A guy walks into a bar.
No, a guy walks into a gallery, carrying a barbell – a wooden peg painted with brightly colored stripes. Throughout the 1970s, Romanian artist André Cadere roamed the evenings, openings and streets of Paris with his Round timber bars (round wooden bars), often placing them in the exhibitions of other artists, a suspicious gesture of interference but also of expansion, keeping the work suspended between object and performance.
“The segments had patterns,” artist Abraham Cruzvillegas explained at the opening of his latest exhibition, “Tres Sonetos,” at Regen Projects. “Say, red yellow blue purple, red yellow blue purple — green — red yellow blue purple. He was intentionally breaking his own rule. It was the system. »
Itinerant through exhibitions and residences across Europe and South America — he has been teaching at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris since 2018 — Cruzvillegas is anchored in Mexico City as a place of family roots and birth. of his artistic landmarks. Since 2007, he has been associated with a system of his own making called self buildinspired by the communal and ad hoc building methods of the Ajusco region south of Mexico City, where his parents live and where houses are often built in response to the material and social conditions of local families.
A new baby means a new piece is added to the back. Neighbors pool their resources and expertise to literally build each other up. Sections of exposed rebar or pipe extend from the sides of buildings, meaning they are ready for expansion. Agility, improvisation and working with the materials at hand are the cardinal characteristics of this concept that Cruzvillegas carries with him into the spiritual home of his practice.
Visitors can come to “Tres Sonetos” with a reduced version of self build, knowing that Cruzvillegas builds most of his works on site, making the act of creation and installation one and the same, and creating an expectation for the architectural elements of the surroundings of Los Angeles. But the works just don’t look like what Cruzvillegas has done before.
There are three main elements – large abstract paintings, small photo-based works, and bright geometric sculptures – and each type of work is made up of three. Three primary colors, three abstract shapes merged into one. The paintings and sculptures, with their gestural strokes and clean geometry, respectively have the appearance of simpler modernist works. But there is a game going on, and the more you get to know the work, the more the game starts to get complicated, or fail, or crumble into itself.
“The idea revolves around the rhythm and structure of a poem by Concha Urquiza called ‘Tres Sonetos,'” Cruzvillegas said. “I wanted to do something completely different but still rooted in my previous practice, and in the language. I had to deal with the idea of self build as proof of the instability of identity – the construction of the self.
Like Cadere’s bars, the sculptures are bright and geometric at first sight, but up close they are more raw and inviting. Visitors are invited to sit and stand on them, turning them into plinths or performance sites. Each sculpture also has a hole on one side, to be played as a percussion instrument.
During the opening night performance, Cruzvillegas roamed the gallery space, playing beats to a painted turtle shell hanging around his neck, using woodwinds as drumsticks, and ending with a reading. aloud from Urquiza’s “Tres Sonetos”, his shoes scraping the sculptures, almost also a mark of invitation.
The game is the substrate of self build and its driving force, even as Cruzvillegas alternately breaks up and reinforces the idea with a Catholic range of historical and artistic points of contact, interests, and memories.
“He’s trying to kind of create a game,” he said. “Rules for making a new project. The rules can lead me to new places, new things to look for, and in the end they take on some form in space. This new project follows rules that I created for myself, a question production game. At some point, something inside breaks the rules of the game.” We like an exception.
In 1986, Cruzvillegas attended a lecture by writer Carlos Monsiváis and discovered the Mexican modernist group Los Contemporáneos, which published a literary magazine of the same name. In the wake of the Mexican Revolution, they resisted the politics of homogeneous national identity.
“I prefer to deal with an unstable identity,” Cruzvillegas said, “and that way, at that time, I identified with them.” Wanting to know more, he asked Monsiváis who his favorite writer of the group was. “He said: Forget everything else, you have to read Concha Urquiza. It was a great discovery for me because she was different even from the whole group.
Urquiza was Catholic and Communist, eventually breaking with the latter. She wrote structured, classic verse at a time when her contemporaries were uniformly breaking form. “I have been in love with his poetry since 1986. I have wondered for so long how to materialize his poetry in my work,” said Cruzvillegas. “I try.”
Cruzvillegas ended the performance in Regen by nailing the turtle’s shell to an unfinished section of drywall which is also part of the exhibit – a nod to the material origins of self build, although Cruzvillegas noted, “Literally, I try to flesh out his poetry. I’m talking about language, not about that” – he waves his hand over the exhibit – “it’s language”.
Somewhere between object and idea, the word indeed took on flesh, and it briefly appeared that the object of Cruzvillegas’ game, the paradox of artists making rules, is at the service of expanding .
“It is very important for me to confront myself in a political way that is neither literal, nor didactic, nor even narrative. To build something that can produce questions,” he said. “In a society like ours, it’s so unequal, unfair, violent, etc. What am I doing in this if not generating questions that help us as humans see reality in a different way?