May 5, 2022–spring 2023
Monticello, New York
As senior curator for the Noguchi Museum, Dakin Hart knows all too well how much good art languishes in storage after brief tours in the public eye. To make amends, Hart organized Assembly 1: Unstored, Contemporary Sculpture from Mexico, a group show of eighteen notable Mexican and Mexico-based artists, some of them participants in the 2015 Venice Biennale—José Dávila, Gabriela Galván, Ale de la Puente, Tania Candiani—whose works needed some air. The variety and quality on display testifies to Mexico’s artistic vitality. Hopefully some of that energy will rub off on Monticello’s long-suffering main street, Broadway, where this spring Mexican artist Bosco Sodi and his wife, designer Lucia Corredor, finished renovating an old Buick dealership with the help of Mexican architect Alberto Kalach. The result: Assembly, a museum with 23,000 square feet of open space featuring hand-poured cement flooring and plenty of windows. Much of the sculpture in this maiden exhibition has a post-Minimalist vibe that feels right at home in the spare elegance of the former showroom space, but even those pieces that skew toward something more figurative benefit from Assembly’s spaciousness and natural light. If you’re heading upstate this summer, put Assembly 1: Unstored on your itinerary.
Among the works that would not look out of place in Dia: Beacon, Alejandro Almanza’s Untitled (5×5) (2015) has a particularly ingratiating whimsy. A concrete block rests on twenty five illuminated light bulbs in the 5 by 5 array described by the work’s title. The question of how something so massive could rest on delicate glass is part of the pleasure of viewing this piece. It is a study in contrasts—a dark gray, angular, light-absorbing mass versus a collection of shining yellow, delicate, curved forms—that sharpen its esthetic appeal. Beyond the “wow” factor of simply pulling off Untitled (5×5), it’s also funny in its improbability. In a similarly implausible vein, José Dávila’s Los Límites de lo Posible IV (The Limits of the Possible IV) (2019), presents a large block of dark stone cut at right angles on top of which perches a light gray boulder cantilevered out to the side. Again, it is a study in contrasts that heightens the viewer’s experience: the quarried base, made of Recinto stone, a gorgeous black basalt found in Mexico, versus the boulder, worn naturally smooth.
Humor also plays a powerful role in two of Mario Navarro’s works, Future Island (2016) and Life Goes On (2019), made from ordinary chairs subverted in absurd ways. In spirit, they recall Gabriel Orozco’s work from the nineties, such as La DS (1993), a Citroën DS chopped down to a one-person vehicle. Future Island’s chair has a shaft of concrete, about four feet high, fitted neatly into the circular opening where the chair’s seat should be. Life Goes On alters a similar chair by giving it two backs that face each other. There is a lovely assonance of forms here, from the reflecting curves in the two backs, to the heart-shaped details in each backrest, to the circular seat that joins the backs. Mario García Torres transmogrifies an ordinary object with similar verve in his bronze garden hose, Honestly, I Feel Like It’s All a Matter of Belief, n.d. (2022). Even with a gallery plan showing where each artwork its located, it’s an easy piece to miss, lying on the floor and looking so realistic. Perhaps the title refers to the classic example in Vedantic philosophy of the power of belief: the rope on the ground that one mistakes in the dark for a serpent.
Hard to miss, on the other hand, is the aptly titled installation Dreams of Innocence and Perversion (2007–ongoing), by Gabriela Galván. On the floor Galván places about thirty pillows, each topped with fluffy balls of cotton that resemble clouds. On the wall above the pillows, she pins up lurid holographic paper cut-outs of suggestive biomorphic shapes: breasts, buttocks, genitals, and so on, all associations no doubt shaped by the title. Another installation impossible to overlook is Ale de la Puente’s tour de force …dividirse en el tiempo (…divide in time) (2015), in which tiny gold magnets thread across and through delicate glass jars with mind-bending precision. Assembly 1: Unstored is a wealth of impressive work, including Sodi’s gigantic brooding canvases, Lorena Ancona’s delightful quasi-traditional earthenware sculptures, Paula Cortázar’s arresting cotton paper pulp forms, and many others not mentioned here. This is all world-class art.