Photo Essays

Making Art from Architecture in Mexico City

Artists often use whatever materials they can find, creating works that reflect on the socioeconomic realities of their surroundings.

Installation view of Pabellón de las Escaleras, presented by guadalajara90210 (all photos by Rubén Garay)

MEXICO CITY — Long before being dubbed “the new Berlin,” Mexico City’s underground art scene had been thriving for decades. Without readily available resources, artists often use whatever materials they can find, creating works that reflect on the socioeconomic realities of their surroundings. “Francis Alÿs is a great example of someone who captures how interesting the informality of Mexican urban space is,” says Marco Rountree, an artist and co-director of the experimental gallery guadalajara90210.

With this idea of informality in mind, Rountree and his partner, Alma Saladin, recently organized an exhibition in Mexico City inside a four-story apartment complex currently under construction. The building’s exposed staircases inspired the exhibition title Pabellón de las Escaleras (Stairs Pavilion). Over 100 artists, architects, and designers contributed individual artworks and larger projects installed throughout the peculiar site.

Installation view of Pabellón de las Escaleras, presented by guadalajara90210
Installation view of Pabellón de las Escaleras, presented by guadalajara90210
Installation view of Pabellón de las Escaleras presented by guadalajara90210

The artworks are in dialogue with the architecture, in many cases incorporating elements of the unfinished building. Holes in a ceiling are covered with pieces of vibrantly colored acrylic to create a light installation (“Untitled” by Christian Camacho, Alejandro Romero, José Arnaud-Bello, and Mateo Riestra); steel rods and exposed PVC pipes resemble snakes and ladders piercing through the walls and ceiling (“Snakes and Ladders” by Frida Escobedo). For one impressive work Victoire Barbot lined a wall at the entrance with floral foam and carved it to recreate Auguste Rodin’s Gates of Hell.

“This space has a very strong character to it,” says Saladin. “One of the artists told us that he felt the building was contaminating his piece — in a good way — and I love that idea.”

Installation view of Pabellón de las Escaleras, presented by guadalajara90210
Installation view of Pabellón de las Escaleras, presented by guadalajara90210
Installation view of Pabellón de las Escaleras, presented by guadalajara90210
Installation view of Pabellón de las Escaleras, presented by guadalajara90210

Pabellón de las Escaleras continues at 96 Naranjo, 06400, Mexico City through March 12.

comments (0)