Andrew Birk is a fan of Mexico City. He’s been obsessively recording images with his phone for years. The pictures from his Instagram account (@andrewbirk) offer particular views and fragments of the city which seek to emphasize solutions of contemporary art and stand out as a persistence of painting. The latter is logical when you consider that this is the central practice of his production. Callejero is a large scale project that seeks, from a base of painting, to represent an image of the city consisting of different fragments, like those recorded in his photographs. However, Birk’s work transcends the simple domain of representation, the fragments amalgamated into a stage. While largely focused on research about this medium, Callejero goes beyond the two-dimensional and provides a wide sensory load. The paintings and other objects articulate a complex scenario, assisted by different stimuli (audio, lighting). Through the solution of his works and all other objects he’s able to include the dense, rough, polluted and even sometimes hostile materiality of the city in his scene.
Birk works this out with a number of materials and objects that have been found in the city or are easily available in the mercado (industrial products that can be found in any paint or hardware store and that are used practically all over the city). Proof of this are in the vinyl paint, aerosols and products like Bondo, a material generally used to restore and resurface car damage. Birk’s paintings are informed by the typical process by which this product is applied. After being polished, Bondo provides a finish that sometimes diffuses white color through different shades of automotive paint. This material, moreover, is used in some of Birk’s two-dimensional works; its application recalls the appearance of thousands of flattened concrete constructions from the city that, over the time, have been systematically covered by countless layers of paint (vinyl coated, graffiti, etc.). Some of the smaller pieces also contain this dense materiality. One of these, which has several photocopies, excerpts of tape and a cord wrapped around it, is semblant of an image that could easily be found on a utility pole.
This image of the city is framed by the walls of the gallery that have been painted black and white in a site specific grid, without advance planning. This design recalls the many walls in Mexico City made of volcanic stone and, over the years, have been painted in black, using the white on the concrete to clearly demarcate the boundaries between rock and rock. In this mural/sized painting Birk tries not to accurately represent these walls. In this sense, Callejero does not aspire to realism. In another small format painting, the artist appropriates an animated character from popular culture to transform it into a strange creature that seems to be upset, witnessing a deranged, exalted passion about the city. If the presence of stimuli, extreme materiality, glass shards, broken and fucked objects may denote and cause hostility; this finds its counterpart in the intrinsic degree of discomfort that characterizes daily life in the city.
Daniel Garza Usabiaga (Curator / Artistic Director of Zona MACO)
It is an experience. Its not just the food; its the plates, the walls, the lighting, its the smells, the noises, the street outside, the restaurant sign hanging off the building, its the people eating and talking around you, its how you feel afterwards, belly full, sitting on the curb enjoying a cigarette. Look for it and you will see it blowing through your garden, making you plug your ears and crinkle your nose. At its highest form there is no good or bad, just is. It surrounds us, every second of every day.Painting was my first probe into this world. Examining painting, inside and outside of the frame, is what exposed me to the limits and possibilities of art. The edge of one thing is the door to another thing. Im looking for paintings in places that paintings (proper) shouldnt be, or arent. But paintings are everywhere, a shadow of a cloud can be a painting, compositions are everywhere. Every object you step around can be a sculpture, every environment can be an installation.
Art exists in all places that a human exists.My recent work is a limited attempt to apply this framework, which will admittedly take my entire life, if that, to understand. I am learning. I dont mind failure because Im not sure what that is. I dont mind success because Im not sure what that is, either. I want to see what happens.The way tacos de canasta posters are wheat-pasted to a concrete pillar that sustains the segundo piso outside of the hospital. The build-up of dirt and exhaust that obscures visual information. Objects flung to the side of the road weathering in the sun. Metal wires and rivets and nails tied to things or sticking out of things rusting. The stickers on your car. The hats on your head. The way the sound of a diesel engine mixes with pawn-shop Cumbia. Hammers hitting. A helicopter flies over you. Right now is a piece.If I am feeling heart-broken I focus on details that reinforce that. If I am in love I focus on details that reinforce that. Everything in-between. A dog pulling the leash from smell to smell. I focus on my experience, its just mine, and its a bottomless well that Ill always be able to draw from.
by Andrew Birk
@ Anonymous Gallery, Mexico City
FEBRUARY 6 – MARCH 26, 2016