Symbols of Present-Day Power in Minerva Cuevas: In Gods We Trust
Exhibition Review by Madi Shenk
After opening its doors this past November, kurimanzutto gallery unveiled the second exhibition at its New York location on March 3. The solo exhibition of Mexico City-based artist Minerva Cuevas, In Gods We Trust will be open through April 15.
Mejor Vida offered services and products that were devised to resist the everyday inconveniences and expenses that plagued the lives of the city’s inhabitants. This involved, among other things, handing out free tickets for public transportation, cleaning subway platforms, forging student IDs to help citizens get discounts and free admission at public institutions, and doctoring barcode stickers to affix to groceries and trick the registers.
While the work of many artists merely points to societal issues such as impoverishment and institutional hierarchies, Cuevas’ early work provided tangible solutions to the inconveniences of life in Mexico City. Cuevas is an artist that, from the start, has utilized the creative format (in the early days, that of performance) in order to subvert the dialectics of capital.
Arranged within kurimanzutto’s spacious Chelsea location (520 W 20th St), In Gods We Trust combines sculpture, works on paper, and collected archival materials that reference the primacy of industry in the Americas.
Cuevas’ socially oriented art operates within the utopian tradition of post-revolutionary Mexican mural paintings, as evident by the artist’s use of the monumental wall relief format. Upon entering the gallery, the visitor is initially confronted with a piece based off of a mural painted by Diego Rivera inside the Palacio Nacional in downtown Mexico City titled Epoyeya del pueblo mexicano (Epic of the Mexican People) (1935).
In this work, Cuevas has isolated individual elements of the original mural and reimagined them in monochromatic relief, creating a fragmented image that mirrors the cultural fracturing that comes with colonization.
Cuevas has painted both of her large-scale wall reliefs entirely white, allowing them to merge with the space and appear as if they are directly protruding from the walls of the gallery. This opens up questions regarding the relationship between the messaging of the works and the arts institution, taking into consideration how the emblems of culture and capital are embedded in the space. While Cuevas’ work has moved from the streets to the gallery space, this shift can be seen as a means of showcasing the interconnectedness between art and capital, and their roles in determining cultural practices.
With the title In Gods We Trust, the exhibition utilizes the artistic format to equate the veneration of pre-Hispanic gods within the Americas to the widespread reverence of leaders of capital and commerce in the contemporary period. The powers we lay our trust in today appear to be the major financial and fossil fuel corporations that determine our material conditions, and Cuevas prompts visitors to examine the degree to which these emblems of culture and capital are embedded in our psyches.
Gallo, Rubén. “Urbanism.” In New Tendencies in Mexican Art: The 1990s, 91-133. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004.
Kurimanzutto. Minerva Cuevas: In Gods We Trust. New York: Kurimanzutto, 2023. Exhibition catalog.