PRAXIS TALLER DE ARQUITECTURA; CDMX, MX.
PRAXIS Taller de Arquitectura Agustín Hernández opened its doors for the first time to the public with the exhibition Por debajo del árbol (What Lies Under the Tree); a project presented by PEANA and curated by Ana Pérez Escoto and Carlota Pérez-Jofre, bringing together contemporary works of fifteen artists in dialogue with Agustin Hernández’s universe.
Agustín Hernández, ASMA, Carlos H. Matos, Francois Halard, Ghislaine Leung, Lila de Magalhaes, Louis Eisner, Lucas Cantú, Mario García Torres, Pedro Reyes, Rodrigo Hernandez, Ryan Lowry, Santiago Licata, Stella Zhong, Tomas Diaz Cedeño, Carlos H. Matos, Francois Halard Cedeño, Tania Pérez Córdova.
Our evolutionary nature has forced us to seek a psychological sense of security and protection -and to build spaces that allow it- in order to put aside our vigilant instinct and reach deep states of sleep. Built from a set of prisms and pyramids that seem impenetrable, Agustín Hernández‘s workshop, known as PRAXIS (1975), floats among the trees at a height of forty meters. With steel roots that go underground and replicating the principles of compression and tension of the branches of the ocotes, the Mexican architect built the perfect sanctuary to be able to “dream his research out loud”. Given the opportunity to observe his private world, his discordant ideas become heartfelt confessions. Monumentality breaks down into vulnerabilities. What universes unfold behind these secret passageways? What creatures inhabit this unique tree house? How has the passage of time revealed certain flaws in the matrix? matrix? It is here that reality becomes dreamlike.
In dialogue with the traces left behind in Agustin’s workshop at Praxis, What Lies Under the Tree, begins with sculptures that draw lines with architectural representation, approaching the model as a field of speculation. The pieces by Carlos H. Matos, Pedro Reyes and Agustín Hernández himself, despite their diverse references and techniques, find common ground in the use of pre-Hispanic language as the foundation of modern identity in Mexico. Rodrigo Hernández sets aside earthly heaviness with the sculpture ¿Qué escucho cuando escucho el discurrir del tiempo? (2019), which from the visual synthesis makes an invitation to play, imagination and explore the most private corners of the house-studio. François Halard presents a series of photographs taken in 2020, as an intimate glimpse into the studio when it was still in use. Ryan Lowry‘s photographs capture spontaneous moments he shared with Agustín recently, though their retro look lends them the same nostalgic air as the accompanying images of the architect as a child, as well as the blueprints and models of projects that, unfortunately, were never constructed.
One floor up, Mario García Torres presents a series of bronze sculptures that replicate pieces of parquet rescued from the Meditation Center that Hernández made for his sister, Amalia, in 1984; today a ruin. Space and Thought: New Perspectives on the Tree House (2022) is a phenomenological project by Lucas Cantú that seeks to dialogue and overlap with the architect’s archive, as well as to question the possibilities of inhabiting the uninhabitable: camping in mid air, suspended from a concrete tree to visualize the world through a disconnected retreat. Tania Pérez Córdova‘s work is based on everyday objects and explores the implicit narratives of her materials; her series Contenidos de bolsillo (2021) is an attempt to recover vanished moments, while Escena para un baño (2022) responds to the space itself as if it were a theatrical set, designed to tell stories. Clocks (2022) by Ghislaine Leung and Pieza mural (Hoy si hubo, mañana quien sabe) (2022) by Tomás Díaz Cedeño, operate as interventions in a system that goes beyond the immediate space: Leung’s piece makes each electrical outlet visible, shining a subtle light on details that would otherwise go unnoticed, while Díaz Cedeño replaces the electrical switches with small pieces that put into perspective the concept of the mural in relation to monumentality. All at Once (2021) by Lila de Magalhaes uses as medium scraps of dyed bed sheets to inmerse us in a world as delicate as it is psychedelic, where a pair strange insects smile tenderly.
The highest part of the tree serves as both a lookout and a lighthouse, illuminating through a skylight the three internal levels of the house-studio. Already in this alternate reality, El niño y la serpiente (2020) and Vampiro frente al espejo (2020) by the artistic duo ASMA, explore transformation as a place of endless possibilities. Stella Zhong‘s satellite presents itself as a failed attempt to connect us with the infinite, with that world of ghostly appearances that glimmers in Santiago Licata‘s series images on graphite. And, on that plane where incoherence reigns, Louis Eisner pays homage to the collective psychosis with a portrait of a tormented baboon.
At first glance, Agustín Hernández could be placed in the cult-like category of “men who fell to Earth”, his work seemed alien, always breaking with the norm; materializations of the utopian. However, reviewing in detail his almost one hundred years of life—his emotional architecture, his poetry, his drawings, his memories and his unrealized projects—it becomes clear that his sensibility could not be from another world. His tireless pursuit for novelty, always based on historical and scientific knowledge, is reflected in the spaces he has built, which to this day are meeting points and intergenerational references. What Lies Under the Tree is but one example of the multiple worlds that can exist within the universe of Agustín Hernández.
Aída Cantú Artigas