Abraham Cruzvillegas

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Abraham Cruzvillegas
Abraham Cruzvillegas.jpg
Born Abraham Cruzvillegas
 MEX Mexico City, Mexico
Known for Sculpture, Video art, Installation, Painting

Abraham Cruzvillegas (born 1968, Mexico City) is a Mexican conceptual artist. He is best known for his work with found objects, and particularly his ongoing "autoconstrucción" project.


Cruzvillegas was grew up in Ajusco, a district in the south of Mexico City. He studied Philosophy and Art at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). He later became a professor and went on to teach Art History and Theory at UNAM.

As a sculptor and writer, Cruzvillegas began as a central participant in a new wave of conceptual art in Mexico City during the 1980s and 90s, studying under Gabriel Orozco from 1987 to 1991. Orozco has been proposed as the "dominant influence" on his work.[1] Along with Orozco, Damian Ortega, Dr Lakra, and Minerva Cuevas, Cruzvillegas was considered part of a new movement in Latin American art (which has been compared to the YBA boom in Britain in the 1980s.[2][3] or the Modernist movement of the 1920s [4]).

Together with Gabriel Kuri, Lakra and Orozco, he participated in "Friday Workshops" (Taller de los Viernes) in the 1980s, a weekly meeting in which the artists met and collaborated.[5] As Cruzvillegas explained in the exhibition catalogue for 'Escultura Social: A New Generation of Art from Mexico City (2007): "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".[6] This then developed into the artist-run space "Temistocles 44" in the 1990s, founded by Eduardo Abaroa and Cruzvillegas.

Works and exhibitions[edit]

His works have been shown throughout America, Europe and Mexico. Elements of the Autoconstrucción project were shown (amongst others) at Tate Modern in March 2012, in the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford in 2011, at the Walker Art Center in 2013, and at the Haus der Kunst, Munich in 2014. His work is held in a number of collections, including Tate Modern, London[7] and MoMA, New York.[8] Cruzvillegas has shown his work in single and group exhibitions in a number of galleries across Europe, South America and the United States. In 1994, his work was shown in the Fifth Havana Biennial; in 2002 in the XXV São Paulo Biennial; in 2003 in the Fiftieth Venice Biennale; in 2005 in the 1st Torino Triennale; in 2008 in the Bienal de Cali, in Colombia; in the Tenth Havana Biennial, and the Seventh Bienal do Mercosul in Portoalegre. His work has been shown at the New Museum, New York City and at Tate Modern in London. Cruzvillegas participated in ROUNDTABLE: The 9th Gwangju Biennale, which took place September to November 2012 in Gwangju, Korea. In August 2012, it was announced that Cruzvillegas had won the Fifth Annual Yanghyun Prize [9] In 2014, he was the subject of a joint exhibition at both the Colección Júmex and the Amparo Museum.[10]


From 2007 onwards, Cruzvillegas has produced a series of works exploring what he calls autoconstrucción, or self-construction. As described by Chris Sharp in Art Review,

"autoconstrucción has been able to manifest in [...] many guises, places and modes: from small autonomous sculptures to large sculptural-cum-architectural installations; from mobile musical collaborations to an hourlong film, even a play. Autoconstrucción is multiplicity incarnate. Indeed, the term could be said to designate more of a spirit and an ethic than, say, a theory-driven aesthetic."[11]

He states in Art:21, “Sometimes, I just play with the materials, finding combinations, taking whatever is at hand [...] things, they speak, [and] I try to find a balance among them”.[12]

From 2012, this project was accompanied by works around the theme of "autodestrucción", Cruzvillegas explained that through the autodestrucción works he "wanted to show how "Internationalism" or "Style" is something that is to be appropriated, customized, modified, adapted and even destroyed, according to specific, local, individual, subjective needs."[13]

Empty Lot[edit]

In 2015, Cruzvillegas accepted the Tate Modern Turbine Hall commission; his work, 'Empty Lot' is on display between 13th October 2015 and 3rd April 2016.[14] The work consists of 240 wooden triangular plots bordered with wooden frames, filled with 23 tonnes of soil collected from different parks and gardens across London (including Hackney Marshes, Peckham Rye, the Horniman Museum and Buckingham Palace). The entire work is raised on two large stepped, triangular scaffolded platforms, overlooked by growing light, and interspersed with smaller sculptural works. In an interview with The Independent he stated,

"the history of mankind is based on movement, transformation, hope [but] owning a piece of land that is yours and for your family is the main hope of everybody – having a shelter, having a piece of land. This idea of hope is one that I’m dealing with in this work for the Turbine Hall."[15]

In her review for the Financial Times Rachel Spence compared the work's "tidy blank triangles" to El Lissitzky and the work generally to Walter De Maria's New York Earth Room stating,

"The result is a work of art which works on more levels than the Shard: as process, as performance, as politics and as spectacle. Cruzvillegas says he hopes it will be somewhere “that something can grow out of nothing”. Like a green-fingered Beckett, his less-is-more philosophy makes him a seer for our times."[16]

Writing for the Daily Telegraph, Mark Hudson noted the influence of "Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic domes and the grid-structured gardens of the Aztecs" and stated, "As a piece of gigantic sculpture, Empty Lot is one of the more dynamic and exciting of the Turbine Hall commissions. It feels suspended like a geometric island, perfectly poised in the immense space."[17] Jonathan Jones, writing in The Guardian, called it "lazy and complacent, as if unbothered by the challenge, uninterested in winning an audience", an artwork with "no aesthetic power and precious little to think about", selecting it as his "worst" installation in the Turbine Hall series.[18]

Reception and influences[edit]

For the 2002 São Paulo Biennial, Cruzvillegas wrote: "However art makes itself evident, it shall remain, above all, raw source material in all its natural, unstable, physical, chaotic and crystalline states: solid, liquid, colloidal and gaseous. It is the joy of energy."[19] Reviewing Cruzvillegas' 2003 show for the New York Times, Holland Cotter wrote, "In all Mr. Cruzvillegas's work, little is stated but much is said".[20]

In a monograph on Cruzvillegas' work in Frieze magazine in 2006, Tom Morton discusses an untitled work from 1993 which recalls Marcel Duchamp's 1913 Bicycle Wheel, though the spokes have been replaced "by a circular panel on which his father, now an academic, once painted a bouquet of red carnations". Morton states, "by bringing the work of these two men together Cruzvillegas not only expands the notion of ‘influence’ so that it might include the micro-stuff of specific domestic context alongside the macro-stuff of art history, but also casts into doubt the purity of the ready-made – which is to say, its inconsequentiality, its mute object-hood."[21]

Chris Sharp, writing in Art Review in January 2013, wrote: "his works are often united by an identifiable formal sensibility, whose predominantly found-object or poor-material aesthetic influence is as indebted to Robert Rauschenberg, David Hammons and Jimmie Durham as it is to Gabriel Orozco. The difference between them and Cruzvillegas, however, is the highly personal, specific and inherently protean programme to which his cultural and material universe adheres." [22]

Discussing his works, Niamh Coglan, writing for Aesthetica Magazine in February 2013, notes that "Works such as Aeropuerto Alterno (2002), A.C. Mobile (2008) or Sin Título / Untitled (1999), which directly references Duchamp’s Bicycle Wheel (1913), exhibit a strong Duchampian element, not just for their aesthetic form but for appropriative elements", and goes on to state "Cruzvillegas does with material what Marcel Broodthaers and René Magritte did with words and linguistics".[23] Similarly, Gareth Harris, writing in The Art Newspaper in January 2014, notes: "With his vast range of dynamic assemblage sculptures meticulously built from found objects, the Mexican artist Abraham Cruzvillegas has been dubbed the 21st-century equivalent of Marcel Duchamp." [24]

In 2014, Cruzvillegas was profiled (with Tania Bruguera and Wolfgang Laib) in the third episode ("Legacy") of the seventh season of the PBS contemporary art programme Art:21 - Art in the 21st Century.

Cruzvillegas has said of Gustav Metzger "[his] position as an activist and artist has been a big inspiration for me".[25]


Personal life[edit]

Cruzvillegas is married to Alejandra, a lawyer specialising in migratory issues who has worked for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Mexico.[27]


A list of recent publications include:

  • "The Logic of Disorder: The Art and Writings of Abraham Cruzvillegas" Robin Adele Greeley, ed., (Harvard University Press, 2016)
  • "El corazón de las tinieblas" (Heart of Darkness), Joseph Conrad, illustrated by Cruzvillegas (Sexto Piso, 2014)
  • "Abraham Cruzvillegas: The Autoconstruccion Suites", Patricia Falguieres (Walker Art Center, 2013)
  • "100 Notes - 100 Thoughts Documenta 13", Abraham Cruzvillegas (Hatje Cantz, 2012)
  • "Autoconstruccion: The Book", Clara Kim, Jimmie Durham, Mark Godfrey, Ryan Inouye and Abraham Cruzvillegas (Redcat, 2009)
  • "Abraham Cruzvillegas: Autoconstruccion", Francis McKee and Abraham Cruzvillegas (CCA, 2008)
  • "Los Dos Amigos", Abraham Cruzvillegas and Dr Lakra (Turner/Unam, 2007)


  1. ^ 'Built from Life', Aesthetica Magazine, 1 February 2013, Retrieved on 16.6.14, http://www.aestheticamagazine.com/built-from-life
  2. ^ "[1]". Financial Times. Retrieved on 1 April 2011
  3. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/27/arts/design/dr-lakra-exhibits-tattoo-inspired-drawings-in-new-york.html New York Times, 24 March 2011, Retrieved on 1 April 2011]
  4. ^ See 'Art and Architecture in Mexico', James Oles, (Thames and Hudson, 2013) p.391
  5. ^ 'Built from Life', Aesthetica Magazine, 1 February 2013, Retrieved on 16.6.14, http://www.aestheticamagazine.com/built-from-life
  6. ^ >'Built from Life', Aesthetica Magazine, 1 February 2013, Retrieved on 16.6.14, http://www.aestheticamagazine.com/built-from-life
  7. ^ https://www.tate.org.uk/art/artists/abraham-cruzvillegas-13142 retrieved 12 February 2014
  8. ^ http://www.moma.org/collection/artist.php?artist_id=40921, retrieved 12 February 2014
  9. ^ http://galleristny.com/2012/08/abraham-cruzvillegas-wins-88000-yanghyun-prize/ retrieved 15 November 2012
  10. ^ http://fundacionjumex.org/exposicion/abraham-cruzvillegas-autoconstruccion, accessed 27.11.14 at 11.34
  11. ^ http://artreview.com/features/jan_feb_2013_feature_abraham_cruzvillegas/, accessed on 30 September 2014 at 10.57 GMT
  12. ^ http://www.theartnewspaper.com/articles/Airtime-for-Latin-American-artists-/33758, retrieved 30 September 2014
  13. ^ http://www.artinamericamagazine.com/news-features/interviews/abraham-cruzvillegas/, accessed on 20 June 2014, at 17.08GMT
  14. ^ http://www.tate.org.uk/whats-on/tate-modern/exhibition/hyundai-commission-2015-abraham-cruzvillegas-empty-lot
  15. ^ http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/features/abraham-cruzvillegas-set-to-dig-deep-into-the-national-consciousness-with-his-earthy-installation-in-a6677236.html
  16. ^ http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/182600d6-71b0-11e5-9b9e-690fdae72044.html, "Abraham Cruzvillegas: Empty Lot, Turbine Hall, Tate Modern, London", accessed 14 October 2015
  17. ^ http://www.telegraph.co.uk/art/what-to-see/tate-modern-turbine-hall-abraham-cruzvillegas/, Daily Telegraph, accessed 14 October 2015
  18. ^ Jonathan Jones: Tate Modern's Turbine Hall of fame: the best and worst artworks so far.
  19. ^ http://www.frieze.com/issue/article/found_and_lost/ Frieze Magazine, Retrieved 1 April 2011
  20. ^ Art in Review New York Times, 16 May 2003, retrieved on 1 April 2011
  21. ^ http://www.frieze.com/issue/article/found_and_lost/, Frieze Magazine, 'Found and Lost, October 2006 retrieved 22.1.15 at 15.17
  22. ^ http://artreview.com/features/abraham_cruzvillegas_profile/ Art Review, January 2013, retrieved on 17 January 2013
  23. ^ 'Built from Life', Aesthetica Magazine, 1 February 2013, Retrieved on 16.6.14, http://www.aestheticamagazine.com/built-from-life
  24. ^ 'Mexico's 21st Century Duchamp', The Art Newspaper, Number 253, January 2014, p.30
  25. ^ http://www.tate.org.uk/context-comment/articles/interview-abraham-cruzvillegas, Tate Magazine, Retrieved 11 October 2015
  26. ^ http://www.civitella.org/fellows_personal.aspx?fellowid=332
  27. ^ http://www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/art/features/abraham-cruzvillegas-set-to-dig-deep-into-the-national-consciousness-with-his-earthy-installation-in-a6677236.html, retrieved 8 October 2015

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