Tania Candiani

Tania Candiani

Fellow: Awarded 2011

Field of Study: Fine Arts

Competition: Latin America & Caribbean

Tania Candiani is among the most highly respected young artists in Mexico. Known for her ability to make art from the trappings of everyday life and to question traditional ways of seeing, she could almost be characterized as an artist-anthropologist. For example, with her photographs of women wearing cooking pots on their heads as helmets—both a defensive and subtly warlike gesture—and using the words on a standard kitchen blender (chopping, grating, whipping) as comments on domestic violence, she turns expectations and stereotypes upside down. But her interests extend beyond a feminist cultural critique. In Habita Intervenido (2008), she brought together graffiti artists to spray paint their “tags” on glass and to discuss, as she phrased it, “how certain forms of visual expression are prioritized,” and in Kaunas Graffiti (2009), she embroidered onto a canvas with thread and ribbon the tags that had “defaced” the exterior of a museum in Mexico City and then exhibited her artistic transcription within the same museum.

Textiles and sewing are repeated themes and mediums in her work. In Food Quilt (2005) Ms. Candiani created a kind of portrait of a community in Kansas by collecting the community’s favorite foods, vacuum-sealing them, and then sewing together those packages as one would assemble a quilt. She has also frequently drawn an analogy between clothes and architecture, in that the apparel we wear and the homes we build are both means of self-expression and shelter (or defense), but ultimately can shape our views of ourselves. In Habitantes y Fachadas (2007), she invited 300 inhabitants of a public-housing complex in Tijuana to each draw his or her ideal home. From these, she created an installation that captured four of these homes—including a Japanese-themed one, complete with a dragon over its door, and another that was an idealized hair salon—with paint, thread, and digital prints on Tyvek™, a ubiquitous material in home construction.

During her Guggenheim Fellowship term, Ms. Candiani will be working on a multi-tiered project that explores anew the interrelatedness of how we construct our homes, garments, and self-identity. First, she will be researching two historic architectural trends: Mexican architect Mario Pani’s construction in the 1960s of the Unidad Habitacional Nonoalco-Tlatelolco, a planned self-contained neighborhood within Mexico City that was designed for all income levels and included 102 apartment buildings, parks, artworks, schools, hospitals, and other essential elements, and the proliferation in the early twentieth century of the “Classic Six” apartments in New York City. Ravaged by earthquakes, poor maintenance, and aging materials, Pani’s community is now smaller, crime-ridden, and almost exclusively inhabited by the poor; in New York, the Classic Six is a rarity, the victim of age and developers’ preference for the more profitable luxury high-rises. She will be creating artworks using architectural plans for the Classic Six apartments, blueprints of the buildings that replaced them, fabric, oaktag, and digital prints. She will then supply architecture students with sewing patterns and asking them to design living spaces within the confines of those outlines. A seminar of sorts will follow, wherein these students, architects, artists, urban planners and developers, among others, come together to discuss “how our physical spaces are controlled, distributed and marketed to us by various agents and dealers,” as she explains.

In late 2011 she received a three-year grant from Mexico’s Sistema Nacional de Creadores de Arte to support her work on Fragmentos de un discurso domestico, which will build on many of the same concerns as her Guggenheim Fellowship project, namely Modernism in Mexico and the failure of “modernity” and domestic space as revelatory of both personal identity and of the wider culture. Mexico’s Fondo Estatal para la Cultura y las Artes and Fondo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes have also supported her work, and she has held artist residencies at the Bemis Center for Contemporary Art in Nebraska and at the International Studio and Curatorial Program (ISCP) in New York.

Ms. Candiani’s work has been included in scores of group shows around the world, from Mexico City, to Los Angeles, Madrid, and Warsaw, to name but a few sites. The Museum of Contemporary Art in San Diego, California; the Ruben Center at the University of El Paso, Texas; Meno Parkas Galerija in Lithuania; Kunsthaus Miami in Florida; and the Abrons Art Center in New York City are among the venues that have mounted her solo exhibitions. From March through August 2012, Laboratorio de Arte Alameda in Mexico City will host her solo exhibition entitled Cinco variaciones sobre circunstancias fónicas y una pausa, which explores the relationship between machines and language, and the potential of sound, speaker/listener, and writing/coding as materials for art.

The collections of Deutsche Bank and the Centro Cultural Tijuana and, in California, the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Alberta Du Pont Bonsal Foundation in La Jolla, the Mexican Museum in San Francisco, the San Diego Museum of Art, and the Museum of Latin American Art in Los Angeles are among those that boast examples of her work.