Hoping to expand on its legacy as one of Mexico’s most innovative contemporary art spaces, kurimanzutto Gallery has installed its latest project far from the white box of its showroom. Sonora 128 is the name of a billboard space that soars over the juncture of the Condesa and Roma neighborhoods, space that the gallery will be using as a 24/7, 365 days a year art installation.
The motivation behind Sonora 128, gallery staff told The News, comes down to the accessibility of art.
kurimanzutto does not have a history of hiding behind gallery walls. In 1999, Mónica Manzutto and José Kuri started the project with pop-up (before that was a term) events. The first group show took place in the Roma neighborhood’s Mercado Medellín, art made from materials purchased at the market and priced as reasonably as vegetables. “All the early shows were about collaboration,” said project curator and kurimanzutto sales rep Bree Zucker. Another kurimanzutto intervention filled undulating Xochimilco restaurant Las Manatiales for a single day with a labyrinth and a live band.
Zucker says Manzutto and Kuri told her they were searching for the next evolution in kurimanzutto’s methodology. After an epiphany moment while she was stuck in traffic contemplating signage, “I came to José and Mónica and I said look, I think we have the opportunity to expose totally different artists on this platform for an entirely different kind of public.”
She proposed a project that, while not quite as ground floor as some of the early experimentations, looks to arrive in the consciousness of Mexico City residents through a language we’re all too familiar with: that of advertising.
The team put the plan into action and at the beginning of March, photographer Wolfgang Tillmans became the first artist to be exhibited in an advertising space on the corner of Sonora and Oaxaca streets, at the juncture of the Roma and Condesa neighborhoods. Tillman, a photographer known for his realistic portraiture, sent a vegetal scene soaring far above the heads of urban motorists and pedestrians.
Currently, Antonio Caro’s parodic signage “Achiote” presides over the intersection, named after a distinctive, spiky plant native to the area.
Japanese photographers Daido Moriyama and Nobuyoshi Araki’s work will be debut on the billboard in September. Eight artists are scheduled to take part in total, and the installations will run through March 2018.
This is not the first time galleries have dabbled in billboard installation. The work of Ed Ruscha, San Francisco’s Billboard Liberation Front and the widespread shows of Billboard Creative in Los Angeles are three such projects that bring high art to the surfaces of forced messaging around us.
But kurimanzutto is hoping that their work finds unique life in the eyes of Mexico City. Zucker told The News that she’s already walked past people in the street (a solid mile away from the Sonora 128 site) who were discussing the odd sign.
“I wanted to go over there and be like ‘hey you saw it!’” she said. “But I held back.”
Those wanting to weigh in on kurimanzutto’s latest project would be well served attending two free events centered on Antonio Caro’s Sonora 128 showing this month — a talk by the artist at the gallery on June 18 at noon and a picnic with Caro at the installation site itself on June 22 at noon.