Alexander Baxevanis

photo by Alexander Baxevanis

Conceptual art would not be the same without Mexican artist Abraham Cruzvillegas and his unassuming sculptures and installations. His work has been endlessly celebrated and exhibited by major institutions like the Tate Modern, in London, and the New Museum of New York. Some of his works are held in the permanent collections of the Tate and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. He is currently represented by Thomas Dane Gallery in London.

Cruzvillegas was born and raised in the sprawling neighborhood of Colonia Ajusco, which sits on the southern fringes of Mexico City. During his childhood, he observed his family and their neighbors build their homes by improvising with found objects. Today, Cruzvillegas scours the city looking for readymade objects to incorporate into his work, rather than acquiring traditional art materials. Cruzvillegas is recognized for a technique called “autoconstrucción,” which translates to “self-construction.” Autoconstrucción is his process for adding materials in accordance to necessity and opportunity. While it seems to match the D.I.Y. thought at first glance, autoconstrucción is generated from, “scarcity, solutions and ingenuity. And how you can conceive a philosophy of life that you can make something out of nothing. That is also a metaphor for identity… we are constantly transforming ourselves,” as Cruzvillegas told the Walker Art Center.

Cruzvillegas’ process may not be standard, but his formal training has allowed him to join a school of new wave conceptual art. He was a student of philosophy and art at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). Later on, he would teach art history and theory at his alma mater. During his undergraduate education, Cruzvillegas studied under Gabriel Orozco, from 1987 to 1991. Orozco and his student, Cruzvillegas, were leaders of this new wave of conceptual art, along with Damian Ortega, Dr. Lakra and Minerva Cuevas. Cruzvillegas later formed a workshop of sorts, called Taller de los Viernes (“Friday Workshops”) along with Gabriel Kuri, Lakra and Orozco. The artists would meet weekly to collaborate. As Cruzvillegas explained, “We learned together to discuss, criticise, and transform our work individually, with no programmes, marks, exams, diplomas or reprisals. We did not intend to become known, prepare for a show, go against the grain, make our presence felt as a group, or even make work … this was my education.”

Today, you can see a Cruzvillegas work on exhibit at the Tate Modern. His work, “Empty Lot” was accepted as the 2015 Tate Modern Turbine Hall commision. Empty Lots (pictured above) consists of 240 wooden triangular plots filled with soil from the parks and gardens of London, like Peckham Rye and Buckingham Palace. The work will be on display until the 3rd of April.