Home Magazine The man who became Carlos Amorales!

The artistic practice of Carlos Amorales has become a poignant social and political critique when he started to play with his identity, to push the boundaries of his own authorship, using masks, encrypted codes, collages, the internet, in the junction between the individual and collective sphere.    

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A room covered with a black swarm of paper moths in remembrance of the dying grandmother. This personal image belongs to the mind of Mexican artist Carlos Amorales (Mexico City, 1970) who has rendered it into a famous artwork, Black Cloud (2007). After travelling around the world, Black Cloud has landed in Amsterdam at Stedelijk Museum for the first-ever retrospective exhibition in Europe dedicated to one of Mexico’s most important contemporary artists from the 1990s. “The Factory” - whose title refers to Andy Warhol’s fabulous factory, the notion of mass-production, commodification and art market - includes drawings, installations, spatial works, paintings, videos, animation, prints, textiles and sound works. The diverse components are mounted in a non-chronological and non-thematical trajectory, but open and fluid, and all the performative, visual, musical and literary narratives of the show deal with the subject of the mask (and masking). In fact, Amorales is a fictional artistic identity. 

Carlos Amorales, Orgy of Narcissus, 2019. Courtesy of the artist, kurimanzutto, Mexico City / New York, and Nils Stærk Gallery.
These works were developed in collaboration with the TextielLab, the professional workshop of the TextielMuseum


Carlos Amorales, Peep Show, 2019. Edition produced by Galería Albarrán Bourdais, Courtesy of the artist.


It was during his studies at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie and the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam, in the last decade of the 20th Century, that Carlos - the son of Rowena Morales and Carlos Aguirre, both renowned Mexican conceptual artists - decided to contract his parent’s surname into “amorales”. Attuned to the term “amoral”, Carlos Amorales has begun to perform, in venues and leading museums, with a wrestling mask, inspired by the popular culture of Mexican Lucha Libre, which allowed him to be an unconventional Non-Western artist in a Western art world. Through the release of an Identity Loan Certificate, the artist enabled other people to temporary adopt his “Amorales character” for discussions, lectures, and even art training. The Amorales artistic persona crosses the liminal spaces, in-between the individual and society, the public and the private, the fact and the fiction, art and reality, realms that nowadays we experience almost indistinguishable with vague borders. His practice is, like a mask, a combination of porous layers and it encompasses different disciplines like Life in The Folds, the total work of art with which Amorales represented the Pavilion of Mexico at Venice Biennale in 2017 (also presented in “The Factory”). A mixed-media installation that narrates the story of a lynching of a migrant family, built with a multi-faceted visual and sound vocabulary; self-designed abstract cutouts that form an illegible alphabet, a film animation, and a group of three-dimensional objects in the shape of an ocarina, a clay flute that can be played. These cutouts images are extrapolated from the Liquid Archive, a digital open-source database containing thousands of monochrome silhouettes and drawings - from contemporary subculture, traditional crafts, popular culture and conceptual art - generated by the artist since when he had returned to Mexico City in 2004. Over the last fifteen years, Amorales gleaned from this image bank the visual resources to build his rich, sharp and complex body of work. His masquerade - from the body to the voice, through image and text - can be considered as a filter from Western cultural spam, a tool for researching the fictive space of the internet, an interface between the self and the others.


Carlos Amorales, We’ll See How All Reverberates, 2012. Courtesy of the artist and kurimanzutto, Mexico City / New York


Carlos Amorales, El no me mires (The Eye-Me-Not), 2015. Courtesy of the artist and kurimanzutto, Mexico City / New York


As Amorales brilliantly explains: “the exotic exterior of the mask allowed me to catch the public’s attention, but inside the mask, I was free to research the conceptual artistic strategies that interested me, just like any Western artist who was not expected to represent his or her cultural identity”. As well as the image of black butterflies in Black Cloud has transited from an intimate dimension to the fashion industry - the motif of the swarm of moths appeared on the catwalk (Black Cloud Aftermath, 2007–2016) - blurring the lines and becoming a sort of meme, the Amorales artistic procedure in “The Factory” fuses together the private and the public domains - into a “New way of being” (C. Amorales, “The Factory Manifesto”), into a new mask.   

Cover image: Carlos Amorales, Black Cloud, 2007 (installation view). Collection of Diane and Bruce Halle.

Written by Petra Chiodi

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