Thomas Schulte

Abraham Cruzvillegas: Unbetiteltes Tautologisches Selbstportrait

15 Sep - 06 Nov 2021

Abraham Cruzvillegas, Haussmanian Leftovers, Photo: Richard Lenoir, 2007
Galerie Thomas Schulte is very pleased that Abraham Cruzvillegas has accepted the invitation to realize a new site-specific work for the gallery to first be presented during Art Week Berlin 2021. The colorful installation Unbetiteltes Tautologisches Selbstportrait stretches across the two nine-meter high walls of the Corner Space and consists of boxes of shapes and sizes the bottoms of which are painted in thirty-four different color hues.

In his installations and sculptures Abraham Cruzvillegas often uses found or discarded industrially produced, simple, everyday objects. In preparation for his installation at Galerie Thomas Schulte, the artist asked the gallery staff to collect and accumulate all kinds of empty packaging. The various boxes made from cardboard, paper or wood range, for example, from shoe and egg cartons to cereal, chocolate, pizza and instant rice boxes, household appliances packaging, soap and detergents, make up and beauty products boxes, wine and champagne boxes, and six-packs for beer and soda, along with many of the products that the gallery and its staff had consumed over months. The bottoms of the boxes have been painted in thirty-four different colors, using a color system which the artist first used in his contribution to documenta in 2012.

In Cruzvillegas’ color scheme, every color stands for a specific idea, intention or quality that has been a constant in the artist’s work over the past decades and relates to his ongoing series of projects and artistic practice, which he calls “autoconstrucción.” The term is appropriated and originally describes the self-building methods of communities like the artist’s family, who build new homes on the outskirts of Mexico City by handling, collecting and recycling everyday materials. Autoconstrucción therefore describes a cultural practice – the collective dynamic of accumulating and appropriating found objects to construct shelter and housing – and speaks of scarcity, necessity, improvisation, inventiveness, solidarity, and chance, with a focus on craft and manual processes – all of which are qualities that also underpin Cruzvillegas’ practice: “Autoconstrucción means transformation to me. I apply the notion to houses being both built and destroyed simultaneously, according to the specific needs of their inhabitants. Change is the rule for the Autoconstrucción houses, and transformation of identity is behind my approach (or misuse) of the concept: self-construction is permanently unfinished.”

Cruzvillegas’ work for Galerie Thomas Schulte is site-specific in two different ways: not only has the final minimalist and grid-like assemblage of the boxes been fitted to the dimensions of the physical space, but the materials gathered for the installation also reflect the consumer behavior of the people who work there. Unbetiteltes Tautologisches Selbstportrait can thus be seen as consumerist critique and at the same time it is a reflection on the nature of collaboration, exchange, and identity. To Cruzvillegas, the personality of a person is shaped by all her relationships and encounters with other people.

The exhibition is supported by Stiftung Kulturfonds/NEUSTART KULTUR.