Regen Projects is pleased to present Best's Method for Creative Design, a new series of fifteen self-portraits by Abraham Cruzvillegas inspired by the drawing methods of artist and filmmaker Adolfo Best Maugard.
In 1929, Best devised a manual for basic drawing lessons to be used in public schools in the aftermath of the Mexican Revolution. Reducing drawing to its essentials, Best's system allowed its practitioners to compose any possible representation with easy, smooth, and synthetic gestures. This method, forged from Best's lifelong research into popular arts and crafts and comprising all art from all times, has served as a generous gift to children and adults alike.
Cruzvillegas has rendered these new drawings in hues of pink and green — colors he has previously used in reference to Brazilian artist Hélio Oiticica and the colors of the Mangueira favela in Rio de Janeiro, where Oiticica used to dance at the samba school. He likewise reprises one of his signature motifs, the primate. Since 2010, while attending a residency at Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (DAAD) in Berlin, Cruzvillegas has featured such primates as orangutans, chimpanzees, baboons, macaques, bonobos, gorillas, mandrills, gibbons, lemurs, langurs, colobuses, and guenons in his work. He describes the origins of that process as follows:
"As I endured Berlin’s winter, I recovered a practice from years back: drawing primates with wall paint on kraft paper painted white. I used to draw them with pens, with lots of detail and patience, then I moved to monoprints and now I do them hastily, elementally, almost as dancing over the enormous sheets of white-painted paper. I continued with the series after returning to Mexico in a large format that requires preparation time, printing the sheets with varnish paint layer after layer and then using a broom to draw on them, with the simple and unpolished gestures of our closest relatives."
"Once I read that gorillas are genetically closer to humans than zebras to horses; that is why I started portraying them. Then, as I did them, as a therapy or as some inefficient or meditative practice, I started discovering amazing similarities to my own parents, brothers, aunts, grandparents, and cousins: My aunt Amalia was almost identical to a rhesus macaque and Rogelio, my father, was without a doubt the closest thing to a baboon. I sometimes dream I am a silver furred gorilla."
— Abraham Cruzvillegas
"In Mexico, cartoonists are called moneros because they draw monitos (funny characters, literally ‘little monkeys’). Around one hundred years ago, a bar downtown renamed itself Los Monotes after the young artist José Clemente Orozco exhibited his drawings on cardboard there, which were large format cartoons, big monitos so to speak. At the time, Orozco had only had one formal exhibit, composed mainly of bitter cartoons about the revolution which had shaken the country for almost a decade, although some think it never ended."
— Abraham Cruzvillegas
"Military governors from dictatorial and coup regimes were colloquially called gorillas, which is obviously a great injustice to the animals. In 1966, on one of the front pages of El Diario de México, two photo captions were switched through an alleged printing error — one picture depicting orangutans arriving at the Chapultepec zoo, the other the infamous face of president Gustavo Días Ordaz (who the people had already nicknamed El Chango: The Monkey). The newspaper was shut down by the government and El Chango continued being (as everybody knows) an oppressor.
Although we continue living in a regime of repression and war — a war other than the one government is supposed to be leading against drug traffickers and the uncontrollable sicarios; a war of fear operated through the cornering of public society — I would like to recover for myself the pride in being an animal, a beast, or a monkey.”
— Abraham Cruzvillegas
Abraham Cruzvillegas (b. 1968 Mexico City) earned a BA in pedagogy from Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México in Mexico City in 1990. From 1987 – 1991, he participated in Gabriel Orozco’s workshop, known as Taller de los Viernes, or The Friday Workshop, alongside Damián Ortega, Gabriel Kuri, and Jerónimo “Dr. Lacra” López. Since 2018, he has taught sculpture at l'École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris.
Cruzvillegas’s work has been shown in solo exhibitions worldwide, including Tautología sin Título, Galería Macchina, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago (2019); The Ballad of Etc., The Arts Club of Chicago (2019); Hi, how are you, Gonzo?, The Contemporary Austin and Aspen Art Museum (2019); Autorreconstrucción: Social Tissue, Kunsthaus Zürich (2018); The Water Trilogy 3: Autoconclusion: Ideologically Inconsistent Identity: Jetties, Gutters & Urinals, Museum Boijmans Van Beuningen, Rotterdam (2017); The Water Trilogy 2: Autodefensión Microtonal Obrera Campesina Estudiantil Metabolista Descalza, Fondation d’entreprise Hermès, Tokyo (2017); Abraham Cruzvillegas: Approximating Vibrant Retroflex Self-Constriction, Carré d'Art – Musée d’art contemporain, Nîmes, France (2016); Autocontusión, Scrap Metal, Toronto (2016); Empty Lot, Tate Modern, London, UK (2015); MALI in situ, Museo de arte de Lima (2015); Autoconstrucción, Museo Jumex, Mexico City and Museo Amparo, Puebla, Mexico (2014); The Autoconstrucción Suites, Haus der Kunst, Munich (2014) and Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2013); Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Oaxaca (2005); Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston (2003); and Museo Universitario de Ciencias y Arte, Mexico City (2001).
He has participated in the 2nd Biennale d’Architecture d’Orléans, France (2019); Honolulu Biennial (2019); 21st Biennale of Sydney (2018); X Bienal de Nicaragua, Managua (2016); 12th Sharjah Biennial, United Arab Emirates (2015); 12th Havana Biennial (2015); Shanghai Biennial (2012); dOCUMENTA 13, Kassel, Germany (2012); 12th Istanbul Biennial (2012); Gwangju Biennial, South Korea (2012); 10th Havana Biennial (2009); and the 50th Venice Biennale (2003).
Cruzvillegas was the recipient of the 5th Yanghyun Foundation Yanghyun Prize (2012) and the Fundación Altadis Prix Altadis d’arts plastiques (2006) and was the artist in residence at the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD) (2010 – 2011); Capp Street Project at CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts (2009); Smithsonian Institution’s Artist Research Fellowship (2008); a joint resident at the Center for Contemporary Arts and Cove Park (2008); Civitella Ranieri Foundation (2007); Brownstone Foundation (2006 – 07); and Atelier Calder (2005).
He lives and works in Mexico City and Paris.