Wilson Díaz

Museo Tamayo, Mexico City, Mexico 

Artists are often the most obsessive collectors, and examples of artist collections abound: from Andy Warhol’s cookie jars and ‘time capsules’, to Martin Parr’s Soviet space dog memorabilia and Hiroshi Sugimoto’s medical instruments. Sometimes these collections serve as reference material or talismans, providing insight into the artist’s psyche and processes. Other times they make their way directly into the work, as is the case in ‘Quimera’ (Chimera), Wilson Díaz’s exhibition at Museo Tamayo, which presents the Colombian artist’s vinyl record collection alongside his oil and watercolour paintings.

Occupying a single room on the museum’s lower floor, Díaz’s eponymous installation is a tidy display of records interspersed with paintings on two adjacent walls, and a large-scale double-sided watercolour hanging in the middle of the room like a quattrocento altarpiece. The show extends outside the institution, into the urban greenery of Chapultepec park, with two paintings propped up as billboards – two-dimensional works now in three, thanks to the amplitude of their open-air display.

quimera_c_agustin-garza-11.jpg

Wilson Díaz, ‘Quimera’, 2017, installation view, Tamayo Museum, Mexico City. Courtesy: Tamayo Museum, Mexico City; photograph: © Agustin Garza

Wilson Díaz, ‘Quimera’, 2017, installation view, Museo Tamayo, Mexico City. Courtesy: Museo Tamayo, Mexico City; photograph: © Agustin Garza

Díaz first started collecting records in the 1970s, and began consciously compiling them for an art project in 2008. When production costs for vinyl records dropped dramatically in the 1960s and ‘70s, the Colombian state and private corporations began using them to cheaply disseminate information to the population, eliding the messages and methods of the music industry and more conventional propagandists. Though his initial purchases were likely based purely on personal taste, Díaz gradually began to acquire records that relate to the history of Colombia, and the complex connections between Colombian pop culture, state power, private corporations and organized crime. The collection is eclectic, though hardly reflective of Díaz’s musical tastes – his finely attuned selection ranges from a series launched by presidential candidates; to records sponsored by various industries (examples include pharmaceuticals, resins, oil and banking); to those issued by a Cali-based record company that belonged to a drug trafficker in the 1990s.

The installation manages to interrogate Colombia’s history of violent conflict without picturing it. Most of the albums’ cover art is cheerfully nostalgic: white ties, side ponytails, shoulder pads and coloured stripes, all redolent of 1980s and ‘90s fashion. Díaz’s colourful, cartoonish paintings hang alongside: a banana that slipped on a banana peel, an ostensibly Mexican desert scene with a cactus and a scull under the burning sun, comic book monsters – all appearing equally inoffensive. Such pictorial innocence, not devoid of light ridicule, contrasts sharply with media representation of conflict and the desensitization of violence in an age where war is witnessed via Facebook Live. In the large-scale watercolour that hangs in the centre of the room, the military are not fighting drug dealers or Marxist guerillas, but cyborgs and aliens. ‘In 1999, we, iron-men, confronted a terrifying threat for our planet…for the human race’, reads a caption to a painted comic strip on the wall opposite. A soldier appears harmlessly inert, like a cartoon villain.

For his project, Díaz assumes the role not merely of collector, but of archivist and interpreter – in the words of John Akomfrah ‘sifting through the debris and detritus of past events for traces of the phantoms’. He approaches cover art as a hidden index of an era’s socio-political relationships: between singers and drug traffickers, guerillas and local bands, the government and its citizens. Like an archaeologist of Colombia’s recent past, Díaz unearths dusty records from thrift shops in an effort to decode the language of advertising and propaganda, sweetly wrapped in the package of popular music.

Main image: Wilson Díaz, ‘Quimera’, 2017, installation view, Museo Tamayo, Mexico City. Courtesy: Museo Tamayo, Mexico City; photograph: © Agustin Garza

Aliya Say writes on contemporary art and culture. She is currently based in Moscow, Russia.

Issue 191

First published in Issue 191

November - December 2017

Most Read

Ahead of ARCOMadrid this week, a guide to the best institutional shows in the city
At La Panacée, Montpellier, Nicolas Bourriaud’s manifesto for a new movement and attempt to demarcate an artistic peer...
A report commissioned by the museum claims Raicovich ‘misled’ the board; she disputes the investigation’s claims
In further news: Jef Geys (1934–2018); and Hirshhorn postpones Krzysztof Wodiczko projection after Florida shooting
If the city’s pivot to contemporary art was first realized by landmark construction, then what comes after might not...
Ignoring its faux-dissident title, this year's edition at the New Museum displays a repertoire that is folky, angry,...
An insight into royal aesthetics's double nature: Charles I’s tastes and habits emerge as never before at London’s...
In other news: Artforum responds to #NotSurprised call for boycott of the magazine; Maria Balshaw apologizes for...
At transmediale in Berlin, contesting exclusionary language from the alt-right to offshore finance
From Shanghai to Dubai, a new history charts the frontiers where underground scenes battle big business for electronic...
Hauser & Wirth Somerset, Bruton, UK
Zihan Karim, Various Way of Departure, 2017, video still. Courtesy: Samdani Art Foundation
Can an alternative arts network, unmediated by the West's commercial capitals and burgeoning arts economies of China...
‘That moment, that smile’: collaborators of the filmmaker pay tribute to a force in California's film and music scenes...
In further news: We Are Not Surprised collective calls for boycott of Artforum, accuses it of 'empty politics'; Frida...
We Are Not Surprised group calls for the magazine to remove Knight Landesman as co-owner and withdraw move to dismiss...
Paul Thomas Anderson's latest film is both gorgeous and troubling in equal measure
With Zona Maco opening in the city today, a guide to the best exhibitions across the Mexican capital
The question at the heart of Manchester Art Gallery’s artwork removal: what are the risks when cultural programming...
In further news: Sonia Boyce explains removal of Manchester Art Gallery’s nude nymphs; Creative Scotland responds to...
Ahead of the India Art Fair running this weekend in the capital, a guide to the best shows to see around town
The gallery argues that the funding body is no longer supportive of institutions that maintain a principled refusal of...
The Dutch museum’s decision to remove a bust of its namesake is part of a wider reconsideration of colonial histories,...
At New York’s Metrograph, a diverse film programme addresses a ‘central problem’ of feminist filmmaking
Ronald Jones pays tribute to a rare critic, art historian, teacher and friend who coined the term Post-Minimalism
In further news: curators rally behind Laura Raicovich; Glasgow's Transmission Gallery responds to loss of Creative...
Nottingham Contemporary, UK
‘An artist in a proud and profound sense, whether he liked it or not’ – a tribute by Michael Bracewell
Ahead of a show at Amsterdam’s EYE Filmmuseum, how the documentarian’s wandering gaze takes in China’s landscapes of...
In further news: Stedelijk explains why it cancelled Ettore Sottsass retrospective; US National Gallery of Art cancels...
With 11 of her works on show at the Musée d'Orsay, one of the most underrated artists in modern European history is...
Reopening after a two-year hiatus, London’s brutalist landmark is more than a match for the photographer’s blockbuster...
What the Google Arts & Culture app tells us about our selfie obsession
At a time of #metoo fearlessness, a collection of female critics interrogate their own fandom for music’s most...
A rare, in-depth interview with fashion designer Jil Sander

Latest Magazines

frieze magazine

November - December 2017

frieze magazine

January - February 2018

frieze magazine

March 2018