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Preview for the episode Mexico City from Season 8 of Art21 Art in the Twenty-First Century (2016), featuring artists Natalia Almada, Minerva Cuevas, Damián Ortega, and Pedro Reyes.More information
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Kicking off our year-long 21st anniversary celebration: a special series of new films, premiering every other Wednesday through March 21.
Pedro Reyes designs ongoing projects that propose playful solutions to social problems. From turning guns into musical instruments, to hosting a People’s United Nations to address pressing concerns, to offering ecologically-friendly grasshopper burgers from a food cart, Reyes transforms existing problems into ideas for a better world. When encountering a project by the artist, viewers are often enlisted as participants or as creators of objects in collaborative workshops. Originally trained as an architect, Reyes is acutely aware of how people interact with the built environment, with many of the artist’s works taking the form of enclosures.
Damián Ortega uses objects from his everyday life—Volkswagen Beetle cars, Day of the Dead posters, locally-sourced corn tortillas—to make spectacular sculptures which suggest stories of both mythic import and cosmological scale. In many of the artist’s sculptures, vernacular objects are presented in precise arrangements—often suspended from the ceiling or as part of mechanized systems—that become witty representations of diagrams, solar systems, words, buildings, and faces. These shifts in perception are not just visual but also cultural, as the artist draws out the social history of the objects featured in his sculptures, films, and performances.
The great-granddaughter of Mexico’s controversial 40th president Plutarco Elías Calles, Natalia Almada makes intimate films that delve into the tragedies of her Mexican-American family’s personal history as well as the Sinaloa region’s violent present. Ranging from documentary to fiction to experimental narrative, Almada’s films portray a world filtered through recollection and constructed by diverging points of view. Whether chronicling the daily lives of Mexican drug smugglers, immigrants, corrido musicians, or government bureaucrats, Almada’s camera acts a witness to lives ensnared by violence and power struggles.
Minerva Cuevas is a conceptual and socially-engaged artist who creates sculptural installations and paintings in response to politically-charged events, such as the tension between world starvation and capitalistic excess. Cuevas documents community protests in a cartography of resistance while also creating mini-sabotages—altering grocery store bar codes and manufacturing student identity cards—as part of her non-profit Mejor Vida Corp / Better Life Corporation. Cuevas addresses the negative impact that humans have on animals and the environment through sculptures coated in tar and tender paintings of animal rights activists, imagining a society that values all living beings.