Often working with found materials and humour, Pedro Reyes creates large-scale installations, performances, and participatory projects that investigate contemporary social and political concerns, including gun violence in Mexico.Read More
Pedro Reyes lives and works in Mexico City. Central to his work has been his engagement with gun violence in Mexico, capitalism, technological advancements, and the mechanisms of politics.
Pedro Reyes is known for repurposing firearms as a response to the Mexican drug war. In 2008, the artist worked with local authorities in Culiacán to melt and recast 1,527 guns as shovels for planting trees (Palas por Pistolas). Similarly, the fully functional musical instruments in Reyes' 'Disarm' series (2013) are made from over 6,00 firearms that the Mexican government had seized.
'Disarm' has developed into projects such as 'Disarm (Mechanized)' (2012–2013 and 2014) and 'Disarm (Music Boxes)' (2020), in which the firearm-turned-musical-instruments are repurposed to play classical music from with the weapon manufacturer's country of origin. One music box, for example, is built from Austrian Glock pistols and plays Mozart; another consisting of Beretta barrels reproduces a score by Vivaldi.
Reyes' musical instruments not only generate beauty from objects otherwise associated with violence, but also reveal that the countries who benefit from manufacturing firearms often escape retribution.
Reyes uses puppet theatre in his art practice. In his puppet theatres, the artist places both historical and contemporary figures in comedic scenarios to explore complex social issues.
Baby Marx, first performed in 2008, is an ongoing series that examines the successes and pitfalls of capitalism through Karl Marx and Adam Smith, who are played by puppets. The Permanent Revolution (2014), which developed from Baby Marx, complicates the narrative by introducing new characters, including Mexican artists David Alfaro Siqueiros, Frida Kahlo, and Diego Rivera; Soviet Marxist revolutionary Leon Trotsky; late American tech magnate Steve Jobs; and founder of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange.
Participating in the Chicago International Puppet Theatre Festival in 2019, Reyes considered the dangers of technology and capitalism in Manufacturing Mischief. In the play, the protagonists, linguist Noam Chomsky and his student, Millie, become involved in a chase featuring former U.S. president Donald Trump and libertarian philosopher Ayn Rand, when the latest A.I. invention is stolen.
Like his puppet performances, Pedro Reyes' participatory projects employ humour to address social concerns. Sanatorium, initiated in 2011 at New York's Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, stages a temporary clinic for treating urban malaise by enlisting visitors as patients. pUN: People's United Nations (2013), which also debuted in New York at the Queens Museum, invites members of the public to roleplay as delegates of the U.N., engaging in mock conferences to solve international conflicts.
Reyes combined satire with horror in Doomocracy (2016), an immersive exhibition in the guise of a haunted house at the Brooklyn Army Terminal. Held during the month leading up to the 2016 US presidential election, Reyes' exhibition explored the politics of fear in the context of global and U.S. events.
Pedro Reyes has held solo exhibitions internationally, including Return to Sender, Museum Tinguely, Basel (2020); Think Twice, Savannah College of Art and Design, Georgia (2019); Glyptotek, Lisson Gallery, London (2018); For Future Reference, Dallas Contemporary, Texas (2016); Disarm (Mechanized), Turner Contemporary, Margate, U.K. (2015); pUN, Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2015); The Permanent Revolution, Museo Jumex, Mexico City (2014); Baby Marx, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2011).
Group exhibitions that featured Reye's works include Second Life, PEANA, Mexico City (2019); Sonic Rebellion: Music as Resistance, 2017–2018, Museum Of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD) (2017); The Revolution Will Not Be Gray, Aspen Art Museum, Colorado (2016); Hors Pistes, Centre Pompidou, Malaga and Paris (2016); Station to Station, Barbican Centre, London (2015); Invento, OCA, São Paulo (2015); Per/Form, Centro de Arte Dos de Mayo, Madrid (2014); Spirit of Utopia, Whitechapel Gallery, London (2013).
Reyes's works have also been shown in numerous international art exhibitions, among them Beijing Biennale (2014); Liverpool Biennial (2012); Gwangju Biennial (2012); doCUMENTA 13 (2012); Istanbul Biennial (2011); and Lyon Biennale (2009).
Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2021