ZONA MACO 2023: Majestic Bodies

Beautiful and playful explorations of gender, sex and the body at the CDMX art fair

If there was any doubt before, 2023’s ZONA MACO has proven that the art world has fallen in love with CDMX. This year’s record-breaking edition attracted over 77,000 international visitors and featured 216 exhibitors from 26 countries, solidly cementing the festival as Latin America’s hottest art affair. It has been a kind of renaissance after the restrictions put in place due to the ongoing pandemic. Just as the black plague gave way to the Renaissance nude, ZONA MACO‘s 19th edition seemed to thrust the body out in response to our years of pandemic-related abstinence. Art and eros have always walked hand in hand, spitting in the face of censors who try to deny the nature of base desire as the seed of creativity. An art fair is designed with the voyeur in mind after all, so here are some pieces that took that to heart.

Apolo Gomez

One of ZONA MACO’s greatest draws is the generous floor space offered by the Centro Citibanamex convention center the festival calls home. Exhibitors are obviously eager to fill it, bringing with them their largest works and impressive installations to scale the size of the hall. But Albuquerque-based Apolo Gomez’s comparably tiny tryptic of photographs was perhaps the most disruptive piece at the fair. Featuring drag performer Antho Maravella, these images continue Gomez’s Exodus series, a collection of Polaroids documenting the Chicanx artist’s friends and lovers through the lens of queer kink. The size of the work—displayed on a white wall nearly devoid of any other art work to beckon the viewer in—shares with us a snippet of intimacy as captured in the moment. The tryptic’s centerpiece uses prismatic distortion to obscure the exhibitionism within, reflecting the dizziness of desire in all of its gender-morphing potential. Of this series Gomez writes, “Intimate fragmentations of personhood found in the works represent the multiplicity of queerness and the societal oppression we bare.” Within this multiplicity is the act of baring it all, in hopes of finding freedom.

Bel Fullana

Dangerously hot, extraterrestrial street babes rule Bel Fullana’s post-apocalyptic world. Somehow, the paradoxically childlike purity of Fullana’s style only grants her characters the permission to reign with abandon. These pieces sit squarely between Lisa Frank’s psychedelic whimsy and video vixen girl gang portraiture, featuring the hyper-feminine power that can be found as much in the boundless imagination of girlhood as it can in the woman’s standard-defying ownership of sexuality. Fullana (who is represented by Galeria Fran Reus) is doubtlessly a fan of duality, as her attractively monstrous characters flaunt firearms while decked in stripper-wear. We don’t know what war they’ve been fighting, but they certainly won the hearts of all the cosmic raver art babes who were clamoring for selfies in front of the girls.

Carlos Rodriguez

Despite the mosaic of full-frontal masculine sex, somehow the song “Teddy Bears’ Picnic” comes to mind when viewing Mexico City artist Carlos Rodriguez’s homoerotic collection. Rodriguez is able to reflect the simple, unaffected nature of his tradition as a naïve artist into the blissful whimsy of men at play. Full of a sweet joie de vivre, Rodriguez’s situational portraits (on show with Hashimoto Contemporary) are the queer side of Lowell Herrero’s world as occupied by Fernando Bortero’s characters. In discussing his 2021 Platform series, Rodriguez writes, “seeing a naked man is still quite a shocking and threatening image. My work tries to show the emotional side of masculinity which is extraordinarily rich and complex, viewing masculinity as something that shouldn’t be reduced to a genital symbol.”

Élle de Bernardini

Situated in her research on theories of contrasexual forms, Élle de Bernardini investigates the body in all of its potential manifestations beyond oppressive status quo definitions of gender, sex and procreation. Embedding her own transgender identity into all that she creates, de Bernardini shatters the binary in all that she creates. Despite explorations of dissident eroticism and erogenous anatomy, the work is in no way explicit in the pornographic sense. Instead, materials such as leather, latex and fur evoke the pleasures of intimate contact. Geometric illustrations of sexual organs abstract the body into a discursive language. Brightly colored soft sculptures translate gender expression into a landscape of curiosity and play.

Jorge Satorre

It is impossible to translate the imposing nature of this illustration by Jorge Satorre (represented by Labor Gallery), which nearly spans the full length and height of the gallery wall that holds it. The work derives from Satorre’s 2017 show Los Animales Muertos (perhaps even documenting it to scale), encapsulating both the gargantuan effort that went into that original exhibition and the weight of its sinister subject matter. Stemming from the artist’s recurring dream of predators in the midst of a successful hunt, Satorre also incorporates illustrations of the sex that occurred during the production of Los Animales Muertos, invoking questions of what it means to be torn apart. A “little death” amidst a violent demise explodes as a creative force to be reckoned with.

Images courtesy of Gabriella Garcia