Eduardo Sarabia is of Latino heritage, but was born and raised in Los Angeles. He now lives between Guadalajara and Berlin. I personally met him through his work with the Mistake Room in Los Angeles. His work explores Mexican culture as well as a darker subculture through a variety of media. However, he is most well known for his ceramics. I always question the validity of identifying art by a culture, region, or race. Political correctness aside, who has the right to say what defines Mexican art in our global, contemporary culture? Please enjoy my fascinating download with Eduardo Sarabia, where we address this matter and more.
D: Would you identify yourself as a Mexican artist who produces Mexican art? Why or why not?
ES: I grew up in Los Angeles and always felt Mexican, and when I moved to Mexico I felt very American. When I lived in Berlin I felt at home. Although the social issues in Mexico influence me, I don’t think I produce Mexican art. My work is constantly evolving by research and trips I take. Common universal threads exist in the work, and although I like to work with local craftsmen I feel that the meanings reach a broader audience. The details of issues like drug wars vary from country to country. The imagery is specific, but the concepts are broad. The materials and shadow boxes at my Other Criteria show, for instance, bring contemporary themes with traditional elements to express these concepts.
D: What prompted you to relocate to Guadalajara, and how do blue-and-white ceramics serve as your best medium for expressing Mexican cultural themes?
ES: In 2002 I was invited to work at the Noe Suro ceramic factory in Guadalajara. I thought I would stay one month and it was a visit that changed my life. My work has always been very narrative and the medium seemed perfect. The tradition to tell stories in ceramic dates back centuries, and the blue-and-white style can be seen in many cultures. Mixing contemporary imagery with traditional design in ceramic made sense to talk about our current culture.
D: How does the local community respond to the way you often expose “darker” Mexican subcultures?
ES: I just currently had a survey exhibition at Instituto Cultural Cabañas and Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca (MACO). It was the first time I was able to fully exhibit my work in Mexico. The narcotics subculture is something that is part of the popular culture but rarely talked about in public. It was an opportunity to generate a conversation and the work was well received.
D: How does being a first-generation American, born to Mexican parents, inform your practice?
ES: Growing up in Los Angeles gave me a unique perspective about Mexican culture. I would visit Mexico every summer, but didn’t quite fully understand till I moved to Mexico. In the same way, I feel like that about American culture. I believe growing up between two cultures gave me a specific language.
D: In what respect has your creative process evolved while living in Guadalajara?
ES: Living in Guadalajara has given me freedoms that I’m not certain I would have anywhere else. In regards to production, I like to work with local craftsmen, and this region in Mexico is very important.
D: You are on the Mistake Room’s board of directors. Can you tell us about this nonprofit cultural institution and why you are involved?
ES: I got involved with the Mistake Room in a very early stage. Since I left Los Angeles I felt a disconnection, and being part of this project was very important for me. Since its opening in January 2014 we have brought to the city important international artists, and continue to focus on an international program.
D: What is your dream project that you have yet to realize?
ES: Many years ago I started a search for a buried treasure. According to my grandfather, there is a buried treasure that contains gold coins and bullion in Mexico. During a transfer to help build missions, it was buried in what became a marijuana field. I constantly dream about returning and finding the gold.
In addition to showing in the 2008 Whitney Biennial, Museum of Contemporary Art Denver, and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, Eduardo Sarabia can be seen in a Marcel Dzama collaboration right now in an 826NYC benefit auction at David Zwirner.
826NYC Exhibition and Auction
On View Until July 31, 2015
David Zwirner Gallery
533 West 19th Street
New York City