Consider how long you have been doing the same thing! showcases Gabriel Rico's distinct artistic practice. The exhibition title, imbued with a mildly sarcastic undertone, prompts the viewer to see the world through Rico’s eyes. Integrating traditional Mexican techniques with contemporary artistic practices, Rico encourages viewers to consider the formation of the modern world and the contemporary human.
Gabriel Rico drew attention from the international art world, first and foremost, with his highly diverse and varied works of object theater. These objects span a broad spectrum, from plastic flowers to coca cola, ceramic plates, CDs, second-hand mobile phones, glass bottles, plastic fruits, toys, and other consumerist goods found in pop culture, to artisanal clay pots, scythe, bricks, baseball bats, and neon signs, rulers, steel rebar folded into an industrial society, and natural objects such as bones, rocks, seashells, twigs and taxidermy, animal horns or fur; and, what can’t go without mentioning, the vast array of pictorial and written symbols, relief of leaves, sculptures of dice, and lines, figures, arrows, and equal signs, affixed or painted directly to the wall. These nearly consist of the fragments of this civilization that future archaeologists will unearth from our Anthropocenic strata.
These objects are, at times, arranged with neo-Dada or surrealist sculpture sensibility; other times, spread out on a tabletop or the ground, reminiscent, says the artist, of a flea market. Sometimes, what’s on the floor unfolds on the wall. Linking these objects by arrows, connecting lines, and other signage, they become maps, suggesting an enigmatic network we do not yet fully understand.
Interestingly, these objects tend to be detached – each object is placed at a distance from the others on the wall. Each installation stands away from the others in the gallery, leaving large areas of unoccupied space, which makes the presentation look like an archaeological pit or drawings in an archaeological report outlining the location of an object. In archaeological excavations, we would only uncover fragments of what was originally part of a large whole and more secrets in the concealed and empty spaces, and it’s with the bits and pieces we would put together the picture of civilization.
These objects belong to a particular system, although our capitalist system of things based on notions of origin, function, materiality, and price today cannot categorize them - when placed in the supermarket or storage, they must be stored according to these principles. With the artist’s filtering and deliberation in the studio/mind, they reorganize to form another semiotic system. Gabriel Rico once described how meaning is extracted from such a system. He brought things he found on the street to his studio and kept them there for a week or two or even a month. During this period, he fiddled with them on the table, hung something up on the wall, brought one close to the other, and sometimes, when one object paired with another, they would naturally generate a context. This practice allowed the artist to recognize the power of the objects. Hence, they no longer belong to the everyday, but to embody the semiotics.
Hollow and insignificant things come pouring in from America, fake objects, bootlegged life. An American house, an American apple, or a bunch of American grapes have nothing in common with the houses, the fruits, the grapes that once dissolved into the hopes and contemplations of our ancestors.
With the advent of the age of consumption, German romanticists such as Heidegger and Rilke felt helpless about “American things” swept over everything, followed by commodity fetishism becoming the dominant ideology. A new generation of Pop artists eulogized the aesthetics of such mundane things and erected monuments for these vulgar and ephemeral commodities. Although Arte Povera artists in Europe tried to command each object’s irreplaceable texture, weight, and fragrance, even devoted brute forces to connecting products of the industrial age, such as steel, coal, glass, and neon, to the earth. Their German ally, Joseph Beuys, an idol of mine and Gabriel Rico’s, inherited Rilke and Heidegger’s romantic tradition, whose gaze was projected onto the evolutionary significance of our relationship to objects today.
The Chinese artist and curator Qiu Zhijie wrote the text on the occasion of Gabriel Rico's museum presentation at Sea World Culture and Arts Center, Shenzhen, in 2022.
Born in 1980 in Lagos de Moreno, Mexico
Lives and works in Guadalajara, Mexico
Gabriel Rico’s work is characterized by the interrelation of seemingly disparate objects. A self-proclaimed “ontologist with a heuristic methodology,” Rico pairs found, collected, and manufactured materials to create sculptures that invite viewers to reflect on the relationship between humans and our natural environment. He frequently uses neon, taxidermy, ceramics, branches, and more personal pieces of his past to create an equation or formulation, achieving a precise geometry despite the organic, roughly hewn character of his materials. His installations ironically and poetically combine natural and unnatural forms, insisting on a necessary contemplation of their asymmetry as well as our own cultural and political flaws.
The artist was recently featured in the 2019 Venice Biennale group exhibition, May You Live In Interesting Times, curated by Ralph Rugoff. He has held numerous solo exhibitions at Sea World Culture and Arts Center, Shenzhen, China (2022), Beiqiu Museum of Contemporary Art, Nanjing, China (2022), The Aspen Art Museum, Aspen, Colorado, USA (2019), the Arizona State University Art Museum, Tempe, Arizona and the Power Station, Dallas, Texas (2017), Gyeonggi Creation Center, Ansando, South Korea (2016); Fondazione Giorgio Cini, Venice (2015) among others. Rico is in the collection of Voorlinden Museum, Wassenaar, Netherlands; Arizona Art Museum (ASU), Phoenix, AZ, USA; The Nasher Sculpture Center, Dallas, Texas; Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), Miami, Florida, USA; Korean Ceramic Fundation (KOCEF), Seoul, South Korea; MASIN (Museo de Arte de Sinaloa), Culiacan, Mexico; among others.