The Madrid-based artist Santiago Sierra presents "52 Canvases Exposed to Mexico City’s Air" (2019) in the Saligman Family Atrium. Known for his provocative performance and installation art that deals with the topic of social inequities, the artist has created with this work a visualization of the toxicity of contemporary urban life.
Sierra created the 52 compositions—one for each week in a year—by placing adhesive-lacquered canvases on the floor in a building in Mexico City with the windows open, allowing the air to settle on them. Each week he removed one canvas and had a conservator permanently fix the sediment that had gathered on its surface. The result is a disturbing time-lapse of noxious accumulation. "52 Canvases Exposed to Mexico City’s Air" refers not only to pollution in Mexico City but also to the increase of airborne contaminants in congested areas around the world.
Over the past three decades Sierra’s work has also focused on capitalist labor relations in art-world contexts to underscore their dehumanizing effects. In this work he does not replicate the human-on-human cruelty explored in his earlier works, but rather employs art as direct evidence of environmental degradation. Sierra’s canvases also turn our attention toward the systems of power responsible for these current conditions, making us see anew not just the air but also the policies that contaminate our bodies.
The exhibition is organized by Meredith Malone, curator.
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