Architecture and Public Art

The link between architecture, urban planning and the plastic arts is one of the utopian visions of twentieth-century modernity that is most effectively verified in the urban space of Mexico City.

The link between architecture, urban planning and the plastic arts is one of the utopian visions of twentieth-century modernity that is most effectively verified in the urban space of Mexico City. Important housing, education, health, culture, and entertainment projects were receptacles for interventions—contained or monumental—that explored the intention of integrating art into everyday life. Unfortunately, very little remains of those efforts: most of the work carried out collaboratively has been lost due to carelessness, ignorance, corruption, real estate speculation and finally, due to natural effects.

The study of these works is essential for the history of art and architecture insofar as they allow us to question, analyze or interpret their aesthetic and functional objectives; identify the correspondences between personalities, ideas and concerns, as well as the determining role of promoters, programs and ideologies that propitiated —or made impossible— their development; and finally, to analyze how the category of public art was configured, which still retains a significant degree of validity.

In this area, it is necessary to broaden the investigations and complicate the monolithic visions of muralism, the "Big Three", and political propaganda as the only possibilities of public art in Mexico. Revisiting these narratives requires incorporating the invisible works of architects, painters, sculptors and designers; of foreigners displaced by the nationalist apologies inherited from the third decade of the 20th century; and to decentralize the look to address the efforts made outside the main urban centers of the country.

Even with the tone of urgency of the previous invitation, it does not seem to specify the importance of examining such projects and collaborations outside academic spaces and with a purpose other than that of writing —or rewriting— a facet in the history of the Mexico of the Last century. Instead, the justification could be identified from a series of discussions around contemporary artistic and urban-architectural production, its relationship with cultural institutions and its role in the public sphere.

The teaching and instrumentalization of the architecture of the modern movement articulated —with much greater rigor compared to other disciplines—, a binary formulation between the categories of “public” and “private”: the power of this segmentation of space, enunciated mainly based on economic and property values, it has been evident in the impossibility of establishing defined limits between one and the other. For its part, the borders between the public and the private in relation to artistic production are far from a simplified definition associated with the scope of the market, ownership, or the physical location of the works. The tensions between these categories have been the origin of multiple debates and positions that, until now, seek to overcome such antagonisms.

Fortunately, the insufficiency of this dichotomy seems to be being addressed by a good part of the agents that make up the cultural task. Even though it could easily be said that the current political and social context does not favor the development of works that expand the notion of the public, artists, architects, critics and researchers have promoted projects, initiatives and conversations that go beyond the value of cultural production as one limited to representing the interests and programs of the regime in turn —one characterized not only by budgetary austerity but also by its affinity with the notion of art as a representation of ideals, narratives, and civic identities—.

Increasingly, public expressions place both individuals and their communities at the center of their concerns. The public space is one in which multiple and diverse identities and affiliations converge; a site accessible to heterogeneous groups and whose possession is reserved for justified social purposes. Architecture and public art are not so simply because they are works promoted and carried out by the state with the purpose of correcting material or symbolic deficiencies, but in their condition of representing active forms of cultural production subject to the physical and perceptual interventions conferred from the collective dwelling

The objective of this space is not to make a comprehensive record of all the expressions previously exposed, but rather to compile a series of both historical and contemporary events, to approach us to define the current form and validity of the public, at the same time that recover interest in the relational possibilities of art with architecture, whether from criticism, research or contemporary production.