Baxter St at the Camera Club of New York is pleased to present Lamentable tierra / Sorrow Land, opening September 11th from 6–8 pm, and running through October 26th. This exhibition exposes both Mexico’s forgotten rural and tumultuous suburban landscapes through the lenses of three contemporary Mexican artists, Clemente Castor, Carlos Iván Hernández, and Federico Martínez. Organized in part by Joaquín Trujillo – who recalls working the land in Zacatecas as a child before migrating to Los Angeles – and in partnership with SOMA Mexico City and the Celebrate Mexico Now Festival, it explores the aesthetic aftermath of the neoliberal takeover and the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which caused a mass migration of people from Mexico to the United States.
With the arrival of neoliberalism, Mexico’s fields were left to suffer a slow death, the border filled with cheap labor, and young farmers turned desperately to the horrifying conditions of the sweatshops. Federico Martínez, an artist from rural Zacatecas, had to reinvent himself by reinventing the landscape of his present. First, Martínez documented those abandoned spaces that have mutated to become ruins –such as that unfertile soil where we see nothing but a cloud of dust floating in the air. Then, he juxtaposes those images, using the metaphor of the weaving of Mexican sarapes, while showing a spectrum of strong colors referring to the elements of the earth.
Working both in sculpture and photography, Carlos Iván Hernández constructs sculptures using materials, such as cow manure, clay, grass, and barbed wire, collected from a farm close to his hometown in Hermosillo, Sonora. These delicate yet weighted and clunky forms nod the current tension between the US and Mexican border. With the loss of many jobs, migration out of the northern rural areas of Mexico has become rampant. Hernandez’s sparse photographs of the sculptures reflect this absence, all the while addressing this broken borders and gaps in understanding.
Clemente Castor’s eloquent video work, Principe de Paz (Prince of Peace), follows the path of several youths as they navigate the periphery of Mexico City, through neighborhoods ravaged by the drug trade and violence. Existing in a semi-fantastical world, the boys find a giant’s skeleton leading to new engagements with the local community. Exploring the deep seeded rituals and customs of the region, Castor’s video presents an alternative view to the existing structure.
In Lamentable tierra / Sorrow Land, the different processes and chromatic disparities speak of new aesthetic possibilities for Mexico’s landscapes, both rural and suburban, away from idealized stereotypes of Mexicanity. While addressing the political implications of the abandonment of rural Mexico, the exhibition also gives attention to the rise of suburban turmoil as many previously rural dwellers move to the city to find work.