Positions Berlin Art Fair

Off we go!

The tenth Position Berlin Art Fair presents new political art from Mexico and a touch of British joie de vivre in the form of David Hockney

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To this day, a mythical aura wafts around the modernist scene in Mexico. At its very center lie two leftwing artist couples: Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera, and expats Tina Modotti and Edward Weston. But what is today’s Mexican art world like? The tenth Positions Art Fair offers insights. In this anniversary year, the number of participating galleries has risen from 88 to 100, hailing from 20 different countries. Four of the new additions are from Mexico City. It’s no coincidence that Galería Enrique Guerrero, CAM Galería, Lagos, and Proyectos Monclova have come to Tempelhof’s former airport hangars: it also marks the 30th anniversary of the partnership between Berlin and Mexico City.

Clearly, many Mexican artists continue to draw on the tension of their country’s revolutionary past for inspiration— such as Néstor Jiménez, presented by Proyectos Monclova. With his luminous blood-red figures, the painter considers how socialist ideals have been compromised. When his vulnerable giants bend over or bathe, their movements always convey a sense of violence and exploitation. Other motifs recollect constructivist painting, reflecting the clash between the common good and the individualistic pursuit of happiness. These politically charged works cost between $5,000 and $10,000.

In a painting by Jinhee Kim, a woman is lit up in blue as she springs out of a movie theater seat. Other figures can be seen lazing around in a bathtub or staring into space in a three-dimensional room. They don’t appear to know how they have ended up on this stage, guided by an unseen director—the dramatic colors and classical forms make their passivity seem all the more bizarre. First-time exhibitor ThisWeekendRoom from Seoul is quite right to focus solely on the potential of this artist, who knows how to translate influences from Fernando Botero and Tamara de Lempicka into her own unique idiom.

Microchips and swimming pools

The Prague-based Chemistry Gallery prefer a less playful approach. Their booth features the painter Jakub Švéda, who combines cryptic texts with technological symbols, while other works operate at the intersection of sculptural relief and object. They too display the symbols of a technological and consumerist society: cans, microchips, electronic circuits, and plastic objects serving unclear purposes that combine to form an unsettling system that signals the dangers of our hypertechnical world.

In contrast, David Hockney’s system of pools, tiles, bungalows, diving boards, and water currents seems very relaxing. Berlin-based Galerie Brusberg stands out with rare lithographs from the late 1970s and early 1980s. Delicate lines suggest the movement of wind across water, the grass around the pool has not yet seen the summer heat, and the diving board casts a deep shadow. It’s a scene that Hockney, an enthusiastic swimmer himself, is known for.

Bamberg-based gallery AOA;87 recently established a branch in Berlin. Their solo presentation at POSITIONS is devoted to Berlin street-art icon XOOOOX, who pioneered the use of stencils and sprays his elegant figures onto weather-beaten facades and old signboards. For some time now, his works have been appreciated by graffiti fans and art collectors alike

This article was originally released in German in Monopol's Berlin Art Week publication.