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Stedelijk to host Europe’s first Carlos Amorales retrospective

Carlos Amorales, Los Amorales, 1996. Courtesy the artist, kurimanzutto and Nils Stærk

AMSTERDAM – The first ever retrospective exhibition in Europe of the work of Carlos Amorales will open at Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam during Amsterdam Art Weekend 2019. Carlos Amorales – The Factory showcases the work of one of Mexico’s most important contemporary artists from the 1990s to the present day – the most recent piece was made especially for the exhibition. Spanning 14 rooms of the museum, the exhibition includes spatial works, installations, paintings, drawings, videos, prints, textiles, animations, and sound works, which Amorales incorporates in his open, non-chronological, large-scale spatial installations. Visitors will be able to navigate their own route around Amorales’ world of fantastical images and stories that explore the field of tension between the individual and society.
Carlos Amorales began his career in Amsterdam in the 1990s, as a student at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie and the Rijksakademie. It was during this period in the city that he changed his name to Carlos Amorales, a conceptual identity which he would “lend” to other people as part of his enquiry into the function of art in everyday life. He lent the Amorales character (a masked figure inspired by Mexican lucha libre wrestlers) to artist friends, fighters, and strangers. They adopted his stage name and donned his mask to take part in wrestling matches and in performances in museums and other art institutions in Europe, US, and Mexico (venues include Tate Modern and Centre Pompidou).

Amorales left Amsterdam in 2004 to return to Mexico City, where he set up his own studio. Inspired by the media’s mass production and distribution of imagery – and with references to Warhol’s Factory and Disney’s early animation studio – Amorales and his team created a digital image bank titled Liquid Archive containing thousands of monochrome silhouettes in vector format. On request, this resource for the artist and his team is sometimes shared with third parties. The Liquid Archive has formed the basis for the rich and multifaceted body of work that Amorales has built up over the last 15 years. The essentially open-source character of the images that Amorales creates (other people have “borrowed” freely from them), means they can detach themselves from the world of autonomous art and stray into the realms fashion, music videos, tattoos, and record covers – through which they return to art in the form of work by other artists. Amorales’s Factory is a nod to pop culture and to our neoliberal world in which, the artist says, “the globalized assembly-line has gotten a bit out of hand.”

Carlos Amorales, Mexico City, 2018. Photo: Martijn van Nieuwenhuyzen

Exhibition curator Martijn van Nieuwenhuyzen: “I have been following Carlos Amorales’s work since his Amsterdam years. When I visited him in Mexico City early last year, I was again impressed by his multifaceted practice and the keen intelligence with which he manages to walk that fine line between the aesthetic and the socio-political while foregrounding a multitude of topics, such as the roles artists can adopt within and outside the art world, the experience of being an outsider in an unknown culture, the infinite malleability of language, and the almost absurd torrent of images flooding the Internet. It has been a particularly rewarding experience to curate my final exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum with this inspiring Mexican artist.”

The relationship between society and the individual is at the center of much of Amorales’s work. He also has a particular interest in the choices facing artists, whether in the everyday context of the realities of life in Latin America or in the art historical context of the experimentations of the European avant-garde movements. What does it mean to be ‘socio-politically engaged?’ Is it possible to be experimental while living in a dictatorship, and what might the societal consequences be? What instruments are available to artists wanting to speak out about ubiquitous oppression and violence? In direct and oblique, metaphorical ways Amorales’ installations, videos, paintings and sculptures explore the field of tension between individual concerns and societal constraints. Sometimes he is playful, such as when he lures the visitor into activating a monumental mobile of cymbals, but then there are the initially enchanting animations such as The Cursed Village, in which a pastoral scene degenerates into a lynching, and the Black Cloud installation in which swarms of black butterflies surround the viewer, making tangible the menace of the masses.

Working together with Textiellab in Tilburg, the Netherlands, Amorales has made a new installation for The Factory titled Orgy of Narcissus (2019), a frieze comprising 60 sections of textile woven from silk thread in which the artist examines the phenomenon of the Internet meme (images that spread rapidly online, their form and meaning constantly shifting) with overlapping streams of depictions of a figure captured in an endless narcissistic orgy.

Carlos Amorales, Orgy of Narcissus, 2019. Courtesy the artist, kurimanzutto and Nils Stærk

The exhibition is curated by Martijn van Nieuwenhuyzen in close collaboration with the artist.

The exhibition is accompanied by a book made in collaboration with Mevis and Van Deursen, the Amsterdam-based designers who worked with Amorales in 2000 on his first book Los Amorales, which is now a collector’s item. This new artist’s book focuses on Amorales’s studio practice. Interweaving and overlapping layers of comic strip-like frames (designed by Elsa-Louise Manceaux), a manifesto by Amorales about his artistic identity, and illustrations of his work, the design invites the reader to zoom in and out on the many aspects of Amorales’s artistic universe. With a written contribution by Reinaldo Laddaga.

Carlos Amorales (Mexico City, 1970) studied at Amsterdam’s Gerrit Rietveld Academie from 1992 to 1995, and at the city’s Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten from 1996 to 1997. His parents Rowena Morales and Carlos Aguirre are both renowned Mexican conceptual artists. To avoid confusion with his father he used the name Carlos A. Morales, which he later contracted to Carlos Amorales.

In 2003, Amorales invited the visiting public to make lucha libre boots at the We Are The World exhibition in the Dutch pavilion at the Venice biennale, which was curated by Rein Wolfs, the future director of the Stedelijk Museum. Wolfs also included Amorales’s Nuevos Ricos record label in the Working Class Today… Mañana Nuevos Ricos! exhibition at Museum Fridericianum in Kassel (2009).

The label, which Amorales co-founded with musician Julián Lede in 2004, specialized in producing large-scale concerts and distributing pirated editions of CDs with covers based on the silhouettes from the Liquid Archive.

Selected solo and project exhibitions: Faces, The Moore Space, Miami (2007); Dark Mirror, Irish Museum of Modern Art, Dublin, (2008); Discarded Spider, Cornerhouse, Manchester (2010); Germinal, Tamayo Museum, Mexico City (2013); The Man Who Did All Things Forbidden, Philadelphia Museum of Art (2014); Herramientas de trabajo, MAMM Museo de Arte Moderno Medellín (2017); Axioms for Action, MUAC, Mexico City (2018).

Carlos Amorales represented Mexico at the 57th Venice Biennale in 2017 with Life in the Folds, an installation that will also be part of the exhibition at Stedelijk Museum.

The work of Carlos Amorales is being presented by kurimanzutto, Mexico City and Galleri Nils Staerk, Copenhagen.

The exhibition Carlos Amorales – The Factory is generously supported by Ammodo and made possible by Galleri Nils Staerk, Copenhagen and kurimanzutto, Mexico City. The publication is made possible by Colección Isabel y Agustín Coppel.

Click to visit The Stedelijk online.

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