Zona Maco, one of Latin America’s largest and most important fairs, opened to VIPs on Wednesday morning. Because of heavy traffic, the first few hours were relatively light in terms of visitors, though the aisles were in full swing by the afternoon. (Trying to get out of the Centro Citibanamex convention center, where the fair is held, on the outskirts of Mexico City was its own journey.)
Despite its size, the fair is quite manageable in a few hours and the aisles never seem unending, as can be the case with other mega fairs in convention centers. The work on view this year is especially strong, with the added component that visitors can vote for their favorite work at the fair from a shortlist of 20. The winning artist and gallery will receive a $100,000 prize, courtesy of the Erarta Foundation, to split as part of a new initiative to mark the fair’s 20th anniversary.
Below, a look at the best on view at Zona Maco, which runs through February 11.
Romeo Gómez López at Galeríe Éric Mouchet
When Galerie Éric Mouchet, which has locations in Paris and Brussels, reached out to Romeo Gómez López about doing a booth with them at Zona Maco, the Mexico City–based artist got to thinking about what exactly is attracting so many visitors, both tourists and digital nomads, to his city. That ultimately led him to create this tongue-in-cheek solo presentation, part of the fair’s Ejes section, curated by Bernardo Mosqueira. Installed on one wall, above eye level, is a row of black airplane seats onto which Gómez López has imprinted his spread buttocks, using screen printing ink. The trace left behind is a barely there, seemingly sweaty self-portrait of sorts.
On the adjacent wall is a large sculpture that resembles something between a black hole and the Lord of the Rings’ Eye of Sauron, but is actually a rendition of tourist trap Panadería Rosetta’s famed guava roll (the cronut of Mexico City). Nearby is a small sculpture that features a portrait of Moctezuma II, the last Aztec emperor; he’s delicately placed in a soft-serve-esque turd of volcanic rock, a reference to Moctezuma’s Revenge, the colloquial term for getting diarrhea while traveling to Mexico. The work is also part of Gómez López’s “Antropolo-chic” series which looks at the costs of colonialism on Indigenous people at the time of conquest and today, as it is incredibly difficult for Indigenous people to travel abroad.
Cisco Merle at Galería Alfredo Ginocchio
After working as a studio assistant to the late Venezuelan artist Carlos Cruz-Diez for 10 years, Cisco Merel wanted to adapt what he had learned from his former boss’s art to create abstractions that also deal with social issues, like immigration and the border. His works on view at Zona Maco pair vibrant primary colors with the cracked earth, representing the adobe vernacular architecture of the Panamanian countryside where Merle grew up and is still partially based. These hard-edge abstractions also evoke aerial views of Panama City, where Merle, who will show in the Panamanian Pavilion at this year’s Venice Biennale, is based when not in the countryside. The bright colors stand-in for the glistening skyscrapers that dominate the city’s skyline, while the earth represents the empty lots that also dot the city, themselves sites for future development and reminders of the raw land that was once there.
Gretta Sarfaty at Central Galeria
São Paulo’s Central Galeria has dedicated its booth to Gretta Sarfaty, one of Brazil’s most important feminist artists. The booth, which focuses on historical work from the 1970s, starts with several photographs of the artists’s face. She then translates those photographs into rough-hewn paintings, which are then followed by paintings of her nude body. The booth’s strongest works are two photographs, expertly printed in 2021 with mineral pigments on cotton paper, documenting Enlace, 1978 performance in which Sarfaty, completely nude, entangled herself with a weighty piece of rope. It’s one of the few works by the artist in which she showed both her face and nude body. Throughout the fair’s VIP day, La Maga, a performance artist and queer icon in Mexico City, restaged the work for the gallery.
Cynthia Gutierrez at Galería La Caja Negra
Two sculptures by Mexican artist Cynthia Gutiérrez stand at the center of this booth by Madrid-based Galería la Caja Negra. The works are mostly pristine white boxes to which Gutierrez has inset various textiles from Mexico’s Indigenous populations. This visual intervention in the austere whiteness of the sculptures acts as symbolic intervention in both the art world and world writ large, where what is considered the official history has long been pristine and white. Consider this Gutierrez’s unofficial history, one that hews closer to the truth and honors the important contributions of Indigenous people to artistic production.
Claudia Martinez Garay at Grimm
At the center of New York gallery Grimm’s booth are two freestanding painted sculptures by Peruvian artist Claudia Martinez Garay that show a flashlight being pointed over pre-Columbian artifacts. She calls these works “Encounters of the Fourth Kind”; those flashlights are, in fact, UFOs, scooping up these artifacts. As with much of her practice, Martinez Garay—whose work is exhibited with paintings by her partner Arturo Kameya, who is also Peruvian—presents a metaphor that slyly, and in a Pop-inflected way, references the horrors of colonialism: the death, destruction, and pillaging of Indigenous cultures. The aesthetic of these works is intentionally disarming. They seem oh so very cute, until you stop to think about what they’re really trying to say.
Karina Aguilera Skvirsky at Galería RGR
New York–based artist Karina Aguilera Skvirsky has on view two photo-based collages that merge lushly photographed stones with fragments of the artist’s body as well as dyed alpaca fibers. The stones are from Ingapirca, the site of largest known Inca ruins in Ecuador, where Aguilera Skvirsky’s family is from. The works’ compositions seem both ancient and contemporary, familiar yet completely fresh. There’s something quite funny of seeing these meticulously printed photographs of stones in humanoid arrangements paired with the artist’s foot or leg.
Ana Segovia at Kurimanzutto
On an exterior wall of Kurimanzutto’s booth is an eye-catching triptych by Mexico City–based artist Ana Segovia, who will participate in this year’s Venice Biennale. Segovia has long been obsessed with painting tightly cropped details of film stills, printouts of which often hang in his studio for several months. In this work, Segovia has focused on Lee Van Cleef’s Angel Eyes character from the iconic 1966 Spaghetti Western The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Set against a vibrant blue background, Angel Eyes, whose right ear is rendered in shocking pink, first has his back to us, then in a quarter turn, and finally facing with a look of disgust. Each work is framed in a grey box that resembles Donald Judd’s “Stacks.”
Hilda Palafox at Proyectos Monclova
A trio of beguiling just-finished paintings by multidisciplinary Mexican artist Hilda Palafox are given an exterior wall on Proyectos Monclova’s booth. Rendered in unnatural tones, the outer works, titled Impulso II and Impulso I, each show two figures with their bodies intertwined, as if they are wrestling. The center work, Resguardo de la memoria (Memory protection), shows a woman entering through a door as she appears to dry herself with a towel. The works evoke a certain nostalgia.
Omar Barquet at Zilberman
Hanging above Zilberman’s booth is a sculpture, titled Medusa, by Mexico City–based artist Omar Barquet that is made from the fragments of several wooden rocking chairs. Barquet has stripped the wood from these chairs and painted them with lacquer. His work often looks at the cycle of storms, how they can start out small, grow large, and then contract. After a storm, Barquet, seems to ask, what wreckage is left? How has the land been transformed?
Roberto Matta at Pace Gallery
The last time Pace Gallery mounted a solo exhibition for Chilean painter Roberto Matta in New York was back in 2015. For that show, the gallery focused on his works from the 1950s and ’60s. Commanding a wall, and facing a sculpture by Alicja Kwade, is a stunning untitled painting from 1976. In this work, Matta’s signature abstract forms and swirls take on cooler tones. Coming three years after the military coup that would install the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, Matta’s works from this period seem to take on an increasingly political tone, serving as powerful yet coded critiques of capitalism and the violence that it brings.