Rugged Reasoning: El Ultimo Grito bends and twists their way into the New Year at Rice Gallery
By Meghan Hendley-Lopez
Rice Gallery, the only university art museum in the nation dedicated to original site-specific installation art, presents massive-scale environments that allow direct interaction through exploration. Promoting artists who use recycled and inexpensive materials, the gallery is dedicated to displaying and programming an innovative season, which includes lectures, films, concerts, classes and workshops.
Opening the New Year with an internationally known duo, Rice Gallery continues to push the boundaries of their space with a new site-specific wonderland of an exhibition. The husband and wife team of Roberto Feo and Rosario Hurtado, better known as El Ultimo Grito, are known for their savvy approach to design and intuitive construction relying on their hands, bodies, and readily available materials that are inexpensive but easy to manipulate. According to Grito, this work ethic they adhere to acknowledges “a return to a kind of primitivism,” before the introduction and help of tools and machines that dictated the path of architecture along with design.
One of their most recent exhibitions in Mexico City was included in the Abierto Mexicano de Diseño Festival, where their work was on display in a public plaza. Grito and a team of volunteers constructed a snake-like structure of plywood, covered in bubble wrap secured with packing tape, revealing a bulbous, organic mushroom-like structure. Over the course of a few days, this piece took shape, ordained with a decorative skin of vibrant black and orange stickers that were designed by Grito. Serving the space, this wild sculpture also served as public seating for the plaza, merging together sculpture and functionality while holding true to Grito’s eye for graphic design.
This unpolished, rugged aesthetic that connects into El Ultimo Grito’s design is their artistic answer to problem solving in a contemporary language. Instead of relying on the philosophy of a ‘finished object’ and the look that creates, the duo focuses more on the imaginative yet functional aspect of construction. Although their completed pieces are professional in fabrication, they still reveal ambiguity and intrigue. “We always try to reflect on what design is,” Roberto Feo (husband half of the duo) explains. “For us, design is just the processes by which you materialize ideas. When you think about design in these terms, everything comes into design—philosophy, writing, everything— and the disciplines are just mediums within which you work. You no longer need to think about whether it’s art, design, a film or whatever.” Hurtado adds, “Leonardo Da Vinci did everything. Nobody ever told him, ‘Excuse me, you’re an artist, why are you doing that?’”
For the Rice Gallery installation, the husband and wife team plan to play with the space, using usual materials and constructing them in an innovative way, allowing room for exploration, interaction and functionality. Their bright colors combined with the organic yet whimsical shapes lead the eye around their unusual design. Drawing upon their background in craftsmanship, Rosario Hurtado and Roberto Feo of El Ultimo Grito have constructed a multitude of pieces now featured in the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Stedelijk, Museum, Amsterdam, and the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A), London.
Hurtado has been a principal lecturer in the Design Department of Goldsmiths University, London since 1999. Roberto Feo studied Sociology and Social Anthropology at Complutense University, Madrid before moving to London in 1990. Feo studied Furniture Design at London College of Furniture and completed an MA in Furniture Design at the Royal College of Art. Since 1999, he has been a principal lecturer at the Design Products Department at the Royal College of Art. Feo co-directed Platform 10, and is currently a Senior Design Research Fellow at Kingston University. Feo and his wife have co-directed the Space and Communications program at Geneva University of Art and Design (HEAD) in Switzerland. Their love of perspective and innovation has allowed this talented couple to overhaul the contemporary design field. Houston art and design lovers have a reason to rejoice and become revitalized this year, as we look to new ideas in 2014.
El Ultimo Grito, New Installation
January 23, 2014 – March 16, 2014
The opening celebration on Thursday, January 23 from 5:00 to 7:00 pm, will feature remarks by El Ultimo Grito at 6:00 pm. Complimentary snacks and beverages including ale courtesy of Saint Arnold Brewery will be served. The event is free and open to the public. For more information, visit www.ricegallery.org or call 713.348.6069.