BEST PRACTICE is pleased to announce the opening of A money laundering pond, which is also a painting, but it is not a painting of a pond, a participatory installation by Mexico City-based artist Cristóbal Gracia. For this exhibition, the artist will build a large wishing pond in the gallery filled with Valentina hot sauce. Gallery visitors will be invited to make their own wishes by tossing coins into the pond.
The custom of throwing coins into a pond, wishing well, or fountain - besides being linked to tourism - has a much older origin. It is connected to a belief that goes back to the Roman Empire in which stagnant water was said to have healing properties. It was also believed that a supernatural force, like gods, inhabited its depths, and that by providing an offering they would fulfill the wish that was asked of them. Coins are the offering that is delivered to the pond.
In October 2013, a note was published in various Mexican newspapers explaining that in Ciudad Juarez, due to lack of budget, metal statues were being cleaned with Salsa Valentina and that it was highly effective. In the photographs of the newspaper notes you can see a man cleaning a statue with a bottle of Valentina sauce in one hand, while the statue drips a viscous red liquid that appears to be blood. The statue was not only being cleaned, it was bleeding. And of course, it was a matter of time for an eternally still and standing body in Ciudad Juarez or anywhere in Mexico to be violently injured. This blood began to sprout everywhere; the water that flooded the wishing wells disappeared. These were filled with the same blood as that of the statues. A blood that also serves to clean coins or launder money, not just metal statues.
When throwing a coin into a wishing well, it must fall to the bottom with the head facing up so that the desire is fulfilled. The same applies when cleaning or laundering money in wishing wells. It is impossible to see the bottom of a money-laundering wishing well, we can never know if a coin fell with the head facing up or down. When we take part in these rituals what we are actually trying to do is explore and find out what is not seen, to know which side of the coin is facing up. This (over) desire, of not only wishing, but wanting the coin to land in the right way, is an ideological space that lies between real and imaginary or desired constructions. It is a time of transition and possible bleaching or whitening that transforms the unusable into useful, potentiality into action or the symbolic into real.
Cristóbal Gracia is an artist who lives and works between Mexico City and New Haven, Connecticut. Through his studio practice, Gracia reshapes historical milestones and social and cultural phenomena through the investigation, connection and reconstruction of official chronicles, microhistories and urban myths. Using tools such as humor, fiction, violence, desire and failure, his work challenges the ideological and power systems, which govern and have constructed the conception of the western contemporary civilization.
Gracia holds a BFA from the E.N.P.E.G Esmeralda and attended the Programa Educativo SOMA, both in Mexico City. He has been awarded several grants by a number of institutions including Fulbright, Fundación Jumex, BBVA-MACG Arte Actual, and Jóvenes Creadores FONCA in the field of alternative media. Gracia spent over 10 years as a member of Biquini Wax EPS, an artist run space and platform for production, discussion, and exhibition of art located in Mexico City. His work has been shown in Mexico, the United States, England, Italy, Germany, Colombia, Ecuador, Argentina, India, the Philippines, and New Zealand, in venues such as Museo Universitario del Chopo, Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil, Museo Tamayo, Casa del Lago, Human Resources, The BOX gallery L.A, the Biennial of the Americas, Palais de Tokyo, Blain/Southern, the Hamburger Bahnhof Museum, La Ene, the M100 Matucana and in Clark House Initiative among many others. He has been a resident artist at Bikini Art Residency, Lago di Como, Viafarini, Milan, Biennial of the Americas, Denver, CO, Galveston Artist Residency, Galveston, TX, Grand Union, Birmingham, AL, Casa Wabi, Puerto Escondido, Casa Nano, Tokyo, The Art House, Wakefield and Lugar Común, Monterrey. Gracia's work is included in public and private collections such as ASU Art Museum, Colección Fundación Alumnos 47, Murderme Collection, and Guadalupe Phillips Collection.
His work has been published in CULTURED, Artforum, Código, Caín, Art Review, Excelsior, Frente, Westword, Denver Post, Palais Magazine, Terremoto, Utopía, Letras Libres, Gas TV, La Tempestad among others.
Gracia is currently enrolled in the Sculpture MFA program at Yale School of Art.
For more on Cristobal’s work please visit https://www.pequodco.com/artistas-ingles/cristobal-gracia
This exhibition is made possible by a loan from Fundación M in Mexico City.