“DIY Aesthetics: Geographies of Class and Race in Mexico City’s Contemporary Spatial Artistic Practices"
Beginning in the 1990s, artists in Mexico City, to an extent greater than previous generations, turned to the streets to make the city their laboratory. They theorized the built environment and its geographies of race and class as artistic method, positioning Mexico City and its DIY economy within a global economy of art. For example, Abraham Cruzvillegas proposes the concept of auto-construcción (Self-Construction), the improvised building process of his family home on the margins of Mexico City, as a critical framework for his artistic practice of three-dimensional assemblage. Similarly, Eduardo Abaroa mobilizes the visual language of the Mexico City market to make a commentary about the history of art based solely on imported “originals,” highlighting ideas of recycling and resourcefulness (all found in the city market, the public sphere, or in vernacular architecture) as innovative aesthetic acts. Contemplating these spatial practices, I analyze how artists enacted and performed the very structures of Mexico City and its margins to reiterate troubled urban social relations. I elaborate how the built environment transforms into art and how the process of living in or navigating the global city turns into an aesthetic experience.
Anna Indych-López is Professor of Art History at The Graduate Center and The City College at the City University of New York where she teaches courses on modern and contemporary art among Latin American, U.S., transatlantic, Afro-diasporic, and Latinx networks. Her work investigates art in the public sphere, especially in Mexico, as well as Latinx and U.S.-Mexico borderlands contemporary art, focusing on cross-cultural intellectual and aesthetic exchanges, the polemics of realisms, and spatial politics. Her most recent book on Judith Baca probed the Chicana artist’s aesthetic strategies to activate the contested socio-political and racial histories of Los Angeles in the 1970s and 1980s. A frequent contributor to exhibition catalogues, such as the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Vida Americana: Mexican Muralists Remake American Art (2020) and The Philadelphia Museum of Art’s Paint the Revolution: Mexican Modernism: 1910-1950 (2016) she was awarded the Stuart Z. Katz Professorship of the Humanities and Arts at City College in 2018-2019. In Fall 2021, she will be a CUNY Distinguished Fellow at the Advanced Research Collaborative at The Graduate Center, an international hub of advanced study promoting interdisciplinary scholarship, where she will be working on her project examining geographies of class and race in the aesthetic shaping of the urban fabric of Mexico City. In Spring 2022 she will take up the Kirk Varnedoe Visiting Professorship at the Institute of Fine Arts, NYU.
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