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Daniel Garza Usabiaga

Daniel Garza Usabiaga (Mexico City, 1975) owns a PhD in History and Theory of Arts at the University of Essex. He did his Postdoctoral Studies at the Institute of Aesthetic Research of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and has been professor of Art History at the Faculty of Philosophy and Literature, UNAM. Curator of the Museum of Modern Art (MAM) from 2010 to 2012, he was then Chief Curator of the University Museum of Chopo (MUCh). Daniel Garza Usabiaga has been recently named the new artistic director of Zona Maco, the art fair in Mexico City.


Mexico City 08.06.2015

Bernard Vienat (BV) – Both Carlos Amorales and Abraham Cruzvillegas have expounded on the reception of art in Mexico in the wake of Mexican muralism and its influence. It is a common thing that the audience expects to find some specific message, to grasp some new knowledge in art. Do you believe that social artistry nowadays is related to this quest for knowledge?

Daniel Garza Usabiaga (DGU) – It is possible that contemporary art that qualifies as “social artistry” may have an imaginary viewer as the one you describe ─ one that expects to capture a message, to acquire some new piece of knowledge, thus fulfilling a sort of didactic purpose. I rather avoid making any generalization because I do not fully understand what social artistry is.

Furthermore, I believe this notion of social artistry is heir to the Mexican art criticism tradition. From this perspective, social art is one that is committed to a purpose, that underlines its political vocation, and which makes use of multiple resources to make this evident. It uses emblems, refers to slogans, and thus embarks onto a social crusade. I do not know how effective these strategies really are within the domains of art and whether this kind of social art has, in fact, any social impact. I am very skeptical about this.

I also think there are many artists who offer a very sharp criticism but whom however cannot be classified as “social” artists, because of their strategies and solutions. Rather, they are perceived as just the opposite. I also feel it would make them uncomfortable to be labeled as such. However their artistic practice reflects a critical disposition, although their work strategies and proposed solutions differ from those included in the repertoire of formulas that are commonly associated to “social artistry” in Mexico.

BV- Is this then a way to react to a given local art context, a natural, almost organic reaction, which follows the reflections upon muralism?

DGU – Yes, I think it may be a reaction but I don’t believe it is organic and much less local. I believe this so called localism in modern Mexican art is a kind of fallacy. Ever since the end of the Revolution, art produced in Mexico has been in constant dialogue with the exterior, sometimes achieving quite significant impact. Again, a great example of this is the Muralist movement, which had ripples all over the continent, in the United States, Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Cuba, etc.


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