Gabriel Rico is a faithful representative of contemporary art in Mexico and in the world. The opening of the San Diego Institute of Contemporary Art, a newly merged art institution, is scheduled for September, and the Mexican conceptual artist will be in charge of inaugurating this new institution with a solo exhibition.
He is currently presenting the expo On Beauty and Comfort at the Perrotin Gallery, New York. He was selected to participate in the Venice Biennale 2019, and his work has been exhibited on the main art platforms worldwide such as the MuMO and the Perrotin Gallery in France, the GCC in South Korea, the Coma Gallery in Australia and the Aspen. Art Museum in Colorado.
You studied architecture. How was the transition to art?
Very organic. At the university in Guadalajara, in 2001, I had classes in History of Architecture, but the professor of the subject could not teach it and the substitute teachers were the artist Jorge Méndez Blake and his partner, the curator Giovanna Ibarra, and they gave us History of the art. I remember that as the classes went by, I was impressed by the freedom of thought about art and how philosophical artistic practice is; from that moment I decided that I would be an artist; I finished architecture first and worked on it for five years.
How is your creative process?
The life of an artist cannot be divided between the professional and the personal, as in other careers. I never stop being an artist, especially because I work with objects and because it is impossible to close myself to the excitement that my senses experience when I am in a flea market or something like that. The point is that precisely the way in which I transmute from being a non-artist or from discovering myself as an artist, comes from my appreciation for everyday objects. I lived in Lagos de Moreno, and all day I was in natural contexts with stones, trees and cacti… that’s how I grew up. I am that combination between the charros of Lagos de Moreno and the influence of the United States.
Is there a historical moment that has marked you?
The Twin Towers, which existed before September 11, 2001, as an object are visual references for the entire generation that lived through that disaster. That is the power of collective memory, no matter what language you speak, in the world, the image and the object are very forceful. That is why I am so interested in collective memory, because it may be that you and I share the same love for porcelain and apples because in your grandmother’s house and in my aunt’s there was an apple that we played with when we were little. These types of fixations enhance the connection that may exist between us, beyond forgetting where you come from, who you are or what language you speak.
I am of the last generation before art became fashionable in Mexico. Many did not see contemporary art as a huge park of opportunities, they thought that the galleries would not participate, that they would not come …
The scene in Mexico is very strengthened. I find it incredible that people come with a great desire to see art. Here is the first level of Mexican artists and some of the best galleries in the world. It is very cannon. For me it is very important that the young artists of Guadalajara understand that with everything that is in Mexico they do not need to go to live elsewhere, they can continue making their career in Guadalajara, exhibiting all over the world, because basically art is not mainstream , art has to do with philosophy and the way of living day to day, not with what appears on the internet and social networks.
What do you recommend to young artists?
Two things: understand if the art they make really comes out naturally or if they want to be artists because it is fashionable. They have to be very honest, I did not do it for the wool or for the fame, but because it was the environment in which I felt the most free. The second thing is that you have to be stubborn, be focused on what you want, have experiences with artists from other places; if you stay in your comfortable place you will never know what is behind the wall that you cannot see.