press release

Empty advertisement billboards with “Disponible” ( phone numbers) are probably what you see most frequently over the skyline across Mexican cities. They are the most impressive elements in the Mexican urban-space, towering over dynamic and contradictory scenes of Mexican everyday life. Within this urban setting, contemporary art and other experimental and creative practices such as architecture, design and music flourish, forming one of the most original and intriguing art scenes in the global landscape. 

Meaning at once available and potentially changeable or disposable, the word disponible interestingly, and quite accurately, reflects the reality of Mexican society in perpetual transition from post-colonial revolution to globalization. The population is actively engaging social and economic progress. At the same time, Mexico seeks to define a common destiny while wrestling with diverse cultural, historical, political and religious contexts that have emerged from complex and hybrid origins. The result is a fabulously vibrant, intense and sometimes violent social reality. 

Mexico’s particular geopolitical position – situated at the frontier between post-colonial Latin America and Imperialist America – further complicates this reality. Life there is extremely active and colorful, yet highly unstable. Temporary peace and stable progress are systematically interrupted by accidents and turbulence, and revolutions provoke resistance and backlash. During this process of social transformation, the country’s contemporary art has developed. After the triumph of the Mexican mural movement in the mid-twentieth century, artists like Gabriel Orozco, Damian Ortega and Francis Alys, working since the 1990s, have contributed to the recognition of Mexican contemporary art as one of the most productive and unique scenes in the global art community. Though highly personalized and stylistically diverse, the art reflects a common strength. Profoundly and vividly rooted in a magical surrealism, these artists reveal extraordinary moments and poetry in life’s most banal matters and surroundings. Implicitly or directly embodying the uncertainty of real life, the artworks are always in motion and transition. Dramatic and deeply engaged with strategies of intimacy, proximity and personal dreams, they also maintain a sense of humor and irony. 

This exhibition, Disponible—a kind of Mexican show, frames two major tendencies in the current creative scene—social critique and witty design solutions—as entangled and reinforcing strategies to face the complex reality of life in modern Mexico. At the turn of the millennium, as the globalization of the economy accelerated and NAFTA bound North American countries more tightly, Mexico faced new social conflicts and struggles. Accordingly, artists and creators seek conceptual relevance in their work, and take advantage of new forms. While information and technology renders almost everything available, or disponible, as source or material, instability reigns, and artists must negotiate this double-bind situation of being disponible. At the frontline of the current scene, artists engage with social reality, especially conflicts and violence, crafting works of urgency and importance. 

Contemporary art activities in Mexico are also closely related to disciplines such as design, architecture, music and performing arts. Inspired by the tradition of Mexican modernist architecture and design, which bridged modernist language and vernacular elements, a new generation of designers is developing its own vision for a contemporary context. Facing the increasingly hegemonic influence of a super-modern, “global” style marked by extravagant, non-lineal shapes and “high-tech” materials and construction techniques, many designers have turned their attention to grass-root ideas and Mexico’s rich craft heritage, bringing a sense of humor to the appropriation and interpretation of new and old technologies. Meanwhile, artists, designers, architects, musicians and filmmakers have become involved with social movements that promote self-organization, environmental protection, community solidarity and alternative economics to bring justice and better conditions to the poor sectors of urban society. In critical response to the harsh realities of Mexico, creative minds have generated extraordinary solutions to challenges of design and daily life. 

We have organized Disponible—a kind of Mexican show as a part of the celebration of the bicentenary of Mexico’s independence and centenary of the republican revolution. But the art resonates across the border: it is intimately related to San Francisco and California, where conversations continue between both sides of the border. This project is also a deepening of the collaboration and exchange between art communities, a value at the core of SFAI’s exhibition program, as seen in initiatives such as “New Models of Production,” “Pacific Perspective” and “Acting Out in the City.”   SFAI’s exhibitions and public programs are supported in part by the Grants for the Arts/San Francisco Hotel Tax Fund with additional support provided by the McBean Family Foundation, the Consulate General of Mexico in San Francisco and AeroMexico

Disponible – a kind of Mexican show (Phase2)
Ort: Walter and McBean Galleries, San Francisco
Kuratoren: Hou Hanru, Guillermo Santamarina

Künstler: Arturo Hernandez Alcazar, Natalia Almada, Teresa Margolles