Dispatch is pleased to present Oh My Cannibal, the U.S. solo debut of artist José León Cerrillo consisting of a series of visual, architectural, and language based obstructions and interruptions: an obliterated window, a wall screen/barricade, and a poster rack. Delimiting states of refusal and abdication, the work is at once an open fragment and a contained form in its construction. The exhibition refers to certain considerations regarding Modernism’s conflicted legacies in Mexico City (urbanism, literature, and contemporary visual design).
In 1928, Brazilian modernist poet Oswald de Andrade published Manifesto Antropófago (Cannibal Manifesto) as a post-colonial polemic that redirected the trope of primitive cannibalism into a cultural strategy: devouring outside culture as a way of destroying/appropriating to assume it as one’s own. Each locale then becomes a site of inherent incompatibility and resulting metabolic exchange. Things are refused and thus naturalized as one’s own literature, architecture, design, music, etc. The cannibal was proposed as a necessary yet marginal event in Latin American modernism.
The exhibition locates the cannibal figure as a position rooted in the cultural-political histories of Mexico. Cerrillo examines such modernists as Mexican public architect Mario Pani whose projects locally metabolized cultural internationalism often along with conflicting topologies of modernism — unity, functionality, and aesthetics — and Brazilian concrete poet Augusto de Campos central to 1960s Tropicalia.
Oh My Cannibal embodies the encounter and the refusal. A whitewashed window, common of construction sites in Mexico City, is here an erasure of transparency that evidences its original presence. The obstructing wall, enabled by Le Corbusier’s standard proportions used in Pani’s urban modernization projects, now a layered system of architectural and visual blockages. The poster rack unwilling to display a complete image is instead comprised of text and image fragments competing, negating, and becoming, all at once.
José León Cerrillo received his BFA from School of Visual Arts, New York, and MFA from Columbia University, New York. He has presented solo exhibitions and projects at venues including Galeria Nara Roesler, Sao Paulo, Brazil; Circuit, Lausanne, Switzerland; Galería OMR, Mexico City, Mexico; and La Panadería, Mexico City, Mexico. Select group exhibitions include Greater New York, P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center; Prague Biennial, National Gallery; Painting as Paradox, Artists Space; and Everything Beautiful and Noble…, EFA Gallery. Lives and works in Mexico City.