make your fridays matter with a well-read weekend

make your fridays matter

<em>‘Everything Here Is Volcanic’</em> orates the design verses of contemporary Mexico
Tezontle’s Vernacular Kitchen for ‘Everything Here Is Volcanic’ exhibition at Friedman Benda in New York
Image: Lucas Cantu

‘Everything Here Is Volcanic’ orates the design verses of contemporary Mexico

Friedman Benda’s latest exhibition in New York celebrates Mexico's past, present and future through design objects that embody Mexican culture.

by Sunena V Maju
Published on : Feb 07, 2023

Friedman Benda’s ninth annual guest-curated exhibition is also their first dedicated to contemporary Mexico. Curated by Mario Ballesteros, an independent design curator, editor and researcher, the exhibition is titled ‘Everything Here Is Volcanic’. Both the name and the concept of the exhibition hail from a statement by the Swiss architect Hannes Meyer. Meyer, a former Bauhaus director and a pivotal figure in modern design history, spent nearly a decade in Mexico. In one of his letters to his friend and fellow architect Hans Schmidt, he wrote "Alles hier ist vulkanisch” translated as “Everything here (in Mexico) is volcanic.”

Meyer found a temporary home in Mexico after having fled from Germany at the start of the Second World War and living in the Soviet Union. Across the years he spent in the city, he didn’t create any significant projects but is said to have been socially and politically active. Meyer’s inactivity in Mexico, where he couldn’t sow the seeds of European modernism, can be considered evidence of deep-rooted cultural centricity of the country. Therefore, when he wrote to Schmidt, “Everything here is volcanic,” he was referring not only to the uncertain geography of Mexico but also to the socio-political condition of the country during its revival after a long decade of civil unrest and violence. ’Everything here is volcanic' is a statement that can be read in multiple ways—the rupture of a new dawn for the country, a complete rebuilding awaiting it, the renewing cultural conditions and the strong history solidifying the land borrowed from the years of struggle.

This single statement from Meyer was the driving thought for Ballesteros in curating the exhibition. Ballesteros, who has extensive knowledge of Mexican culture, and a contemporary design discovered a niche for both of them to coexist at this exhibition. Modernism in Mexico followed the Mexican Revolution. As compared to most of the other countries of the world, Mexican modernism corresponded to a response through art, architecture and literature that borrowed from colonial influences but was primarily rooted in the country's culture. While devising a future of new hopes and developments, for all creative fields of Mexico, the past was a guiding evidence.

Ballesteros has assembled a diverse group of designers, artists, engineers, architects, and others for the exhibition at Friedman Benda, all of whom share a common thread: their connection to Mexican heritage. “Objects are ideal vessels for incommunicable or untranslatable ideas, values and conditions: they create visceral, sensorial connections. They allow us to feel the shake and smell the smoke,” mentions Ballesteros.

On their official release, Friedman Benda states, “Presented in a spatial array structured around notions of encounter, ritual and dream, the exhibition slides and shifts and solidifies like magma overflowing from a mutant material culture. ‘Everything Here Is Volcanic’ encapsulates the same eruptive energy in an ultracontemporary survey of rare objects that embody Mexican culture now. Precarious boundaries, unstable categories, and stylistic tensions spill into the gallery space, which is transformed into a post-domestic microcosm of unlikely fittings and furnishings.”

“The exhibition’s touchstone works include a peculiar take on a traditional vernacular Mexican kitchen by the art/architecture studio Tezontle; a delicate bead chair by Frida Escobedo; a floor lamp by Fernando Laposse made with cactus deadwood and spines; a pair of leather bucket-stools by breakthrough fashion designer and artist Bárbara Sánchez Kane; a trio of large-scale ceramic and stone neo-prehispanic sculptures by SANGREE; an intricate fiber and ceramic bead sculptural curtain by Lorena Ancona; a hand-chiseled leather BDSM riding saddle by designer and artist Aldo Álvarez Tostado; an informally constructed lighting fixture by the research architect Andrés Souto; a sizeable ceremonial mirror by ceramic artist Alejandro García Contreras; a monolithic table by acclaimed artist Pedro Reyes; a hardcore stool and side table in aluminum and concrete by fashion wunderkind Víctor Barragán and a bright, boisterous, cantilevered mosaic bench by the pioneer of organic architecture Javier Senosiain. These functional art pieces are complemented by critical works by young artists Allan Villavicencio, Tony Macarena and Wendy Cabrera Rubio, which provide an additional narrative layer by way of material gloss.”

The design exhibition ‘Everything Here Is Volcanic’ is on display at Friedman Benda in New York from January 12, 2023 - February 18, 2023.

What do you think?

Comments Added Successfully!