼ supports and becomes almost tactile. The minimal criterium of the color white moreover allows to establish a vibrant dialogue between works of artists as diverse as Louise Lawler, Robert Ryman, Fernanda Gomes, Magdalena Fernandez and Vik Muniz.

Exhibition shot of El Gabinete Blanco (Photo: Claudia Paetzold)

Neither The Traveling Show nor the White Cabinet exhibition are scheduled to travel, but they can be seen in Mexico City until September 5, 2010.

While the Jumex foundationʼs focus is on contemporary art from the 1990s onwards, the house of founder and collector Eugenio Lopez, who graciously hosted a welcome cocktail for the fairʼs VIP guests, is adorned with works by Cy Twombly, Richard Serra, Carl Andre, Louise Bourgeois and Felix Gonzalez-Torres. Other collectors who opened their homes were Boris Hirmas, whose eclectic collection contains pieces by Mexican artist Iñaki Bonillas alongside with important works by Kiki Smith, Mona Hatoum and John McCracken, as well as Cesar Cervantes, one of the foremost collectors of Gabriel Orozcoʼs work which is articulately placed in context with historical pieces by North American conceptual artists such as Dennis Oppenheim and Vito Acconci as well as Fluxus artist Robert Filliou.

And as if further validation of the importance of the Mexican art scene at an international level was needed, Galería Hilario Galguera opened a show of Damien Hirst paintings during the fair, with the emblematic skulls appropriately echoing the fairʼs logo.

Damien Hirst at the opening of Dark Trees (Photo: Courtesy of Galería Hilario Galguera)

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