Rising Star Sculptor: Gabriel Kuri

Isaac Perez Solano,

Nobody is able to recall their first glimpse to the other side, when they originally encounter contemporary art, because it seems so prevalent and so palpable. This sensation becomes even more solidified when you listen to the Mexican artist Gabriel Kuri, one of the four finalists of the Belgian Art Prize 2019, talk about his sculptural research. How the grammar of everyday life and all its different aspects and agents shape the whole that is the now. Here, Kuri helps ODDA to better understand the present in a less abstract and more comprehensible way.

A version of this exclusive interview first appeared in the pages of the 15th issue of ODDA Magazine.

Donation Box- Gabriel Kuri at Kunstverein Freiburg

I have always wanted to discuss with an artist his/her concept of ‘Land Art’, the movement. Can you please explain how do you see it in order to break the ice for this conversation?

Let’s break the ice but I would rather not begin generalizing. What I may think of land art is still a vague step into a vague terrain. I can instead mention how I specifically approached an invitation to do a site  specific project in the desert around Palm Springs a couple of years ago. I wanted to address both people’s desire to gain control over a terrain as vast and unforgiving as the desert, as well as California’s complete ghettoization of smokers. I decided to bring the landscape indoors. So I got the organizers to find me a large emptied out shop that had gone bankrupt. This was in a strip mall on the edge of town (quite visibly in the threshold between demarcated/domesticated and wild desert). I brought the landscape indoors by filling the enormous failed commercial space with sand. I proceeded to neatly litter it with thousands of stubbed out cigarette butts and shower it with coins, making it into something between a distopic wishing well and gigantic ashtray. The piece was called Donation Box.

And what kind of movement would you like to start?

One that bans the use of guns in any art form, and of course and more importantly beyond the art.

What differences can you see between dreams, feelings and thoughts?

The closer they get and the harder they are to tell from one another, the more interesting and closer to their materialization they become.

What’s your take on vulnerability?

Building one’s own strength so there is no need to fear nor hide one’s vulnerability.

At what point does health and efficiency become part of your way of art?

I find it complicated to see the relation between health and efficiency in this way. I like to think that I create systems in which efficiency –the question of function– and futility –the reticence of form– are part of the same circular motion.

Nobody Needs To Know The Price Of Your Saab | Gabriel Kuri |

What have you lost and what have you found along the way to becoming an artist?

Every day I ask myself when I will be back in Mexico City. I guess I have, at least temporarily, lost my residence there. I have gained the capacity to miss my city and that most often feels like the right way to relate to it, at least for the time being. The longing and its implication of loss, strangely makes me draw strength from that which I miss.

According to Forbes, “In 2014 there was an increase of 26% in sales, which translated into about 15,200 million dollars (USD) against 12,500 million in 2013.” How does your work get affected by numbers and economics?

There is no world without numbers and economics, and any effort to deny it simply fails. But I have zero interest in the highs and lows in the art mar- ket as a field on which to base my research.
Yes, I am an artist who wishes to make a living from selling my art works (in whatever form they come and whichever form of payment they fetch). Yes, I am interested in the world of numbers and economics as a relevant field, by any human account (numbers and economics encompass choice, desire, the administration of any and every life resource, how this defines cultural boundaries).
And frankly no I don’t pay much attention to what Forbes publishes about my milieu. When I read news about art works making millions in auctions and statistics like that, I cannot feel the connection to the art anymore, or how this could have a positive effect in the creation of great or greater life changing art works. Studies like this, if anything, serve to foster more ignorant speculation in the art market, which is unquestionably one of the most detrimental aspects of capitalism towards the arts.

What is your technique to understand yourself in the social environment that you are living today?

My practice is exactly an effort to understand myself in the social environment. My practice involves many different techniques that go from very simple and immediate gestures, to more elaborate material constructions, always touching back to my direct experience.

Artwork Untitled by Gabriel Kuri

Instead of just commenting about the progress (in general) or get carried away by your success, what creates [in you] the need to land again?

Making art is going back to zero, restarting over and over. And it never feels quite the same way to restart, both with regards to the emptiness of the blank restart, as well as the hue of that blank. The vertigo of being lost again pulls me, although it is not one that is strictly enjoyable.


You have said that you are always trying to achieve punctuality with the way how you work things or materials. How would you explain this phrase to someone who doesn’t know your work or is not a fan of contemporary art?

To anyone who is not familiar with contemporary art, I would try to settle these terms as strictly a matter of technique. There is a way to do something exactly right, and I yearn to find that, or better said: I hope that the project, idea or symptom is able to dictate exactly how it should be materially, formally and technically put forward. That is the punctuality I aspire to, that each one of my works is done in the right way, with the right materials, timing and touch, and no more.

Art, as a whole, depends on what: a philosophical thought or a poetic understanding?

Well of course both. Artistic practice is a life philosophy. It is an occupation that deals with simple and also big questions. But I believe there is a force in art that does not need to be broken down or explained, however it may well establish patterns and parameters. These patterns and parameters being where poetic quotient or rigor lies.

Is it permissible to talk about beauty in contemporary art?

Of course. But I would rather think of evidence as the form of beauty to strive for.

Mexican architect Tatiana Bilbao has said that she thinks that there is a certain set of universal values to define beauty: proportion, light, scale. What’s your opinion about that?

I am surprised to hear that. It sounds like she may be reading all the wrong books.

the writer

Isaac Perez Solano

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