By Louise Martorano, Livingston Fellow, Class of 2017

My Livingston Fellowship launched with a trip to Mexico City in February 2017. The activity itself was to experience a new city, practice my Spanish, and attend a side of the arts industry that is oftentimes distant from my work at RedLine Denver: Art fairs.

My itinerary formed around attending the Material Art Fair for emerging contemporary artists and Zona Maco for more established contemporary artists. This was the first trip in five years I was able to take and fully participate in, rather than leading or organizing it. After assuming the Executive Director role at RedLine in 2013, traveling on my own terms seemed like a distant concept.

The activity itself contributed to my leadership development because on one level, I had to embrace a real fear of heading to Mexico City immediately after the 2016 election. I was concerned as a United States citizen. Could I pass as Canadian? Secondly, it allowed me to travel and participate in a new experience and new city. And finally, it functioned as an immersive learning opportunity to practice my Spanish. Thanks to ride sharing, my leadership development seemed to happen simultaneously, because I found myself in many conversations, using my Spanish, about the relationship between Mexico and America, the art fairs, and the perception of the United States after the election.

There were two major highlights beyond experiencing the culture and people of Mexico City. The first was the Gabriel Orozco Oxxo Convenience Store installation, a profound comment on “art as commodity” and the accessibility and affordability of the art market.

To the left is an image of how Orozco’s branding was applied to over 300 products available in the Mexico City chain of Oxxo convenience stores. Orozco’s work usually sells in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, however, in Oxxo Convenience Store, he seamlessly inserts his “style” within the products’ brand and in a repeated and simple gesture. In doing this, he destabilizes the perceived value of everyday, accessible and affordable consumer goods while calling into question his own object’s value.

The second highlight was experiencing PlayGround, a solo exhibition by the German artist Gregor Schneider on view at The University Museum of Contemporary Art. In the exhibition, Schneider creates sculptures that share a likeness to playground equipment but are completely non-functional. The rules of Schneider’s PlayGround are not known or clear, and thus inspires inquiry about the architects and landowners of “public” space and the language or agenda that emerges from form.

The trip to Mexico City exceeded my expectations on all fronts, and I am grateful for the planned and unexpected outcomes. The Livingston Fellowship immediately had an impact on creating space, time and opportunity for me to take a necessary – five years in the making – pivot.

After my trip to Mexico City, I would recommend travel to both art fairs as well as experiencing the University Museum of Contemporary Art and surrounding alternative art spaces.

Learn more about Louise Martorano by visiting her Livingston Fellow profile.