‘Expect the Unexpected’ at MCASD’s ‘Show of Mexican Art’ in La Jolla
By Lonnie Burstein Hewitt
Mexican art may not be what you think.
The new exhibition at Museum of Contemporary Art-La Jolla aims to prove just that. “Mexico: Expected/Unexpected,” in collaboration with the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach, features more than 100 artworks from the Isabel and Augustin Coppel Collection, one of Mexico’s most impressive collections of contemporary art.
Each museum is showing about half of the original exhibition, which was created in 2008 for La Maison Rouge, a large gallery space in Paris that’s known for cutting-edge art. After an extensive European tour, the show is making its U.S. debut in California.
There’s plenty to catch your eye here, a mix of media, moods, and perspectives to give viewers a sense of the multiple faces of modern-day Mexico.
First, in the lobby, is a neon sign that spells BORDER —and sometimes ORDER— in flashing red lights. Then there’s a striking design in black-and-white vinyl that covers the entire west wall —“PostPop F***22.” They’re both by Kendall Geers, from South Africa.
Surprise! These aren’t all Mexican artists. Some are international artists who have spent time in Mexico. This show isn’t narrowly focused, but global in scope.
Mireya Escalante, director of the Coppel Collection, who has worked with the Coppels for the past 15 years, said they started by collecting modern Mexican art. Not Diego Riveras and Frieda Kahlos, but lesser-known works.
“In Mexico, what we call modern art is the period from 1910-1950,” she explained. “After that, it’s contemporary. The 1960s had too much rupture and abstraction, so we didn’t go there. But we moved on to artists from outside our country, and then, like a circle, we came back to Mexico.”
The main attraction in the Fayman gallery is “Suspended Landscape,“ an installation by Rivane Neuenschwander made of dozens of string-like vegetable fibers hung from floor to ceiling. At the bottom of each one is garlic — that is, the papery peel of a garlic bulb. “So sexy! I love how it moves when you move through it!” said Lucia Sanroman, associate curator at MCASD, who installed the exhibition. “Of course, it was a Brazilian who made it!”
In the Kirchman gallery, there’s the “Seated Donkey,” a full-sized, sad-eyed burro by Maurizio Cattelan, an Italian. Two rooms away is the oddly engaging “Zocalo,” a 12-hour video of Mexico City’s main square, by Francis Alys, a Belgian artist who has made the city his home.
Another notable wall-length black-and-white painting is Daniel Guzman’s “Exilio.” Underneath it is written, in Spanish: “I was for a long time exiled from myself, so much so that on my return, I didn’t recognize who I was.”
“The last time I saw him, he was in a bar, in Mexico City,” a young woman said. “He’s one of our greatest artists.”
“Mexico: Expected/Unexpected” is an adventure, like taking a trip to a country you don’t really know. See it, enjoy it, and for the full experience, plan to see the rest of the show in Long Beach sometime soon.
If you go
What: “Mexico: Expected/Unexpected”
Where: MCASD La Jolla, 700 Prospect, through May 15.
When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday-Tuesday; to 7 p.m. third Thursdays; closed Wednesdays.
Contact: (858) 454-3541. mcasd.org
Related exhibit: MOLAA, 628 Alamitos Ave, Long Beach, (562) 437-1689. molaa.org
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