On April 28, 2007 the haudenschild Garage held a FUEL4TALK with Eduardo Abaroa titled The Paint’s Almost Dry in Los Angeles. This FUEL4TALK was meant as a fluid discussion-based context to bring up the issues that emerged in the presentation-based Mexico City in the 1990s: The Paint’s Not Dry conference of 2005. The organizers hoped that through a small group discussion, things might be more open and flexible then they were in the previous “glamorous” effort at UCSD. Eduardo Abaroa was the focal point of a small group discussion organized and moderated by Steve Fagin and Ruben Ortiz-Torres in conjunction with Roberto Tejada and Yoshua Okon.
The 1990s in Mexico City were a period of tremendous political upheaval and incredible cultural energy. The art that grew out of that was socially interactive. Today, that art is internationally recognized. But does that mean it might lose its living spirit? The goal of this conference is to take a breath before the art has become ‘official, important art.’ We want to recapture its undergroundedness, its funkiness – and its politics.
Is the image of Mexico City circa 1995 no longer one of experimentation and anarchy-or of putting whatever together? Without us noticing, has it now been refigured as a minor capital of arriviste entitlement? To what degree are “we” willing to settle for only this Mexico City, a dot on the map of the moveable feast that is the art world’s list of usual suspects: “If it’s Tuesday, it must be____________. (Fill in the blank with GATT member wannabe of your choice.)” With “Before the Paint’s Dry,” we wish to revisit 1990s Mexico City: bars, cantinas, the pre-“Fondesa” cafes, alternate spaces, “bad music,” and strong opinions. What stories and histories and political interventions were being imagined-and are still to be written now? We wish to convene a día de los muertos to see if this corpse called Distrito Federal can still sing a calavera to us from the mid-1990s in a charmed and off-tune timbre: tuba as melody; tambor militar as rhythm. Mexico City, circa 1990s: The art scene was blooming and bleeding-edge – and as complex and messy as those adjectives imply. Before the story is sanitized and boiled down to a simple chapter in an art-history tome, the Visual Arts Department of the University of California, San Diego is convening some of the scene’s leading participants to argue alternative accounts. – Steve Fagin
About the Participants
Mexican artist working in the fields of sculpture, installation and live action since 1991. He has shown his work in many major Museums in Mexico, LA MoCA, PS1 and ICA Boston in the United States, Reina Sofía Museum in Spain, and Kunstwerke, Germany as well as in important venues in the UK, Canada, France, Korea and other countries. As a writer, he was an art reviewer for the art section of Reforma newspaper, and has written for other important Mexican publications like Curare, Casper, Moho, D.F. and Codigo 06140. He has contributed texts for exhibition catalogues of artists like Francis Alÿs, Melanie Smith, Pablo Vargas Lugo, Tercerunquinto and Dr. Lakra, among others. He is currently course director at Soma, and was a co-founder of the influential Temistocles 44 artist run space in Mexico City(1993-1995).
Rubén Ortiz-Torres is an artist who is joining the Visual Arts Department effective Fall 2001. He began his career as a photographer, printmaker, and painter in the early 1980s, well before he received his M.F.A. from the California Institute of Arts in 1992. Ortiz-Torres is a Mexican-born artist who has been living and working in Los Angeles since 1990. Ortiz-Torres is widely regarded as one of today’s leading Mexican artists and as an innovator in the 1980s of a specifically Mexican form of postmodernism. Over the past ten years, he has produced a body of work in a wide range of media — extended series of photographs, series of altered readymades, a feature film, several videos (including three in 3D), large scale video installations, major painting series, sculptures, customized cars and machines, photocollages, performances and curated exhibitions. Since 1982, Ortiz-Torres’s work has been featured in 25 solo exhibitions, over 100 group shows in the United States, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada, and more than 50 screenings of his films and video works. Over 150 written pieces cover his work in mainstream media such as The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, Reforma (Mexico), La Jornada (Mexico), and El Pais (Spain); in significant art world publications with international circulation such as ArtForum, Art Images, Frieze, New Art Examiner, Poliester, Bomb, Flash Art, and Art in America; and in numerous exhibition catalogues and books. Ortiz-Torres has been the recipient of numerous awards and grants from, to name a few, the Andrea Frank Foundation, the Foundations for Contemporary Performance Art, the U.S. Mexico Fund for Culture, the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation, the Banff Center for the Arts, and the Fullbright Foundation.
Steve Fagin (stevefagin.net) is Professor of Visual Arts at the University of California, San Diego, and has produced a series of feature length videos including The Amazing Voyage of Gustave Flaubert and Raymond Roussel, The Machine That Killed Bad People and TropiCola. These films have been featured prominently at museums, international film festivals, art biennials and have been screened on Bravo International in Latin America, Canal + in Europe and PBS in the United States. His work has had a retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art, New York and is the subject of a book from Duke University Press, Talkin’ With Your Mouth Full: Conversations with the Videos of Steve Fagin. The work has been presented at both the Museum of Modern Art, New York and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York in many contexts including both of their summary shows of the essential art of the twentieth century. From 2005-2009 he worked as creative consultant for the haudenschild Garage and commissioning editor of the hG, Spare Parts projects. The Last Book, an hG, Spare Parts project, was conceived and directed by him. Currently he is working on a feature film, A Cloud of Hope, about the independence movements in Africa, circa 1960 and on a series of “smart phone pieces”, both as commissioning editor and as one of the artists for LACMA.