Ideally, curating is always a gesture of generosity – the creation of a dialogue where none existed, or the revelation of an ongoing conversation. And perhaps never more so than when an artist curates other artists, as Daniel Guzmán has done across generations for La Llamada del Dios Extraño. He invites Esteban Aldrete, Bayrol Jiménez, Cristian Franco and José Luis Sánchez Rull to collaborate and create works together (as well as to show their own bodies of work). Taking as a pretext Hans Jonas’s The Gnostic Religion: The Message of the Alien God & the Beginnings of Christianity (1958), the work here emphasises the alien, the strange or foreign otherly nature of God as well as all the related pop-cultural phenomena (demons, angels, UFOs, ghosts and experiences with the so-called afterlife).
Starting with the idea of duality and the ancient battle of wills that dominate the world, in Guzmán’s own words, “this exhibition explores the ways in which art has found a way to make manifest this encounter with the face of this alien God and the accumulation of phenomena associated with the otherworldly”. And so, for the opening, one could witness the artists and their collaborators at the mortuary across the street from the gallery, dressed up in beige costumes and masks (halfway between prison inmate and Ku Klux Klan member, with a fake hair weave hanging in the back for good measure), singing, in a Robert Johnsonesque way, “Death don’t have no mercy in this land, Death never takes a vacation in this land…” (a very accurate way of describing the current state of affairs in Mexico), and shuttling large wooden slabs with parts of the lyrics and collages by all the artists, from the mortuary, stopping rush-hour traffic as their chains (yes, they were chained, like prisoners in a chain gang) clashed against the pavement, and into the gallery, where later two of the artists were on a gallows, one playing a guitar while wearing the noose, and the preacher-type performer screaming the song into a loudspeaker. As all the wood slabs were brought in, the rest of the performers danced, chains a-clanging, around the gallows.
Aside from this collaborative ritual – and it was actually a ritual more than a performance – documented on video, as well as the gallows and wooden slabs with digital collages, the exhibition comprises several sculptures made collaboratively by all five artists, exhibited on shelves as if they were artefacts or vestiges and objects of worship of some alien god religion (and including parts of the ritual costumes). In the projection room are films to accompany the show – spanning from Joel and Ethan Coen’s O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000), and Walter Hill’s Johnson-inspired Crossroads (1986) to Kenneth Anger’s work and Terry Zwigoff’s Crumb (1994) documentary – and in the foyer one can see Sombras (2014), the beautiful and eerie black-and-white collage series by Aldrete, as well as the larger and more grotesque pieces by Franco from the series Golden Dawn (2014; he also has some black-and-white drawings upstairs).
In the second floor of the gallery are two more collaborative sculpture-installations, and a grouping of drawings by Jiménez (mostly acrylic and ink with some wax colour) portraying different kinds of gods, idols and arcane figures, followed by a grouping by Guzmán, from the series The God Without a Face (2014), made with graphite on kraft paper, adding some wax colour details here and there, a series that epitomises and distils his economy of line, which starkly contrasts with the very colourful drawings by Sánchez Rull (La Llamada del Dios Extraño, 2014) and some more collages by Aldrete (this time also in colour, Colgados, 2014). The interconnections are fluid, there is an ease in the dialogue between the works, which never repeat but rather complement each other, both formally and thematically.
This article was first published in the April 2015 issue.