Jorge Pardo’s Mérida House – Art Review

In 2003 in Mérida artist Jorge Pardo started on a commission from the no longer existent London gallery Haunch of Venison. Pardo bought a small, dilapidated building between two houses in Mérida and used the $100,000 exhibition advance to completely renovate it. The renovations were designed by architects Mecky Reuss and Ana Paula Ruiz who are both part of Pardo’s studio staff and have worked with him before on the building and renovating of homes for the purpose of exhibition. In 2005, the house was constructed at an accelerated pace by hundreds of local laborers. As the exhibition was due to take place in the London galley in 2008 the curator and Pardo came up with an idea: Pardo took over four thousand images of the houses interior, photographing every inch. He then used the images as a backdrop in the gallery’s exhibition space and created an abstract notion of a house. The entire house was mapped out onto the gallery space. Morphing one site into another. In front of the photographs, the room was filled with decoy furnishings, lamps and paintings that were superimposed on the photographs of the houses interior. The space also featured sculptures from all stages of Pardo’s career. The house built by Pardo in Mérida, Mexico basically became a photographic prop. It was an object that’s final destination was photography. It was displayed in absintena, in the commercial gallery, in a completely different city that was thousands of miles away.

An interesting relationship was created between Pardo’s house in Merida and the gallery in London. The exhibition in London served as a portal through to view his house in Mérida. Working between the site of his house in Mérida and the gallery in London is nothing new for Pardo. As an artist, he is always shifting between sites and spaces with many functioning studios across America. Pardo has been quoted in saying  “wherever I am, the studio is.” whether that be the house in Mérida, Mecky Reuss and Ana Paula Ruiz house (the two architects working with Pardo), the workshop or his car that functions as a portable studio used to transport himself between the different locations. Pardo’s studio or site of art production is a completely flexible, fully reflexive, transdisciplinary process.

Pardos house in Mérida was the second house he has built as a surrogate artwork for exhibition. The first being 4166 Sea View Lane, Los Angeles a commission by the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA), in which every element was designed by Pardo: the house, lamps, furniture, tiles, garden, and kitchen cabinets. For five weeks in 1998, visitors were led on tours around the house. Once the exhibition finished Pardo moved in. For Pardo his houses in Mérida and Seaview Lane, LA, were still sculptures that conveniently function as residences for him to move into once the exhibition of the work has finished. It’s his works usefulness and functionality that prompts viewers and critics to ask questions of the work such as ‘Was it art? ‘Design?’ ‘Design art?’ or ‘Architecture?’ He has also been questioned in regards to scamming the gallery to build a free house for him to live. Pardo has long made functional sculptures and questioned traditional definitions and boundaries of art, using design, architecture, photography, painting, and sculpture.

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