New Territories: Laboratories for Design, Craft and Art in Latin America (New York, November 4, 2014 to April 6, 2015) is organized by Museum of Arts and Design’s Chief Curator Lowery Stokes Sims and Adriana Kertzer, Curatorial Assistant and Project Manager. The exhibition gives MAD its second winner in a row.
Above image: Casual Dinnerware (2013), Orange Crush Fiberglass Wall Console (2013), Rosario Mirror (2013) by DFC. Photograph by David Franco.
New Territories follows MAD’s groundbreaking 2010 exhibition The Global Africa Project, which presented new craft, design and art that transcended nationality and regionalism in its presentation of the new nomadic paradigm of African identity. The new exhibition will be accompanied by a fully-illustrated, full color catalog that will be published in separate English and Spanish editions by Turner Libros of Madrid and Mexico City.
It could hardly be more different than What Would Mrs. Webb Do? That was a dignified, afternoon tea celebrating New England’s genteel philanthropy while Territories is samba-throbbing cocktail time in Rio at sunset (or some another stylish Latin American city featured in the show). Territories is the visual combination of a piquant Caipirinha and a Venezuelan Macuá, straight-up.
The term “new territories,” as evoked by Italian architect and designer Gaetano Pesce, refers to the state of making in today’s globalized society, a phenomenon that has helped to spur a confluence of art, design and craft. The exhibition examines this trend in several distinct cities throughout Latin America, where some of the most pertinent new directions in arts and design are emerging today.
It explores the collaborations between small manufacturing operations and crafters, artists, and designers, and demonstrates how the resulting work addresses not only the issues of commodification and production, but also of urbanization, displacement and sustainability. The exhibition seeks to explore a number of key themes, including: the dialogue between contemporary trends and artistic legacies in Latin American art; the use of repurposed materials in strategies of upcycling; the blending of digital and traditional skills; and the reclamation of personal and public space.
This is a lot of territory to cover. But Sims and Kertzner have made the best of their limitations. Sims is known for her cunning eye, something not all curators posses, and she almost always brews up an exciting visual potion knowing just how to juxtapose color and content. Also the installation design, while clearly on a tight budget is highly effective with not much more than paint and MDV.
I also need to confess to being somewhat biased: I both like and have been following some of the artists in this show.
The feeling of both fetish and folly is a delight in Sebastian Errazuriz’s 3D-printed quirky shoes. Robot Naturito’s figures have the same quirky allure.
Design satire— seen in the work of Edgar Orlaineta, Rolando Peña, Leo Capote, Design da Gema, Carolina Tinoco— is a strong part of the cocktail, erudite, witty and taking on the status quo of European design orthodoxy.
Liliana Ovalle’s ceramic sinkholes (which we have covered on CFile) is one of the most powerful presences on the show. Ovalle and Colectivo 1050° worked with the Mateo family to produce these sculptures.
Mysterious porcelain wall lamps by gt2P were stunning. So to was DFC’s sunny wall installations, placing ceramics in a dizzying carnival mood.
The only disappointment for me was Eduardo Sarabia, not the artist (who I admire) but his works on the show. Alone, some of his blue and white ceramics (there a cabinet with three in the show) are rather artless and the drawing heavy-handed. They are stronger when placed on packing boxes or as part of environments drawn from the abarrotes, the small Mexican grocery stores.
Lastly, while I have had fun using regional Latin American elements from carnaval et al, please do not misunderstand: I am not being patronizing. I adore and respect this part of the world. This is not ethnic art, third world art or anything else but informed, worldly, knowing, erotic, outrageous and at times deliciously barbed. There is gravitas on display as well.
Either way, if you leave this exhibition without at least one of your body parts tingling, you have become too detached from life. I would prescribe emergency samba lessons. Or maybe you could have attended MAD’s Friday night teens party (see below) for Territories that included a Snapchat scavenger hunt, gallery tours, art-making, lots of dancing, and breathing in the spirit.
Garth Clark is the Chief Editor of CFile