PUEBLA, Mexico— The Arquetopia art residency has created unique decolonial and contextualized creative spaces for artists in Mexico and Peru, and now they’ve inaugurated a new gallery intended to challenge the status quo of Mexico City-centric art spaces in Mexico. Aptly called Decentered Gallery, the space presents its first show, Disruptions: The Integrity of Differences, which includes a multigenerational and international group of artists ranging from Joseph Beuys and Felix Gonzalez-Torres to young artists who have toiled in Arquetopia’s various workspaces. While the space is unapologetically not a commercial gallery, it was created with a proposal and vision beyond the purview of what we normally expect.
For the opening show at the new gallery, curator and Arquetopia co-executive director Francisco Guevara used writings by the likes of Emmanuel Lévinas and Audre Lorde, from which quotes appear on the gallery’s walls, creating a conceptual framework for the work and Arquetopia’s program, which its creators call a “foundation for development.” Disruptions, as the name suggests, seems to shake up the status quo of contemporary galleries. Furthermore, it creates a one-of-a-kind space in Puebla where, as part of the foundation’s mission, young local artists will be provided with a critical platform to develop their discourses beyond the inherent limitations of the culturally marginalized satellite city.
Just two hours by car from Mexico City, the idea isn’t for Decentered to “put Puebla on the map,” but rather to challenge the map itself. The fist show at the space was created to illustrate and encapsulate the unique vision of the organization, Guevara told Hyperallergic. To that end, pieces from Arquetopia’s private collection ground the show squarely in history, including a work dating back to 1940 by photographer Lola Álvarez-Bravo, a seminal although lesser known figure of the Mexican post-revolution modern art scene. The photo shows the patron and rumored lover of Diego Rivera, Dolores Olmedo, whose extensive collection of Rivera and Frida Kahlo’s works can be seen at the museum that bears her name in the south of Mexico City. The cheeky hint at the scandalous history of the Mexican art elite illustrates the sort of subtle nods that ring through the show.
The historical work, such as Álvarez-Bravo’s photograph and an edition of Joseph Beuys’ “Postkarten” (1968-1982) series, a collection of postcards by the Fluxus pioneer with sparse images and written text as seemingly modest and unsensational as the rest of the artist’s oeuvre, hangs alongside work from 2017. The jumps across time that pepper the exhibition create a space for introspection, and the works together are packed with symbolism that you have to wade through methodically among what at first seems like any other small gallery show.
The presence of big canonical names gives legitimacy and weight to the up-and-coming artists in the show, especially those young local artists working with Arquetopia. Cristóbal Sarro, for example, meticulously renders animals and their skeletons in layers of paper that peel off revealing the bones beneath the fur. Sarro’s technique is perhaps most fitting for street art, but here his work hangs near a small sculpture by Raymundo Sesma, an established Mexican artist known for what he calls social architecture—large-scale painted interventions on buildings. A small work, “Contemporary Rhizomes of the New Jerusalem” (2016), in the style of Spanish colonial ex-voto paintings by former Arquetopia resident Matthew Couper also connects the past to the present.
The outstanding strength of both Arquetopia’s mission and their new gallery is the multi-temporality that links generations of artists across a wide swath of time and space, seeking to challenge the status quo of established center-margin mindsets. Unlike other art spaces and residencies, Arquetopia looks not to the market in the north, in the United States and Europe, but instead seeks to create connections at the local and international level, drawn together by what makes them different.
Disruptions: The Integrity of Differences continues at Decentered Gallery (Av 17 Pte 1113, Barrio de Santiago, Puebla, Mexico) through March 2.