06/04 – 25/05

“The United States is a country of steel and Mexico of concrete.” This was one of the statements made by the American architecture critic Paul Heyer during a conference dictated in Mexico City in 1977. Heyer was surprised by the scale and number of projects developed with this material that covered not only big examples of modern architecture but also public art. This panorama can be understood if one considers that, since the twenties and thirties of the last century, the national cement industries achieved significant agreements with the state to guarantee the availability of this product for its large projects of modernization. In the same way, since those decades, the industries developed different initiatives and strategies to place the concrete as a propitious material for avant-garde architecture and art – from the contest called by Cementos Tolteca at the beginning of the thirties, in which Manuel Álvarez Bravo won the first prize, until the participation of the Chamber of Cement Industry in the construction of the Route of Friendship in the sixties.

Concreto Nacional is a project by Daniel Alcalá that, in part, reflects on this historical moment. Three pieces that are presented as examples of visual poetry refer to concrete, to a large modernization project National Program (the National Border Program – PRONAF) and Mathias Goeritz as one of the drivers of urban monumental sculpture made in concrete. This variation of public art, prototypical of Mexico, is the focus of attention of another group of pieces in the exhibition. The artist has selected a repertoire of these sculptures, executed mostly in the sixties and seventies, which over time have become emblems of a moment in modern art and, in itself, of the modernization of the country. With its two-dimensional solution, the iconic character with which these sculptures have always counted from of its geometric or simplified solutions and that contributes in its identification and recognition. It would be worth mentioning that Alcalá gets many of these file images in second hand markets as well as records produced by himself. In this way, he has gathered an important collection of images that comprise from urban scale projects (such as those developed by PRONAF) even architectural details, such as lattices. Although this material, is not usually exposed or published it is of first importance in his research and lends itself to the comparative analysis between the original state of these constructions and their current condition as well as to generate a record of projects that at any time could disappear.

Daniel Garza Usabiaga