ART & DESIGN
Eye Up Daniel Buren’s Colourful New Mexican Show
We meet the French conceptualist master as he opens a major exhibition at the new MECA space
Written by BENOÎT LOISEAU.
“Kids come here from Spain to learn bullfighting; we have one of the best schools,” our bus tour guide announces over the sound system, as we drive past Plaza de Toros Monumental. Now this unlikely industrial town in North-Central Mexico has something else to be proud of, with the launch of the multimillion-peso development Macro Espacio para la Cultura y las Artes (MECA), one of the most ambitious cultural projects undertaken in the country’s recent history.
Occupying the site of former railway workshops, MECA is a creative hub housing an Arts university, library, graphics arts workshop, symphony hall, and Museo Espacio, its contemporary art museum. It opened in February with an exhibition by Greek artist Jannis Kounellis (a leading figure of the Arte Povera movement) and is now playing host to the influential French conceptual artist Daniel Buren, who recently revamped Paris’ Fondation Louis Vuitton with his signature multi-coloured stripes.
Como un juego de niño, Buren’s most significant exhibition in Mexico to date, is an intervention on the museum’s 60,000 square meters consisting of over a hundred wood and metal modules referencing childlike playfulness. The exhibition is arranged symmetrically, with one side painted entirely in white while bright colours adorn the other.
“It was love at first sight!” says Buren of his first visit to Mexico in 1957, while researching the murals of social realists David Alfaro Siqueiros, José Clemente Orozco and Diego Rivera, with whom he shares a commitment to working beyond the confines of museums. “The use of colours in Mexican culture only validates my own sense of the importance of colour,” explains the French artist, who’s known for indulging in vivid shades and contrasts. “It’s always amazing to see the power of colour – when used naturally, without much technical or historical constraints – especially in an architectural context.”
Since early on in his career, Buren has produced works outside of traditional gallery spaces. In the late 1960s, his affichages sauvages (hundreds of striped posters) were illegally pasted over billboards and metro stations in Paris. Since then, Buren has intervened on a range of spaces and historical buildings, from the Guggenheim in New York to the courtyard of the Palais Royal in Paris. “Whether it is a museum, a small gallery or a public space, I always try to find a different response,” explains the 78-year old.
A long way from his earlier roguish work, Buren’s collaborations with luxury brands in recent years have brought about some controversies in the art world. In 2013, he lent his talents to 17 Louis Vuitton window displays internationally, but he suggests that’s not completely different than working in the street. “Boutiques are mostly located in city centres, directly onto the pavement, seen by everybody,” he explains. “It allows to show works in a way that no institution in the world can, which is a paradox but also a reality.”
He points out to the current political climate, which has made working in the public sphere increasingly problematic: “It is the most interesting space for art to develop, but I am not so optimistic: we are going through a period of intolerance, which makes so-called public art even more difficult”.
Child's play: Daniel Buren showcases his new installation at the Museo Espacio
ART / 22 JUL 2016 / BY MICHAEL SLENSKE
When the French abstract minimalist artist Daniel Buren – aka 'the stripe guy' – first discovered the murals of Mexican social realist painters David Alfaro Siqueiros, José Clemente Orozco and Diego Rivera during his maiden voyage to the country in 1957, he says, 'I discovered that I was not only seeing something totally different from the school of Paris and nearly the entire century before, but that the artists were extremely aggressive against the school of Paris.' Intrigued by this position – especially considering Siqueiros and Rivera also worked in Paris and still chose to the highlight the discrepancies between the French people and the bourgeois message of their country’s artists — Buren says he became 'more open to everything'.
'When the Mexican revolution took place, [the muralists] wanted to take part, and they invented a way to speak to the people – most of whom could not read or write,' adds Buren. 'This explains why their work is extremely instructive, extremely descriptive. One of the fantastic aspects of their work was that it was done for the site, which meant they were created for the public, for the architecture, and for a certain reason – and so, the works were not transportable.'
Even if he wasn’t totally sold on the muralist aesthetics, Buren was moved by the meaning behind the work, and how it offered a platform – or model – for successfully injecting provocative art into non-traditional contexts. During the late 1960s and early 70s he took on the roll of a street artist with his iconic strip motif: pasting striped posters (or affichages sauvages) around the Metro stations of Paris, striping Los Angeles bus benches and hanging small striped canvases between buildings in Lower Manhattan. Off the streets, he famously dropped his stripe motif into a rotunda-dividing painting at the Guggenheim and on the controversial Buren's Columns dotting the courtyard of the Palais Royal. More recently, Buren has lent his aesthetic to high-wattage institutions: covering Frank Gehry’s 'glass sails' with multicoloured filters at Fondation Louis Vuitton – which the artist likens to 'colouring a wall' – and installing his Como un juego de niño at the new Museo Espacio, a contemporary art museum carved out of a series of former railway workshops in Aguascalientes, Mexico.
'This exhibition is typical of the work that I’ve been doing since the mid-70s, like Exploded Cabins, playing with the concept that a certain work is done with elements that belong to a specific space,' says Buren of his sprawling mise-en-scene of large scale toy sculptures, which were previously exhibited at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Arts in Strasbourg and the Museo MADRE in Naples. Comprised of giant wooden cylinders, cubes, arches – half painted white, half in primary colours – the chromatic architecture is punctuated by series of his striped bands, which meld minimalism and op art in a manner that might appeal equally to fans of KidKraft blocks and Victor Vasarely paintings.
To address the enormity of the space, Buren created an installation that is 'more generous, more open', he says. 'While using the same elements, we get much closer to the feeling of a village, a place where everyone can walk and turn around, discover a new perspective. I played with the abstract qualities of the space and the universal aspect of the objects – toys exist everywhere in the world – knowing that the objects change the space and are in turn being changed by the space.'
Solo exhibition by Daniel Buren opens at
AGUASCALIENTES.- Museo Espacio (ME) at MECA is presenting Como un juego de niño, a solo exhibition by Daniel Buren, on view July 21 – October 2, 2016. Opened in February 2016, Museo Espacio is a new contemporary art museum situated in former railway workshops, in the 200-acre Macro Espacio para la Cultura y las Artes (MECA), one of the largest and most important cultural projects in México, which is restoring and renewing the railroad tradition that for over a century was fundamental to life in Aguascalientes and the region.
Como un juego de niño is an intervention into the nearly 6,000 square meters (64,600 square feet) of Museo Espacio, providing visitors a new perspective of the museum's industrial architecture. The exhibition is comprised of two parts that complement each other. Buren creates a veritable game of life-size constructions with more than 100 geometric objects arranged in the spaces. The pieces, which allude to toys from childhood, create a playful landscape of cubes, cylinders, pyramids, and arches–half painted in white, half in color–resulting in a vivid spectrum. The artist continues use of his emblematic 8.7 cm wide stripes that are discreet yet visible within the exhibition.
Throughout his career, Buren has developed a rigorous and consistent language reduced to the essentials– the usage of basic elements, simple materials, forms, colors, and his signature 8.7 cm stripes–creating works in situ that demonstrate his understanding of space and his mastery of transforming it. The artist has a longstanding connection with México, inspired by the muralists David Alfaro Siqueiros, José Clemente Orozco, and Diego Rivera, after whom he began to make art beyond traditional contexts with interventions in public spaces and historical buildings.
Former iterations of this site-specific exhibition took place at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art of Strassburg (MAMCS), under the title Comme un jeu d’enfant, travails in situ (June 14, 2014 – March 8, 2015) and at the Museum MADRE in Naples, under the title Come un gioco da bambini (April 25, 2015 – February 29, 2016). The varying exhibition titles follow the artist’s practice of adapting his shows to the language of the exhibiting country.
MECA is a vast cultural complex, housing the University of the Arts, National Graphic Arts Workshop (TNG), Central Library, Symphony Hall, and Museo Espacio. Aguascalientes is a national and international benchmark of economic growth, sustainable development, quality education, social welfare, and world-class cultural facilities and infrastructure.
Como un juego de niño is Museo Espacio’s second exhibition and artist commission. The museum’s inaugural exhibition Kounellis: Relampagos Sobre México featured site-specific works by Greek artist Jannis Kounellis. As a commitment to strengthening ties with the community, Museo Espacio provides tools for interpretation and invites active participation from diverse audiences. The museum offers a wide range of programming and initiatives intended to evolve based on visitor interaction, promoting learning through exposure to contemporary art and serving as a platform for social dialogue.
If in the twentieth century, the General Workshops for Construction and Repair of Machines and Rolling Stock, positioned the state as one of the most representative rail centers of Latin America, in the twenty-first century, MECA is projecting Aguascalientes as a cultural center for national and international artistic development and a hub for new creative communities.
Daniel Buren (b. 1938, France) lives and works in situ. His work, situated within the field of conceptual discourses and institutional critique, focuses on interventions in public spaces and historical buildings. Buren was awarded the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale of 1986. In the same year, he created his most polemic public installation, Les deux plateaux, in the courtyard of the Palais Royal in Paris. He has presented retrospectives at The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York and Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. His show Excentriques was presented in 2012 at the Grand Palais as part of the cycle of Monumenta exhibitions. Most recently, in May 2016, his work L’Observatoire de la lumière, an intervention at the Fondation Louis Vuitton's building in Paris, opened and is currently on display.
Un éxito la exposición
México de Kounellis
El Museo Espacio fue inaugurado con una obra maestra de Jannis
Kounellis, el legendario artista considerado protagonista del Arte
Povera, un movimiento emergido en Italia en los años 1960s, quien
se embarcó en su carrera artística creando el arte más radical de
su tiempo y cuya influencia continúa inspirando a todos los artistas
alrededor del mundo. Su método de trabajo está íntimamente
ligado a la memoria y la repetición. Al mismo tiempo, insiste en la
especificidad, en el espacio y el tiempo, en la ejecución del drama
y la importancia de la apariencia de una obra. Incesantemente,
ha tratado de intervenir espacios no convencionales, desde una
simple habitación de hotel en su período temprano, hasta castillos
reales, bodegas históricas, fábricas modernas y en Aguascalientes,
los antiguos talleres de ferrocarril, resucitados poéticamente,
mediante su intervención para sitio específico “Relámpagos sobre
México”, obra maestra fiel al autor y a la historia de Aguascalientes.