A look at Mexico from the Inside Out

The exhibition, Mexico Inside Out: Themes in Art Since 1990 marks a first for The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, as well as the Northern Texas region. It is one of the largest exhibitions in over a decade to focus on the contemporary Mexican artists of central Mexico and Mexico City from the 1990s to the present day. The exhibition features approximately sixty works by twenty-three artists, exposing Mexico's complicated sociopolitical climate, with subject matter related to the Mexican border, violence, corruption, death, economic and civic institutions, and revolution. While the focus of the show is on Mexico, the exhibition aims to convey the universality of these issues to visitors. The subjects presented affect not only Mexico and the United States, but every city and country.

Naomi Rincon Gallardo, <i>Pirate (bootleg) Utopias</i>, 2012. Video 43 minutes 28 seconds. Image copyright: Courtesy of the artist Naomi Rincon Gallardo, Still from Pirate (bootleg) Utopias, 2012. Video 43 minutes 28 seconds. Image copyright: Courtesy of the artist

Curator Andrea Karnes spent three and a half years planning this exhibition. She kept seeing the artists featured within the exhibit on both the East and West coasts of the United States, where Mexican contemporary art is exhibited on a more frequent basis, as well as internationally. In the exhibition's title, "Inside" refers to the local Mexican culture, while "Out" refers to the global.  In relation to Texas, art focusing on Mexico is usually showcased south of Austin. This exhibit marks a formal introduction to the artists, some of whom were born and raised in Mexico, while others later migrated to the country, such as Gabriel Orozco, Eduardo Abaroa, Francis Alÿs, Edgardo Aragón, Artemio, and Melanie Smith. United by their love for Mexico, these artists do not consider themselves to be a collective, even though they have often exhibited works together. The exhibit features a variety of media, such as painting, sculpture, video, photography, drawing, and collage. Arranged chronologically, the exhibit begins with artists that changed the shape of contemporary Mexican art in the late 1980s.

Gabriel Orozco, <i>Ping Pond<i>, 1998. Photo: Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. Gabriel Orozco, Ping Pond, 1998. Photo: Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.

While the show deals with heavy themes and subject matter, Karnes explained that it is not visually heavy. There are some artists, such as Gabriel Orozco, who have chosen to use their artistic medium as an interactive, a dialogue between visitors, as seen in Orozco’s piece, "Ping Pond Table/Mesa de ping-pong con estanque" (1998). This piece is an actual ping pong table with a pond in the middle, where visitors are invited to play ping pong in the gallery space. According to Karnes, these artists seek to empower people, not wanting them to be passive in the viewing of their art, but to understand that we all play a part in relation to Mexico. It is no secret that the issues in Mexico are deeply related to the United States. The U.S. has a part in the drug wars, although it often seems to be not as personal, somewhat distanced from the loss of loved ones many Mexicans have endured. Karnes has been applauded for her work on this exhibit, having visitors tell her their own stories, thanking her, and even crying at certain pieces within the exhibition.

An exhibition of this scale pushed The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth to its limits, not only visually and emotionally, but also in terms of space. This marks the largest exhibit that The Modern has ever shown in its building, challenging its layout and usage. The Modern focuses primarily on contemporary art, showcasing a variety of artists at varying stages in their careers, from emerging to mid-career, as well as highly established. An exhibit such as Inside Out fits well within the museum's scope of art history, introducing artists exhibited internationally to a new audience and continuing to create a dialogue in which we all have a speaking part.

Keah Fryar is the Plinth contributor for the Southern Region and a Freelance Exhibit Designer and Consultant.  Her website can be viewed here: https://sites.google.com/site/keahfryar/.