Latin American Contemporary Art
Rodrigue Mouchez Armendariz: Of materials and narratives

A portrait of French-Mexican artist Rodrigue Mouchez Armendariz by Marie-Joëlle Eschmann

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French-Mexican artist Rodrigue Mouchez Armendariz is known for his immersive installations in which he uses organic and everyday life materials. We have picked three of his exhibitions to demonstrate how he searches for complex narratives in an ever-changing world.

Throughout his young career, Mouchez Armendariz has created several large-scale installations in which he has reconfigured materials such as flowers, seeds, fishing nets or palm leaves into strange and foreign presences. “I believe that there is a strong narrative inherent to the materials that surround us”, he says. Thus, Mouchez Armendariz’s research mainly focuses on understanding the different layers of meaning carried by an object or material. “Take the Jamaica – or hibiscus – flower as an example. Sometimes, it is used as a pigment, sometimes consumed as a candy or jelly. In Mexico, it is often drunk, once infused, as a refreshment (Agua de Jamaica), and it is considered a national beverage. In Senegal and Mali, however, there is a similar drink called Bissap, which is also perceived as a national drink”, he explains. “Above all, I am interested in the cultural and emotional value of such seemingly simple materials. Of course, I am also dealing with the physical qualities and the textures. But what really fascinates me is the meaning we attribute to these materials, for example, when constructing national narratives. It’s that deepness and the complexity that interest me mostly.”

Having lived, worked and exhibited in many different places around the world – Mexico City, Brussels, Miami and Barcelona to name a few – Mouchez Armendariz’s concepts reflect his own understanding of the world: One that is in constant transformation.

Litro por Kilo, 2019

The exhibition at Massapê Projetos in Saõ Paolo was the result of the collaboration between Mouchez Armendariz and Brazilian artist Mano Penalva. In Litro por Kilo, they reflected on the interchangeability of functions and values that objects and goods can acquire in the context of street markets – the title of the exhibition refers to the way that some vendors reassure their clients that they are not being duped as one liter should always weigh one kilogram.

The artists created a setting in which they put objects normally used by street vendors into complex relations to each other. Objects could be found inside or behind other objects, with functions, materialities and values similar to each other. The composition of palm leaves, jewelry, boxes and folded umbrellas not only revealed the history and social uses of the materials of popular markets, but the artists also tried to convey the autonomy of those materials. Furthermore, they transformed and presented their objects in a deceptive way. Mouchez Armendariz, for example, created flaws and mistakes purposely. A wooden fruit box would seem particularly small for its content or maybe on the contrary, the fruits it contained appeared disproportionate.

Jícara Jamaica (By the Well), 2018

For the Untitled Art Fair Miami Beach’s Special Projects Program, the curatorial platform AGUAS presented A Group of People Walking Through the Space, consisting in three sculptural installations gathering artists from cities around the world – including Mouchez Armendariz, who is also the founder of the platform. The installations were site-specific and indicated AGUAS’s stance toward instability and change as an artistic statement.

In his sculptural installation Jícara Jamaica (By the Well), Mouchez Armendariz suspended a series of natural bowls (Jícaras) filled with Agua de Jamaica in colored net bags that typically hold merchandise in street markets in Mexico. Throughout the duration of the Special Projects Program, the Agua de Jamaica dripped slowly out of small holes made in the natural bowls leaving aleatory motifs on the floor as it oxydated and evaporated. Mouchez Armendariz seeked to find real strength and depth in the materiality he works with and in creating sculptural situations that are constantly being altered. “This is really about how matter can transform itself in different states and in different contexts”, he said, emphasizing on the multifold use of the hibiscus flower.

Koucha, 2018

For El Jadida’s French Institute in Morocco, Mouchez Armendariz created an exhibition in which he suggested a sensitive, almost sensual connection between human and nature. Titled Koucha, which refers to small fishing nets commonly used with soap to shower and exfoliate, the installation consisted of an earth surface that resembled a giant indoor carpet transforming an outdoor situation into an ambivalent space. He encrusted small sculptures made of plaster into the earth and used fruitsfrom one of the trees of the Institute's courtyard called Araucaria - originally from the Chilean region Arauco - for larger works. Furthermore, Mouchez Armendariz worked with dried hibiscus flowers that he had brought with him from Mexico but that originally come from Africa. Also, he included mint tea, fresh milk, henna and other goods and materials in this installation.

By combining found objects of different backgrounds linked with our bodies and our daily lives in an ephemeral setting, Mouchez Armendariz hinted again at what is at the core of his artistic interest: To find and create narratives in materials, hybrid objects and spaces revealing our world as an ambiguous place.

Images by courtesy of the artist
Text from https://www.rodriguemouchez.com/