After Eden Art in Cuernavaca, 1974-2014
November 12, may 8 2016
After Eden presents a panorama of the art produced in Cuernavaca for the past four decades. The starting point for this exhibition is 1974, year of the death of the artist David Alfaro Siqueiros in Cuernavaca; a date that could be understood as the end of modern art in Mexico and also a time of transformation for the Morelos capital. The artists who settled in this city since then, have lived quite differently to the golden era of the forties, when travelers fancied it as a tourist paradise “under the volcano” and some artists and intellectuals selected it as a site for exile and center for political and social activities.
Since the late sixties, Cuernavaca expanded territorially to become an industrial engine for the country. The new factories increased the population, which in turn led to modern residential areas and the emergence of popular neighborhoods as well as the opening of shops and services for the new metropolis. After the earthquake in Mexico City in 1985, several families moved to Cuernavaca to permanently inhabit their holiday homes. Consequently, the city has become a double scenario: one which remains as a resort with gardens, and another one with commercial and industrial sectors which have a strong impact on the daily life of its inhabitants.
After Eden intends to narrate the impact that the transformation of the city has had in the production of some of the visual artists who live or have lived in Cuernavaca. Their works are presented under topics that are key to understanding the relationship of local art with its context, such as the garden and landscape, the life in the city and popular iconography. Therefore, these scenarios give us a perception of a place that despite its development and brusque history, it still maintains the essence described by the poet Alfonso Reyes as a “tepid city with discrete tropical air.”
The thematic groups of this exhibition are based on the book Las aves de este día (The birds of this day) by Morelos poet Kenia Cano.
AT THE END OF THE GARDEN
Since the sixteenth century, the garden has been one of the most recurrent subjects in the chronicles of writers and travelers who have passed through Cuernavaca. In the late seventies of the last century, domestic gardens proliferated and thus isolated daily life from the new industries. The phrase “behind the walls” became common ever since to describe those places with exotic tropical plants and orchards that were not visible from the street but maintained the essence of the “eternal spring” -a phrase used by Alexander Von Humboldt since the nineteenth century to describe the city.
In the works presented in this group, the garden appears as part of a personal account, and therefore takes on different connotations. On the one hand, the vegetation is used with its formal and organic qualities, from a naturalistic perspective or from a somatic relationship. On the other, the garden is framed as a locus amoenus or ‘pleasant place’, a topic used in landscape history, to highlight the link between domestic space and the garden as an idyllic setting that is usually seen from the window.
THE OPEN PLAZA
Since the late nineties, the city of Cuernavaca became the ideal setting for the first generation of artists that graduated from the local art schools. The buildings under construction, abandoned houses, private homes and clandestine bars were transformed into exhibition galleries for performances and temporary interventions. Within the common topics, the notion of inhabiting and vacating domestic spaces became frequent, a condition inherent to the city due to its high demand for Real Estate. Furthermore, the works were permeated by birds, insects and stray dogs of the urban wildlife which are common to find in public spaces.
Finally, the proximity to Mexico City, an hour away using the highway inaugurated since 1952, has marked the production of the artists who constantly navigate through both cities. This, in addition to the topography of Cuernavaca—configured from its many ravines—has led the artists to be interested in trajectories, cartographies and geographic spaces wich shape the experience to walk and move around the city.
The artists who began to produce in the city during the eighties, appropriated elements of the everyday life that incorporated both objects and images found in the city, along with colloquial phrases and elements of popular iconography. On the one hand, some works insinuated a postmodern aesthetic that heralded the new trends in the Mexican art of the moment, described by critic Olivier Debroise in 1987 as “an art of parody, which confuses definitions, blurs the boundaries between high culture and everyday culture and thrives on the most banal iconography.” Yet, artists who used an incisive language, altered the meanings of the terms and codes of artifacts and urban detritus. These new cultural objects acquired a critical and ironic perspective towards the movements, behaviors and theories of the society. Currently, artists with these trends have created a new urban bestiary from collage, characterized by the relationship between craftsmanship and popular images of Cuernavaca.
NOT CALLED OR NAMED
Various artists have detached from the local representation of symbols and topics to explore concepts and techniques that relate to other subjects of modern and contemporary art. However, these works derive precisely from conversations, objects and materials of everyday experience. Abstraction or styles reminiscent of conceptual art, reveal a concern to adopt new structures of thought in the art of the city. The artists presented in this group have contrasting interests, ranging from everyday objects and design to geometric and spiritual patterns. Despite the differences, they all use similar processes of appropriation, deconstruction and repetition that transform images and shapes in new poetic and linguistic systems.
THE SUN DOES NOT MOVE
The landscape has been considered again by some artists of Cuernavaca from an intuitive and mythical vision. While some classic elements of the genre are subtly hinted at in certain works, there are two separate elements that have consistently appeared: the body and geometry. This suggests a different perspective that on the one hand is subjective and the other formal. In the former, it is clear how artists placed the body in a central place in the landscape, revealing a psychological mood and behavior. Therefore, the local environment appears as a place of desorientation and isolation. In the latter, the artists appropriate anonymous landscapes to be accentuated through patterns, grids and geometric shapes. In this approach, there is an implicit interest in making a construction of space through the gaze, a common topic in the representation of landscape; in both relationships, the landscape involves seeing and dwelling.