Colectivo Marcela y Gina
Ación en estudio de fotografía
Foto de estudio. Monterrey
Cortesía Marcela Quiroga
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In a future scenario, perhaps in less than twenty years, Monterrey and its conurbations will have become one of the most important artistic production centers of Latin America.
Enrique Ruiz Acosta, The urban panorama of art.
Between May 1997 and January 1998, Enrique Ruiz wrote three consecutive articles for the Armas y Letras magazine in his column "Artes plásticas". They dealt with problems that Ruiz identified as obstacles to the development of the visual arts or the establishment of Monterrey as a panorama of contemporary art. They addressed different issues such as the areas of opportunity in terms of education of artists; the subordination of artistic production to a market that while appealing, limited its conceptual and discursive scope; the voracious competition for success that lead to the individualism of the artists; the idyllic search for originality as an obsolete guarantee of the value of the piece; and the lack of a community or guild, a common area where the artists could establish dialogue, discussion forums or at least, interconnections between production .
Ruiz's position is sometimes brutally frank in terms of the state of art in Monterrey, and even addresses the lack of a cultural or historical identity; is there really Regiomontano art? What defines the constant competition involving artists from various generations and sub-contexts? One can glimpse this scenario of change and instability, the heavy pictorial tradition that seems to anchor the axes of market and distribution in a way doesn’t allow other disciplines to develop.
The epigraph phrase goes on to indicate an important factor to the expected boom in a future 20-year scenario will be large collections, new opportunities and a search for one’s own mediums. The reading of these lines in 2018 raises the question; what directions were taken and where do we find ourselves in reference to that prediction?
The question arose after being close for approximately 2 years to the artistic field, which includes formal and informal documentation, reading articles and chronicles, magazines and research and talks with emerging artists and artists who practiced in ‘97 and keep doing so today. The methodology to approach this subject is somewhat flexible as this text is a sort of reflection, the speculative aspect is not completely ignored since, in the final analysis, the present is written based on a speculative statement.
Lourdes Nava from La Lucha Libre collective was interviewed for the Faculty of Visual Arts of the UANL’s program where she explained how her work was always linked to the advances in technology, and how they faced the lack of equipment and support in terms of assembly in the exhibition spaces, thinking about having to reach screens or projectors was complicated, for example. Marcela Quiroga commented as well on space inaccessibility, or lack of them. (M. Quiroga, personal communication, November 21, 2017). Emerging artists of the late nineties belonged to a rupture and took to the streets to make big institutions or validation scenarios pay attention to what they were doing and accept their work as worthy of review.
Artists in the 90s became arts school teachers and active players in the artistic scene, and subsequent generations inherited a practice of contextual art, of public space interventions, use of technology and the artwork-viewer relationship. New artists reappropriated and developed these ways of doing things that were discovered and raised at the time. For example, a representative resource of current generations is the use of technology, both for the production of work and for its distribution, socialization and circulation
Colectivo Marcela y Gina
Putas chops, 1999
Acción en la Galería Bf 15
polaroid y fotografía color, Monterrey
Cortesía Marcela Quiroga
Enrique Ruiz is recognized for promoting discourse relevance and artwork background, and it is now considered indispensable in schools. Entire classes are devoted to student critique circles that question and seek to justify their own proposals. Theoretical, anecdotal, investigative or observational background became ways to give sustenance and response to the eternal redundancy of the why and what for of an object. The promotion of criticism and reflection is evident.
The biennial model or contest still prevails in our city; Procurement awards would imply collections increase in quantity, but their quality or relevance is questionable. Artists continue to compete, as Enrique Ruiz explained, and we keep trying to meet deadlines. As cynical as this may sound, an analysis could be made and it wouldn’t be surprising to discover that we become more productive in the weeks leading up to a call’s deadline. The Reseña de la plástica de Nuevo León (Review of the plastic arts of Nuevo Leon) turned 4 decades old in the 2017 issue and hasn’t lost much of its characteristic media event. It’s definitely changed over time, as well as the needs to which it responds and the public’s reception. It’s necessary to question the role it plays as Monterrey art’s historical memory, (if that term is even concrete or real) or if that is even its priority. If this his growing collection maintained an exhibitions program for dissemination, it might serve as a regional artistic identity, to distinguish production changes and identify the emergence periods of new disciplines, new technology insertion or theme repetition. The collection, as Ruiz points out, exists, but if the Reseña went beyond inauguration night and committed to facilitating production of diverse historiographical or revisionist readings from the exhibition, other kinds of dialogue could happen.
In his article "The (non)production in art and the public sphere" Jorge Aguinaga Cueto explains how art has become one of the main ingredients of the leisure industry. This is reflected not only in the way works of art circulate within the market but in the profitability of big cultural events, biennials, exhibitions, culture forums, fairs, and conventions, among other things. It’s possible this phenomenon has been happening in Monterrey to a certain degree over the course of 20 years; big events’ inaugurations could sometimes be the scenario of a red carpet where economic, political and social interests coincide and, to a lesser extent, aesthetics and critics.
The second part of Enrique Ruiz's prediction points to the expansion of opportunities. Today there are several spaces of different categories in the city; strictly institutional, led by artists with sponsorships from institutions, galleries or commercial spaces, and independent spaces. It wouldn’t be possible to say there aren’t any options. There are and they are varied; some are even open to young artists’ proposals. 90s artists, with their unconformity and desire to be seen, gave us the idea that if something is lacking, then we must do it. Today, it’s common to have several events accumulate on a single day; there could be a talk in MARCO at well as an opening in NoAutomático and an event in a space self-directed by young artists. We should celebrate this accessible time to be an emerging artist in Monterrey, precisely because there are so many opportunities, and many more to come.
As for the consolidation of the artistic community(ies), in my experience there have been efforts to share knowledge and opinions. One significant example is when the UDEM and the UANL initiated projects in 2017 involving students as a reflection exercise, without suspicion or competition, but as recognizing each other’s weaknesses and aptitudes and growing together. Perhaps there’s an echo of this exercise, analyzed and even replicated by people who are part of the same social circles who produce art and have a similar number of opportunities in front of them.
In conclusion, it would be risky to contend that in these twenty years Monterrey and its conurbations became one of the most important centers of artistic production in Latin America because the production, distribution and even socialization models of art that were in force in 1997 were maintained until today with some (sometimes minor) alterations. Collections grew, perhaps inside warehouses; originality is a myth that isn’t pursued anymore and has been rejected; education has followed the path of disciplinary specialization with its pros and cons and communities have been consolidated, created and cut with the passage of time, individualism in terms of competitiveness has diminished and manifested in subtle ways, but is still present and will continue as long as there are calls and acquisition prizes. The field of action continues to be the city itself and the opportunities for future development in contemporary art inside it are undoubtedly growing.
Aguinaga Cueto, J. (2014). The (non)production in art and the public sphere. AusArt Journal for Research in Art, 3(2), 188-197.
Millán Valdés, R. (2009, December 1st). Global art system: Contemporary art museums, biennals, and fairs as mechanisms for urban positioning in global exchanges. EURE (Santiago), 155-169.
Moyssén Lechuga, X., Ruiz, E., & Salazar, H. (2000). Time in art. From 100 Años de Historia: Arte Plástico en Nuevo León.(100 Years of History: Plastic Art in Nuevo León.) Monterrey, México: Museo de Monterrey.
Nava, L. (2017, September 29th) Interview in MADE BY, Facultad de Artes Visuales, Universidad Autónoma de Nuevo León.
Ramírez, E. (2009). The Triumph of Culture. Monterrey, México: Fondo Editorial de Nuevo León.
Ruiz Acosta, E. (1997, May-June). The urban panorama of art. Armas y Letras, 57-59.
Ruiz Acosta, E. (1997, September-October). Monterrey Art’s Three problems. Armas y Letras, 66-69.
Ruiz Acosta, E. (1998, January-February). Stimulating art in Monterrey. Getting close to the artistic in a crisis. Armas y Letras, 61-64.
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