Mexico City’s kurimanzutto Gallery Opens a New York Outpost With a Scrappy Ode to the Big Apple

Abraham Cruzvillegas's work has already been teased at the Kitchen.

Installation view of Abraham Cruzvillegas's Autocontusión (2018) at kurimanzutto New York project space © EPW Studio/ Maris Hutchinson, 2018

For nearly two decades, Mexico City gallery kurimanzutto, founded in 1999 by husband and wife duo Mónica Manzutto and José Kuri, has been blazing an art world path for the dynamic roster of artists it works with. These include art stars such as Damian Ortega, Monika Sosnowska, Gabriel Orozco, Jimmie Durham, and Rikrit Tiravanija, to name but a few.

Initially founded as a “nomadic enterprise,” its projects have popped up in disparate spots across Mexico City, inhabiting unlikely locations and always emphasizing the collaborative aspect of art making. Now the co-founders are bringing that same fluid model to New York, with the opening of a new Upper East Side location today (May 3) in a space that functions as both a gallery and an office.

“A number of artists that the gallery works with don’t have representation in the US and/or New York,” says senior director Lissa McClure who left her longtime post at Marian Goodman a year and a half ago to run kurimanzutto’s New York outpost. “Part of it is to just provide a platform for those artists to make their way into the US and the New York art scene in a more visible way.”

McClure adds, “As much as people are increasingly going to Mexico City, which wasn’t the case a few years ago, New York is still the center of the art world. It gives us the opportunity to meet with so many people.”

Installation view of <i>Autocontusión</i> (2018) at kurimanzutto New York project space © EPW Studio/ Maris Hutchinson, 2018

Installation view of Abraham Cruzvillegas’s Autocontusión (2018) at kurimanzutto New York project space
© EPW Studio/ Maris Hutchinson, 2018

The gallery is inaugurating the new space with work by Mexican artist Abraham Cruzvillegas. Autocontusión is the latest in his series of ongoing installations in which he incorporates found objects from around the respective host city for the work. The work is a constellation of sculptures suspended on filaments threaded in a loop throughout the space.

Cruzvillegas’s practice is heavily influenced by his childhood memories. Having grown up in Colonia Ajusco outside Mexico City, where a lack of resources compels building and coping tactics that are at once ingenious and precarious, his work delves into the use and function of randomly salvaged and found objects.

Autocontusión was previously shown in Canada, at Art en Valise, and at Scrap Metal Gallery, where objects such as old snow shoes, hockey pucks, and a stuffed duck made their way into the work. Such random inclusions are a result of the artist asking the institutions hosting him to gather detritus, although he doesn’t have “any parameters or specific requests,” says McClure.

The project seemed like a natural fit for the New York space. Cruzvillegas came and looked at the space and “took on the challenge.”

Installation view of Autocontusión (2018) at kurimanzutto New York project space © EPW Studio/ Maris Hutchinson, 2018

Installation view of Autocontusión (2018) at kurimanzutto New York project space © EPW Studio/ Maris Hutchinson, 2018

While all of the wooden elements in the piece are from discarded wood found around Mexico City, the artist then adds his own sourced materials on his forays throughout the city: lemongrass in Chinatown; a slab of molasses from Queens; and various other ephemeral objects including chicharones, onions, and eggplants. Each of the 55 elements in the piece are suspended from filament.

“He truly balances each of these objects. It’s not solid—its a fine balance,” says McClure. 

In early April, viewers got a sneak peek at what to expect, with a three-day series of multidisciplinary performances at The Kitchen in Chelsea. The roundup of random objects—gathered at the artist’s request and all reclaimed from the nearby streets of West Chelsea, ranged from a white plastic US Mail container, to an empty wood frame, to tarps, a chair, plywood, and even a large washing machine, all assembled —again precariously—on a long ladder, hung horizontally from the ceiling.

Dancer and choreographer Barbara Foulkes performing Abraham Cruzvillegas’ Autocontusion at The Kitchen in Chelsea.
Photo by Eileen Kinsella

Argentinian dancer and choreographer Bárbara Foulkes performed, with a routine that slowly built into an ever more physical and destructive act. After walking slow circles around the piece while moving the ladder, she then picked up speed before periodically pushing the ladder up vertically, or attaching herself by harness and jumping and pulling violently, causing objects to tumble off ever more rapidly. The performance culminated in the final cascade of the heaviest objects, including the washing machine which hit the floor with a resounding thud, as a group of viewers looked on transfixed.

Noting the performative element, and the ability to collaborate with The Kitchen while showing related work at the new uptown branch of kurimanzutto, McClure says “the amazing nature of that piece typifies what we’re trying to do here.”

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