Studio Cerrillo and the ‘Ever Shrinking Gallery’ in Chiapas

Plan of Galeria Studio Cerrillo. The gallery dimensions are essentially a cube, 5 x 5 x 2.7 meters.

This summer I began getting occasional replies to my Notes on Looking emails from a gentleman named Cisco who lives in Chiapas, Mexico. In August, Craig “Cisco” Dietz sent me a question about a colloquialism I used and I replied with an explanation and a few questions. We have continued our email conversation over the months, with Cisco giving me virtual high five’s as well as pertinent criticisms of my work, and also telling me of his own art doings as Director of Galeria Studio Cerrillo in San Cristobal, Chiapas.

For nearly a decade Studio Cerrillo has shown the work of Mexican and international artists – focusing recently on conceptual practices. It has been Cisco’s practice to request proposals from artists who are able to present new work, to make this work onsite as a residency-type program, and to engage the local community in a workshop. The artists spend a month in the San Cristobal community, and I imagine that their presence in that city leaves an equal impression on the artist as well as the residents. Ten years is a long time to spend on a labor of love, and Cisco has found new projects that require his attention. Also, perhaps there needs to be a life-span to alternative art projects – people thrive on change, and so does their work. Early this year Cisco had the insight that the spirit of his inquiry wanted to move on, and that Studio Cerrillo needed to close its doors.

The power of this insight was strong in my friend Cisco that evening, as was the spirit of his endeavor, and he was inspired to not simply close his gallery but to curate a series of exhibitions and to seal each exhibition within what would become an ever shrinking gallery. Think of this as a curatorial program for the ages. Each exhibition will be preserved within the 2 3/4 inch space between plywood and stud walls, the gallery will grow increasingly smaller, the materials needed for each subsequent art exhibition, as well as each enclosure, will diminish, until only a small rectangular space will remain. A sepulchre, perhaps, whited like gallery walls, a grotto, and a shrine to the spirit of the art space.

Cisco’s new project will be to maintain the botanic garden Orquídeas Moxviquil for public visits and for research. Cisco helped found this orchid refuge some years ago, and has collected rare samples from throughout this tropical area of Mexico. Orquídos Moxviquil preserves native plants in a setting near San Cristobal. Nice and nicer, good and better. The garden represents one of Cisco Dietz’ futures.

In a dream I imagine that Cisco’s street-side gallery space in its house at Tonalá 19a, Barrio del Cerrillo in San Cristóbal de las Casas will remain sealed for years, with the title passing from father to child – occasionally people from the neighborhood, tourists and art cognoscenti might visit, and stand in the small remaining space at the center of the gallery to soak up the energy of the many exhibitions sealed in the walls. The space within those walls will hold their treasures – not so much like a time capsule, which seeks to keep the past for an appointed future, rather the walls will be pregnant with possibilities, as art is, and available for new interpretations whenever it is experienced, whether sealed or open. I like the idea of somebody fifty or a hundred years from now de-entombing the art – a mystery will unfold in each layer, art archeologists will with care preserve and document the installations in place, and the ideas planted by artists in years past can disperse into new minds, spreading like the virus art is, from person to person.

Might I tell you that Studio Cerrillo functions in that challenging area – familiar to so many alternative spaces – of existing on the pocket money of its founder as well as occasional grants and donations.

I quote from the Ever Shrinking Gallery blog:

Ever Shrinking Gallery

From 24 March 2011 Galeria Studio Cerrillo begins to seal the gallery creating a smaller space after each exposition. The concept is to have a gallery that is ever shrinking, sealing, enwombing itself to eventually be a sacred cross oriented north-south / east-west. From a once 5/5 meter space that opened her doors in 1992 to artists from around the world with over 77 expositions, to a space that measures, 1.2/ 1 meter, with the art work of 18 shows enwombed behind the walls by 2013. A gallery that is sealed, with no visible art, but with the energy and shows sealed for all time.

—GSC 2011

Donate to help the Ever Shrinking Gallery project:

 

Let’s wind back a bit, to where our story begins, with an email:

from: Studio Cerrillo

date: Tue, Aug 30, 2011 at 6:41 AM

Re: Notes on Looking

Hola from Mexico,

Your newsletter is much appreciated. To know what is happening in the big city of Leos Angele is good for us who leave — so far away.

I do have a question, what do you mean by this line???

“””If you’re in California and you’re driving – remember that it’s illegal in the Golden State and lay your device in your lap or prop it in front of your speedometer. (The officers never catch on to this ;-))””””

What’s illegal? Driving while drinking?
playing games?
shaving?
using a sexual device?

I do not get it.

from: Geoff Tuck

to: Studio Cerrillo

date: Tue, Aug 30, 2011 at 7:07 AM

Hello and hola!!

I am excited that you email me. My reference in that passage is to the use of mobile devices (cell phones) while driving. This action is not legal. The law is controversial as many people, especially the young, talk and text while driving, biking and skateboarding.

I meant my comment as a joke. If one places ones mobile on ones lap it is easy to read and text.

I see “The Ever-shrinking Gallery” on my brief visit to your site. I will check out Studio Cerrillo. Very interesting! Will you tell me about Studio Cerrillo?

All my best,

Geoff

Sent from my iPhone

from: Studio Cerrillo

to: Geoff Tuck

date: Thu, Oct 6, 2011 at 4:46 PM

subject: Re: Notes on Looking come rain or come shine

was not a fan of this issue.. i am not a fan of the travel images you used (this time) on the web site..  boring.  and just not very interesting….

cisco

Yay! With this open criticism, I knew that I had found a true friend.

Mutual curiosity drove our conversation, and we strayed from simple mutual appreciation into such questions as What you are doing interests me, tell me about it? Who are you? Where did your ideas come from?

from: cisco <[email protected]>

to: Geoff Tuck <[email protected]>

date: Thu, Nov 3, 2011 at 7:33 PM

subject: Re: Notes on Looking – AYA – OJO – AHA – ORO

bravo

this is a great one. you work so hard..

who are you?

are you rich?

are you a trust fund baby?

are you a magi?

do you really live in LALALALALALandia?

when are you coming to visit San Cristobal?

did you see fart oh I mean art in all?

do you like Man Ray?

do you participate?

do you know Downey, California?

PAZ
Cisco
SC
Chiapas
Mexico

EVER SHRINKING GALLERY

The game is on! I returned:

to: cisco

date: Thu, Nov 3, 2011 at 7:47 PM

and you?

went to UCLA?

born in san cristobal or downey?

how long have you been in Mexico?

are you also an artist?

what did you study?

what gives you your drive to live?

why Man Ray?

do you ever come to LA??

I like you Cisco, thanks for being

Geoff

(see below)

this is a great one. you work so hard..

smiling, thanks

who are you?

every LA artist’s uncle? a writer and artist myself.

are you rich?

no

are you a trust fund baby?

again, no

are you a magi?

um, i hope so?

do you really live in LALALALALALandia?

all my life – except briefly in phoenix

when are you coming to visit San Cristobal?

as soon as i can!

did you see fart oh I mean art in all?

laughing

do you like Man Ray?

yes!! and he used to live and have his studio on vine street near my place (:

do you participate?

yes

do you know Downey, California?

good lord, yes. cudahy to diamond bar to downtown to hollywood blvd – my territory growing up. had friends in cerritos not downey but i know about karen and richard (:

Cisco wrote back to me, fast as a speeding bullet:

to: Geoff Tuck

date: Thu, Nov 3, 2011 at 8:10 PM

see below

you are fun….

On 03-Nov-11 20:47, Geoff Tuck wrote:

and you?

waugh bough

went to UCLA?

si 1970  to 74

born in san cristobal or downey?

Downey

how long have you been in Mexico?

17 years

are you also an artist?

never called myself such.. just a guy….

what did you study?

i study all.. learn every day.

what gives you your drive to live?

my wife and baby and what is around the next corner.

why Man Ray?

love his work

do you ever come to LA??

last time i saw a literal wall of orange smog and said nada mas,. never again, 1998…

I like you Cisco, thanks for being

wow thanks…

see below…….

On Thu, Nov 3, 2011 at 7:33 PM, cisco <cisco@apertours.com> wrote:

bravo

this is a great one. you work so hard..

smiling, thanks

seriously your work is great, your congealing of the art is on, is wow, is cerebral.. Gracia,

who are you?

every la artist’s uncle? a writer and artist myself.

hummmmm, i am not i am none i am a worker.. a peasant. a gardener.

are you rich?

no

me too

are you a trust fund baby?

again, no

again nada, wish i was so i could help so many…. when i win the lottery….

are you a magi?

um, i hope so?

i am mad as in crazy

do you really live in LALALALALALandia?

all my life – except briefly in phoenix

me too until i moved to New Orleans then Mexico…

when are you coming to visit San Cristobal?

as soon as i can!

good you have a place to stay

did you see fart oh I mean art in all?

laughing

ho ho ho

do you like Man Ray?

yes!! and he used to live and have his studio on vine street near my place (:

i have a great foto of his from this period. a long story….

do you participate?

yes

i dis-participate.

do you know Downey, California?

good lord, yes. cudahy to diamond bar to downtown to hollywood blvd – my territory growing up. had friends in cerritos not downey but i know about karen and richard (:

i grew up/down in Downey.

PAZ
Cisco
SC
Chiapas
Mexico

EVER SHRINKING GALLERY

and more from me:

Cisco, when you respond that you dis-participate do you mean what a previous generation meant by ‘dropping out?’

for me, I was dis-participating much of my life until I was almost 40 and started doing all this art stuff.

You become more interesting as I look online and get to know you from emails, Cisco.

The Ever Shrinking Gallery is genius. Honestly.

I understand your devotion to “what’s just around the corner” as I am engaged in finding out what that might be, too.

one online source tells that you ‘support local artists, which is important’ and on Saatchi it is stated that your space exhibits ‘local and international’ artists. is San Cristobal a large enough place to support such activity? stupid question for me to ask – passion and intelligence support what you do, or so i imagine.

how did you come to art gallery business? many dealers that i know began as artists, or were art students. you?

i admire your devotion to conceptual practice and especially you seem committed to a human take on that art. Yay!!!

we just had rain and now it is clear – do you remember the clarity of some November days in el lay?

i suppose Chiapas must be very beautiful.

and i know from the news that there are political struggles aplenty in your state.

does this environment make your work as an exhibitor of art interesting in a way that a less charged place might not?

My continued good wishes to you Cisco

cisco to me:

when you respond that you dis-participate do you mean what a previous generation meant by ‘dropping out?’

no actually i drop in, but in a form that creates, that stimulates  most who participate simply do so to be coooool   to participate, to be followers….

for me, I was dis-participating much of my life until I was almost 40 and started doing all this art stuff.

yeah age can help….  happy you found the way, many never do… you have obviously found a wonderful means to communicate to share to stimulate to promote and you are open for conversation.. that is great bravo for you….

You become more interesting as I look online and get to know you from emails, Cisco.

why thanks….

The Ever Shrinking Gallery is genius. Honestly.

thanks…. that makes my day/night and reason to continue, like right now… i am working in the gallery to prepare for the next show instead of going out, playing with my baby girl or singing with my lovely wife… …. i actually prefer to create than go out… most of the time…

I understand your devotion to “what’s just around the corner” as I am engaged in finding out what that might be, too.

yeah the corner can be interesting to pursue, a surprise… some good/bad but better than walking the straight line..

one online source tells that you ‘support local artists, which is important’ and on Saatchi it is stated that your space exhibits ‘local and international’ artists. is San Cristobal a large enough place to support such activity? stupid question I for me to ask – passion and intelligence support what you do, or so i imagine.

no and yes. sc is very small,very insular, but that never stopped me from making a interesting and provocative space for artists to play and be stupid in and make mistakes and try something new… there is very little money to be made, but hey that is ok… i do not do this for the money i do this to give to sc, to open a space for people to experiment and make friends and talk and drink and find something new…

how did you come to art gallery business? many dealers that i know began as artists, or were art students. you?

well good ?s.

i am not an artist, nor was I an art student, i did go to ucla film school and was seriously into experimental film… but never have i been nor have i ever called myself an artist, i do make shows… I’ll tell you more one day…  maybe one day,,,, i will try to be an artist, but right now no…

there was a gallery of long standing in sc, la galeria, that closed, so i had a room on the street where i had my office. i said hey i can move my office and give sc a space to share and create art,  maybe art???, at least a space to play. so i moved my office, opened the ceiling for natural light and added some lights for the nights and put my shingle out… that was in 2002.. the first two shows were mine then i said basta, enough, and invited people to show their ideas,,,

i admire your devotion to conceptual practice and especially you seem committed to a human take on that art. Yay!!!

yeah regular painting and fotos and sculpture just does not move me much. there are a few other spaces that like that art. so i said three years ago, why not open the space for the edge, for the art that is cutting, for the art that many think is WHAT??? WHY????… more interesting for me and i like meeting artists from different areas and countries and with a totally  different mind set.. it’s fun….

we just had rain and now it is clear – do you remember the clarity of some November days in el lay?

oh my yes, and the days of Mr Santa Ana running from the desert to the sea…… hummmm, days when one could see Catalina…

i suppose Chiapas must be very beautiful.

come and decide for yourself,, you will not be disappointed..

and i know from the news that there are political struggles aplenty in your state.

hummm no, do not believe all you read…

does this environment make your work as an exhibitor of art interesting in a way that a less charged place might not?

actually it would be wonderful to do what i do here in
LA, or Paris or Berlin… hummmmm

My continued good wishes to you Cisco

thanks igual para ti…

 

Ushi F and Walter Gramming, "De las Casas Quien?" installation view at Studio Cerrillo

On November 10 Studio Cerrillo opened the current Shrinking Gallery exhibition with German artists Ushi F and Walter Gramming, De las Casas Quien. Ushi F and Gramming present work based on pictures from Bartolomé de las Casas text Brevísima relación de la destrucción de las Indias, (A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies). De las Casas was a Sixteenth Century Spanish monk, historian and social reformer and in 1552 he published this book to document and protest the treatment of the indigenous peoples of the (newly discovered and not yet entirely conquered) Americas. Pretty cool guy, by all accounts. I understand that De Las Casas is something like a patron saint to this region of Mexico and that the locals take pride in this early refusal of slavery and torture.

I quote from the artists’ proposal:

The concept is based on the pictures of De Las Casas’ book „A Short Account of the Destruction of the Indies“ which illustrated the cruelty against the native people by the Spanish Conquerors – imagining the resistance of De Las Casas himself.

About seven of the illustrations will be taken as the base for our bicoloured prints on acrylic, approximately 20 x 30 cm. Enlarged details/pictograms of the prints will be lasered out of neonacryl, approximately 10 x 10 cm, and arranged as satellites around the basic motives fitting in spaces of the surrounding walls as redundant eye-catchers.

A room installation of seven fragile objects is formed from small neonacryl sticks, approximately 30 cm x 350 cm, hanging from the ceiling beams – perhaps reminding of skeletons. Seven aluminum masks of De Las Casas face are fixed in some of the pieces and float the atmosphere in the room.

Germany has a special relation to the book of De Las Casa because one of its most famous authors, H.M. Enzensberger translated and commented it.

The delicately made original prints are visually translated into harsh digital hardly readable patterns. The pictograms out of these patterns become totally abstract signs. In this way the authors try to translate the actuality of today’s oppression.

The room installation represents the floating power of humanist ideas and ideals which were always the aim of De Las Casas work and is the counterpart of violence.

The concept of the whole work functions like a puzzle which will find spaces between the former exhibitions, but showing its own characteristic significance clearly.

At the end of the exhibition one of the masks of De Las Casas face can be transformed into the wall of the Gallery.

Ushi F and Walter Gramming, "De las Casas Quien?" installation view at Studio Cerrillo

From: Studio Cerrillo

To: Geoff Tuck

Date: Sat, Nov 19, 2011 at 4:38 AM

Subject: Re: Notes on Looking – Harder to resist than ever

A happy anniversary to you both.
cisco

on another note great issue.. bravo.

From: Geoff Tuck

To: Studio Cerrillo

Date: Sat, Nov 19, 2011 at 4:47 AM

thanks Cisco

From: Studio Cerrillo

Date: Sat, Nov 19, 2011 at 5:04 AM

my pleasure.. my you are up early,,,,

 opening was a huge success last night.. (speaking here of “De las Casas Quien?”)

we used candle light to illuminate the art, very 16th century..

cisco

Galeria Studio Cerrillo website: http://studiocerrillo.com/index.php?title=showpage&month=home

Ever Shrinking Gallery blog: http://studiocerrillo.com/index.php?title=blog

Studio Cerrillo news page with images of art installed in Shrinking space: http://studiocerrillo.com/index.php?title=events

Orquídeas Moxviquil Jardín Botánico website: http://www.orchidsmexico.com/index.php?title=home

1 Comment

  1. GRACIAS… the very best to you…

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *