Long before it was a blue chip powerhouse gallery with a 14,000 sq ft, skylit wood-steel-and-concrete exhibition cathedral - carved out of a former lumberyard in Mexico City’s San Miguel de Chapultepec neighborhood - Kurimanzutto was a renegade art operation that staged shows everywhere from a supermarket parking lot and a carpet store, to the Benito Juárez International Airport and the shipping container of a semi truck.
‘We didn’t have a fixed space for the first nine years, and not having a space in Mexico was like not having geography,’ says Jose Kuri, who founded the space with his wife Mónica Manzutto and the Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco. ‘We used the city as our gallery.’
In that vagabonding spirit, Kurimanzutto also took its act on the road over the years, staging shows at the Parisian galleries Chantal Crousel and Patrick Seguin, Warsaw’s Foksal Gallery and Los Angeles’ Regen Projects.
‘Instead of doing another art fair, we like to relate more intimately with a place where we’re working,’ says Kuri, referring to the gallery’s latest exchange, 'From Here to There', which opened this week at San Francisco’s ascendant Jessica Silverman Gallery, running ahead of the city’s increasingly popular FOG Design + Art fair. ‘We’re approaching this show as if nobody knows us, which is kind of true in some ways.’
In San Francisco, that means Kurimanzutto and Silverman are presenting a ‘history of the gallery’, from its early work with artists like Orozco, Damián Ortega, and Abraham Cruzvillegas, to newer stars such as Haegue Yang, Marieta Chirulescu and Jennifer Allora & Guillermo Calzadilla.
‘Going to the back room is like going back in the memory of who we are and how we started,’ says Kuri. There, visitors will find Yang’s geometric abstractions, oil and acrylic sketches, and a tennis shoe sculpture by Adrián Villar Rojas (taken from his epic 2013 solo debut at Kurimanzutto) providing some tension with Daniel Guzmán's 2004 video New York Groove, which features a dance scene played to the titular Ace Frehley song on the streets on the Distrito Federal. (Dr. Lakra’s ink interventions on vintage pornographic images spice up the bathroom walls.) ‘It’s like bootlegging a city in another city, which is somewhat we’re doing, using this space as our gallery.’
Up front, visitors will enter into the space through Jimmie Durham’s Arc de Triomphe for Personal Use (London version) – a wooden metal detector, that leads to a leather and rope screen that Leonor Antunes showed at her solo exhibition at the New Museum last summer. The walls feature an 8x6-foot palm tree screenprints by Allora & Calzadilla, a massive wall installation (made of news articles and postcards covered in red and black latex) by Cruzvillegas, and polemical paintings by Minerva Cuevas that take swipes at the dirty underbelly of publishing and offshore oil drilling.
Meanwhile, the floors are covered by eight cochineal-dyed rugs that were handmade in Oaxaca for the chimerical Vietnamese art star Danh Vo, atop of which the galleries have installed a mixed media sculpture by Gabriel Kuri (Jose’s brother), one of Orozco’s hand-formed impressionistic terracotta sculptures (with accompanying works on paper adorning the walls, all of which reference the lifeline between the hand, the heart and nature), as well as a Durham chair sculpture invoking Alexander Calder.
‘Danh uses these rugs as a stage, so here they act metaphorically as bridges between all the works in the exhibition,’ says Silverman, who was introduced to Kuri and Manzutto by her girlfriend Sarah Thornton (who befriended the couple while researching her book 33 Artists in 3 Acts) during a 2013 holiday in Tulum, where they first discussed the exchange concept. ‘An art fair doesn’t really allow for this grand curatorial premise. At a booth, you can’t address these overarching themes when the viewer’s mindset is "I’m at an art fair."’
That said, Silverman does her best to create such a vision inside her own FOG booth, where she’s tackling themes of architecture and urban planning via new works from Hugh Scott Douglas, Julian Hoeber, Dashiell Manley, Barbara Kasten, Ian Wallace, and Nicole Wermers. These artists will be installed opposite half-century-old Joseph Albers-influenced paintings by septuagenarian sensation Suzanne Blank Redstone, who taught at the University of Pennsylvania alongside Louis Kahn during the 1960s and is experiencing something of a late career revival thanks to Silverman.
‘She’s had this very rigorous practice outside of London, but has never had a dealer,’ says Silverman. ‘But they’re fascinating paintings and they look amazing with Ian Wallace and Barbara Kasten.’
For Silverman, it would appear, one good (curatorial) turn deserves another.