Monday, November 4, 2013

Mexico City: Art Scene Part I - Artists

I have been in Mexico City aka DF (Distrito Federal) for a week and five days and I have been here long enough now to give some (very little) but some say so on the art scene here.  Why did I come to DF after LA?  Because I have had this tingle of a prediction that Mexico City will be the new Berlin, the new hot spot where young internationals and returned natives will come and they will change the landscape of art from within and world wide.  I came to get a first hand sense of this tingle, to see if my intuitions were on mark and in the short time I have been here I can only say that yes, they are correct. 

There are many reasons why DF is fertile ground for a new wave.  Most obviously is the cost of living.  You can easily live here, very well, for $700 a month.  Head to toe living.  You can slum it, be creative, as all artist-(like) people are and you could probably do it for $400-500.  If you have more then $1000 month income you are living large.  It is really incredible this is possible.  This cost of living also means you can have larger spaces and studios.  Going to homes here induces a jealousy of habitat that makes you understand how those artists in 70s Manhattan lived the dream.  Studio spaces are odd and eccentric too.  I have been to apartments with special areas for this use, sheds on buildings, a library as studio, a room in an old mansion and I know more strange spaces will be adventured into as the weeks pass.  This visually stunning possibility of space does something to people.  Architecture affects the psyche and here it is like a scalp message.

Speaking more of the studio practices, finding artists is even tougher then I imagined, but this is picking up and the way people work is very nice to witness.  There is a slowness here that is similar to the LA scene but it is even slower, believe it or not.  This slowness is more about pace though.  Artists seem to work at a consistent, daily pace that seems purposeful.  Almost all the artists I have met with thus far are working towards a project aka show, or just completed one.  There is a goal orientation here that seems to be benefited from the ability to spend many hours in the studio.  Most artists here seem to make the work themselves.  Their hand in a work seems more vital and specifically considered.  There is use of computers to a degree but trends of painting, sculpture and unexpectedly drawing, abound.  There isn’t the sleek, factory fresh feel here that there is in NYC and even in LA.  It is not about irony of form and commodity but about surface.  This is probably the key-est word I have come across, ‘surface.’  A close second is ‘psychology’ but that is for another time.  ‘Studio practice’ here is more like living practice.  Most artists I have met do not have day jobs.  They show, sell their work and can live off this.  Amazing but true. 

As I briefly mentioned, the artists seem to be of two camps.  One are the internationals, young people from the US or Europe.  They have come here for the deliriously cheap cost of living as well as the speed, tone and vibe of DF, which can sedate as well as liberate.  The other camp are those that are Mexican, grew up here, may or may not have gone to undergrad here but all have left for a time to the US or to Europe, and now they have returned.  This new breed of returned young DF natives is to me the most interesting and promising.  They seem to have a thirst to expand the scene here with their internationally relocated peers but also with themselves.  They are a new generation that has the weight of the city’s history and set ways but they know they can and want to change this because they have seen how this works and happens outside of DF.  I think this is the flowerbed for a soon to be boom.  

These native DF artists and internationals also have a smaller pond to swim in.  There is a slight whiff of competitiveness but the pool is so small it can quickly becomes that phrase ‘don’t shit where you eat.’  There are mega gallery spaces, which seem to have an obsessed Eurovision in their programming, but there are a few new spaces that seem to be reaching out towards those that are right here right now.  There are also institutions here and coming that will pump up the money fountain and this will benefit the upstarts financially and also curatorially.  The art world is bored with itself, whether it wants to admit it or not.  Curators, dealers, gallerists, collectors et al. are desperate for new blood, new energy and anything to flavor the blandness that permeates art today.  DF with it’s old money desire to be cultural ballers and this new influx of hot young art things will make this small pond over flown.  Just you wait and see.