MEXICO CITY — Martin Soto Climent’s solo show, now on view at Proyectos Monclova, illustrates humanity’s perverse ability to sexualize everyday objects. As if we needed another reminder that our brains are primitively tuned to fetishize, Soto Climent undertakes the masturbatory task of sexualizing objects.
Clits, dicks, tits, and awkward hermaphrodite extremities hang off the walls in the brightly lit and lofty project space. Lubricated by tequila, the crowd at the opening seemed turned-on and buzzed around, looking more at each other than at the artwork.
Like many contemporary artists working today, Climent seeks to squeeze concepts out of everyday materials through minimal interventions, slightly altering them or placing them in subtle new contexts. The Mexico City native is especially adept at sexualizing forms through twisting and fitting things inside each other. Of course, sex is endlessly entertaining and the Caramel Huysmans show satiates a certain hunger for flesh with no overtly theoretical strings attached.
To understand the show we have to start at the beginning, or rather the end, in a hidden room at the back of the gallery where the whole idea for the show was born. Entering the space, walking past the army of shriveled genitalia hanging on the walls like paintings or mounted taxidermy, a profound and deepening darkness envelopes you as a hallway leads to a void that opens up before you. There is a moment of panic when fear freezes your feet and raises the hair on the back of your neck because the darkness is so complete you lose depth perception. It’s impossible to tell the size of the room and your position in it. That moment of entry — the commitment to walking into the unknown — is the highlight of the show, the climax.
In the center of the black room there is a single object: a red coin purse, mildly suggestive of a vagina, displayed on a black pedestal and illuminated by a single warm beam of light. (The illusion was ruined when someone got spooked and used their iPhone flashlight to navigate the space.) Along the periphery of the room, the coin purse, which, according to the artist, inspired the entire show, seems metaphysical: it appears to be floating magically in Immaculate Conception. Up close, it reveals itself to be nothing but a simple coin purse, empty with its insides turned out in a gesture of surrender to poverty.
In the rest of the gallery, there are many photographs of polyurethane foam folded into orifices. The photographs function on their own as abstract landscapes tinted with subtle colors, but the overtly sexual imagery surrounding the photos creates a charged human narrative. The majority of the photographs, which have a formal quality that his other work doesn’t have, are hung at crotch level, suggestive of bathroom stall “glory holes.”
It’s a stretch to call Soto Climent’s work at Proyectos Monclova self-critical when it’s so unapologetic, but by playing into popular culture’s desire for flesh so blatantly, the work inspires us to critique sensationalism. Compared to his other work, the pieces based on the vaginal coin purse are easy to grasp and overtly pornographic, rather than subtly charged or clever.
Viewers have to give the artist the benefit of the doubt that sensationalism is a material and process rather than a cheap trick. At its best, the work alludes to future hybrid sexualities, although it can be simply enjoyed like pop music or pornography.
Martin Soto Climent: Caramel Huysmans continues at Proyectos Monclova (Colima 55 Roma Norte, Mexico D.F.) through September 12.