Monday, May 12, 2014

10% of the way to becoming a brazilian concretist

One man's junk is another man's $150,000 art piece.

Yesterday I went shopping and ended up at La Palacio de Hierro (The Iron Palace) -- one of Mexico City's finest department stores.  Think Harrods.  Or Saks.  Or Neiman Marcus.  You get the idea.

I was in a buying mood to replace several items in my luggage that have become a bit life-worn: shoes, slippers, robe, pajamas.  And I wanted to buy a couple of very specific items.  Two shirts -- black silk -- one long-sleeve, one short-sleeve.  I was then going to top it all off with a couple of new ties.

You have heard me wax on about Mexico's emerging middle class.  I supposed this was a store designed for them.  Designer labels everywhere.  And more choice than I see in most American stores of the same quality.

But, it didn't take long for me to re-discover something I already knew about Mexico.  High quality clothes carry an equally high price tag.

To replace my worn Eccos would cost about $300 (US).  Cotton pajamas -- $120 (US).  Robe -- $150 (US).  Slippers (simple leather slippers) -- $250 (US).

I didn't take the bait.  Nor did I find any silk shirts.  But I chose two ties -- neither of which had price tags.  When the clerk rang them up, I discovered I had taken a nice chunk out of the rent money for the month.

So, that bag you see did not come cheap.  The other items with it are museum entry tickets and an airline boarding pass -- all of which I have accumulated over the past five days.

If I have learned anything in Mexico, it is that anything can be re-cycled.  Especially, junk.

I mentioned on Saturday (what you see is what you see) that I had spent a good deal of time in the Jac Leirner exhibition at the Tamayo Museum.  Leirner is a celebrated Brazlian artist who has worked through various schools of art -- heavily within the Brazilian Concretism movement. 

According to the program: "The work of Jac Leirner relies on the accumulation of everyday, discarded, or useless objects, and their reconfiguration into sculptural forms that inhabit the exhibition space."

To paraphrase Captain Barbossa: "It means she sells junk to people with lots of money."

Take this piece.

I wasn't quite certain what to make of it.  It looked like layers of metal melded together to form -- what? -- an ash tray?

It turns out I was not far off the mark.  Leirner was a heavy smoker.  She saved all of her cigarette packages and constructed various pieces of art from the constituent parts.  A series she calls "Lung."  This one is made out of the metallic inserts.

The cellophane pulls were turned into a mossy-looking wall hanging.  The boxes into other shapes.

In her "Corpus Delicti" series, she uses everyday dispensables as a trigger for nostalgia.  Such as, this mobile made of airline luggage tags.

But, for humor, this room made my day.

It is a large space.  But the walls are completely covered with plastic shopping bags sewn together on cloth as a tapestry. 

It did make me laugh.  At what I am not certain.

As a commentary on our consumer society?  As an anarchic juxtaposition of color and shape?  Or merely because someone has probably paid a good deal of money to have it in their personal collection?  Schadenfreude calms the savage breast.

I have no idea how much the collector paid for four walls of plastic bags.  But I am certain it was a lot.  A similar piece consisting of only a dozen bags sold at auction for $52,500.

So, I am saving up my junk.  I figure by the time Wednesday rolls around, I will have enough materials to pay for my upcoming European excursion.

Just as a footnote.  Sunday in Mexico City was beautiful.  The sun was out, and it almost looked as if the city had been deserted.

This is a photograph of Oaxaca (shot with my telephone camera) -- normally a bumper-to bumper street.

I enjoyed having the city to myself as I walked through the parks of Condesa and let the birdsong lull me into believing I could live here. 

Well -- as long as I had a good job selling recycled plastic bags.

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