Pedro Reyes: ‘sculpture is a very jealous goddess’ - Wallpaper*
2 June 2021
In ‘Tlali’, an exhibition at Lisson Gallery, New York, Mexican artist Pedro Reyes carves into the spirituality of stone, the complex history of the American continent and the vocabulary of pre-Columbian and Mesoamerican civilisations.
Pedro Reyes’ latest body of work is all ancient history. It’s also searingly contemporary: old materials and methods as platforms for new socio-political critique.
Reyes’ show includes 14 carved, totemic stone sculptures alongside 11 drawings on handmade Mexican paper. This vast presentation engages with Mayan, Olmec, Toltec and Mexican heritage and serves as a reminder of the foundations of the American continent. These sculptures – rendered in volcanic stone, jadeite, and white marble – draw on the geometric vocabulary used to depict human figures and architectural models by Mesoamerican societies.
‘We do not know much about the poetry, dance, or music of the cultures that existed 4,000 years ago in Mexico. However, their sculptures are still here,’ says Reyes. ‘I am fascinated by the resilience of direct carving in stone. Once a stone has been carved, it earns its permanent place in the world. This power doesn’t necessarily have to do with scale. There are tiny artefacts that can feel monumental because of the intensity and concentrated care that they carry.’
For Reyes, the process of carving directly into stone is raw, spiritual, and respectful of the nuances in his material. Each stone that he collects from the local quarry is, as he puts it, already ‘halfway to a sculpture’, but the other half of the process is crucial: ‘I don’t believe in ready-mades. A lot of bad art has been made out of the idea of ready-mades, but there is something about rocks. Stones have an intrinsic sculptural value that asks for minimum intervention.’
Pedro Reyes: Tlali is on view through 18 June.