Tania Pérez Córdova Unveils an Artwork’s Afterlife


Empty window frames cast in bronze, a large floral ceramic vessel and a shelf lined with ice portraits in sunken relief are among the works that open Tania Pérez Córdova’s exhibition ‘Generalización’ at Museo Tamayo, Mexico City. Time, absence and chance encounter emerge as thematic throughlines in the Mexico City-based artist’s first museum solo exhibition, curated by Humberto Moro. Demonstrating Pérez Córdova’s unique approach to media, her sculptures and assemblages often integrate quotidian materials that are deconstructed and reconfigured to resemble, but not mirror, their original forms. Undergirded by implicit narrative connections between each object, the works reckon with absence and emptiness in different settings, bringing our attention to what remains. 

The exhibition centres on several time-based sculptures. For her installation Todas nuestras explicaciones (All Our Explanations, 2022), the artist produced concrete moulds of the heads of anonymous models, which she then filled with water and froze. The portraits sit on a shelf lining one of the gallery walls. As they melt, they drip into metal buckets like a ticking metronome. This reveals, according to the wall label, a ‘repository of the mind’ – one that emphasizes the discursive tension between positive and negative space as a visual metaphor for the mind taking shape and a tangible accumulation of time.

In Retrato de una mujer desconocida pasando por ahí (Portrait of an Unknown Woman Passing By, 2019), a woman in a black dress with a yellow floral pattern periodically walks past a black glazed ceramic vessel painted with the same design. Creating fleeting moments of overlap between chance encounters, the artist portrays time as an analogue division between bodies. 

Many works explore the tension between use and disuse. For one group of sculptures, the artist took the glass from the windows in her studio to a glassblowing workshop to create a deconstructed version of a familiar space, including Dicen que es como una roca (They Say It’s Like a Rock, 2017). Other works include bronze casts of window frames from empty storefronts. Placed throughout the exhibition, these delicate sculptures – such as Memoria de una cuarto (Memory of a Room, 2022) – allude to the impermanence of deserted shops but the memories embedded in their materials, ready to be reincarnated in the future. Her series ‘Objetos en sí mismos’ (Objects Cast into Themselves, 2018–ongoing) features replicas of found items stripped of functionality. This series began with a brass trumpet that the artist bought from a man playing on the street; she melted it down and poured the molten metal into a cast of the trumpet (Spare Change, 2019), unmaking and remaking the instrument. In the same vein, the sculptures Una reja en una reja 1, 2, 3 and 4 (A Fence into a Fence, 2022) comprise fragments of metal fences melted, recast in their own form and embedded with bird-like objects crafted out of feathers and clay, rendered useless through transmutation.

One of the final pieces in the show nearly disappears into the museum’s brutalist architecture. With Giro de 10 minutos (10 Minute Spin, 2014/22), the artist crafts another metronome using a common appliance – a ceiling fan – that slowly revolves 360 degrees for ten minutes, its movement almost indiscernible. Standing beneath it, the fan becomes a marker for tracking one’s own body relative to others in space.  

Pérez Córdova’s artworks have stories to tell but they leave room for us to speculate. When I first came across Retrato de una mujer pasando por ahí, I saw a woman in a similarly floral-patterned dress pass by the vessel, leaving me to wonder whether this moment of synchronicity was intentional or whether she was merely a doppelgänger. The works in ‘Generalización’ are dependent on these types of encounters. Made and unmade, their mutability is a provocative reminder that what remains in the afterlife of the art object is neither absent nor fixed, but changeable and relational. 

Tania Pérez Córdova’s ‘Generalización’ is on view at Museo Tamayo, Mexico City, until 26 February.

February 10, 2023
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