July 05, 2011

"Betsabeé Romero: Lágrimas Negras" at The Neuberger Museum of Art

On the drive home from Katonah and its wonderful "Double Solitaire" exhibition, I took a short detour and visited the Neuberger Museum of Art on the campus of SUNY in Purchase, New York. I knew a little bit about the Neuberger and its fabulous collection of Modern Art, but their current special exhibition, "Lágrimas Negras (Black Tears)" had been highly recommended by a colleague as a "must-see" if you're in the neighborhood. So, as I did, in fact, happen to be passing by, and it was still early in the afternoon, I thought why not?

After a rather challenging tour of the campus under construction I finally found the museum entrance and went in. I had no idea what to expect of the exhibition and was very happily surprised. Betsabeé Romero is a self-described "mechanic artist" and is one of Mexico's major contemporary artists. Using the automobile as a metaphor for the evolution of cultures, the artist transforms cars and their components into works of art that explore the conflicts between traditional ways of life and modern, high-speed, society.

Now all this might sound a little strange and maybe even depressing, but in Señora Romero's hands the old tires, fenders, rear view mirrors and hoods are transformed into beautiful objects. A sculpture of six Volkswagen fenders decorated with colored industrial tape and arranged in a spiral with the lights on is entitled "Rehileta de Canela (Cinnamon Pinwheel)", and is actually a graceful and compelling work. Old tires cut into long strips with Mexican folk images carved into the treads and colored with bits of chewed gum pasted into the carvings become "Simbolos Masticados". A video shot through the decorated windows of a Mexican taxi cab turns the city into a fairyland as the car drives around and around with music playing in "La Vuelta al Zócalo en 80 Secondo (Around the Zocaló in 80 Seconds)". And my favorite, "Ciudados que se Ven (Moving Cities)", 2004, transforms used tires into linocut prints as the engraved tire treads are inked and the images transferred onto long strips of cloth suspended from the ceiling.

When I visited this exhibition I realized that I had already seen Betsabeé Romero's work, most recently in Basel at the Museum Tinguely's current exhibition "Car Fetish: I Drive Therefore I Am" where her decorated and rose-filled automobile "Ayate Car" was on display. But the single installation shown there was no comparison to the multi-media exhibition on view until August 14th at the Neuberger. Cast-off automotive parts never looked so good!

No comments: