From December 1st, 2017 to January 28th, 2018, Estancia FEMSA-Casa Barragán is pleased to present the exhibition of Monoblock, a piece by Juan José Gurrola, that is part of FEMSA Collection. It consists of a group of poems, photographs, a bilingual performance and a found object sculpture.

In 1923, Mexico and the United States signed an agreement of ‘Special Convention of Claims’, with the purpose of mending the losses and damages caused by the Mexican Revolution to the American societies settled in Mexico. This agreement is known as the Bucareli Treaty.

Subsequently, a rumor started to circulate concerning the banning of the production and development of specialized machines regarding vehicle engines in Mexico. Afterwards, the Bucareli Treaty was considered by the local society as one of the multiple attempts of imperialist domination of United States over Mexico.

In 1971, Gurrola asked Gelsen Gas to photograph the monoblock. Gas captured the essence of the found object and produced a series of 12 photographs of the monoblock. During November 29, 1971, in the Manuel M. Ponce Hall at the Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City, Gurrola presented Poemas y textos sin elocuencia: Monoblock (Poems and Writings without arguments: Monoblock). The venue was entirely booked and an industrial refrigerator was placed on stage containing the monoblock. During the event, behind a stand, Tina French and Juan José Gurrola read the poems written by him. Jan Kessler complemented the soundtrack with pantomime. The setting was done by Barbara Wasserman.

Photographs during the staging in Bellas Artes, poems from the Gurrola Foundation and testimonies from Tina French where used to present the oeuvre in 2013, during the Bienal do Mercosul in Porto Alegre, Brazil. In this occasion, the readers were Tina French, Edwarda Gurrola, Mauricio Marcín was the mime and Ruby Tagle as a scene coordinator.

Today, 46 years after the first performance, a new presentation will be held based on the documents and testimonies, collected over the last years. It tries to stay true to the first representation in Mexico. This time, Gurrola is summoned through the sound archives from the Gurrola Foundation. These, in turn, work with the writings, Monoblock and Casa Barragán to create a new and unique dialogue performed in by Tina French, Nora Manneck and Ariane Pellicer.

We would like to give special thanks to the Fundación Gurrola A.C.and House of Gaga CDMX and Los Angeles, for the full support.

Mexico City, Mexico

Gurrola was born in November 19th, 1935 in Mexico City; he studied Architecture in the Universidad Autónoma de México (UNAM). During 1961 he studied Design and Technology at Yale University, in New Haven with George Izenour. His first introduction to theatre arts was in 1965 as an actor. The following year he became the Director of the theatre group of the Architecture Faculty of the UNAM. Later he studied in Germany, focusing in theater direction, photography, painting and drawing.

Since the beginning of his career in experimental theatre in 1957, Gurrola was mainly known as a director and main figure in the renovation of scenery languages. He staged more than 200 plays and operas by diverse figures such as John Ford, Ionesco, Picasso, Klossowski, E.E. Cummings and Nino Rota. He also developed a versatile career as an artist, especially as a painter, performer and in non-objective art, a term used to describe alternative art practices. Gurrola collaborated with various important characters in the art scene such as James Metcalf, Victor Fosado and David Hockney.

Afterwards, Juan José Gurrola won a scholarship from the Rockefeller Foundation in theatre studies and received an award form the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. He took part in several international events related to theatre, art and other artistic disciplines. Additionally, he participated in Documenta V, in Kassel, Germany.

Some of his most important works in the theatre field are Despertar de Primavera, Landrú operettaLástima que sea Puta, Robert esta tarde, Hamlet, and Simplemente complicado. Gurrola was part of the cast of the movie Frida, Still Life by Paul Leduc, as an actor playing the Mexican muralist Diego Rivera. He also starred in El Topo by Alejandro Jodorowsky. During the 60’s, he also created La Creación Artística, a series of documentaries about José Luis Cuevas, Alberto Gironella and Vicente Rojo.

In the year 2004, he was honored by the Mexican government with the National Award of Science and Art from the Fine Arts department.

During March, 2007, he presented an exhibition where he showed his less-known side as a plastic artist in the Universidad del Claustro de Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz. Gurrola is not only considered one of the main figures of the performance scene in Mexico, but also a pioneer of sound art and a strong contributor to the introduction of the new fields of contemporary art. At the age of 71, in June 2007, he passed away in Mexico City.


Tina French

Tina is a writer, translator, director and theatre actress. She translated and performed in productions like Shakespeare, Albee, Blake, Cummings, Welles, Melville, Beckett, O’Neill, D. Thomas, Magaña, Ionesco, Strindberg, Calderón de la Barca, Genet, Musil, Lope de Vega, Chéjov, Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, E. Garro, Gurrola and Ibargüengoitia. She also wrote and directed theatre pieces, such as Hora de Junio, based on the work by Carlos Pellicer, Cantata por los pueblos de Anáhuac, presented outdoors at the Museo Tamayo and also, downtown in Mexico City, Sueño de una noche con Sabines, based in the poetry by Jaime Sabines,

Nora Manneck

She was born in Germany and moved to Mexico in 1978 as a member of the Theater Frederik, she founded a Mexican actors’ company and toured around the different countries such as Mexico, Africa, Europe and United States. She performed as an actress, dancer, choreographer and director’s assistant in several theatre shows under the direction of Juan José Gurrola, Ludwig Margules, Juan Ibañez and Rogelio Luevano, among others. As a professor she was invited to give lectures and seminars in several artistic education institutes specialized in the body expression for actors and dancers. She also created several plays for kids and adults, flamenco and cabaret. She won the Festival del FITU- UNAM 2014 with En la soledad de los campos de algodón from Bernard Marie Koltés and in 2017, the ACPT Award with Salimos del mar y soñamos el mundo from Felipe Rodriguez.

Ariane Pellicer

She is an actress and producer, she was born in an artists’ family, during her youth she performed in a TV-series called Cachún Ra Ra. She worked in the university theatre along with the director Salvador Garcini in plays such as Sonata de Otoño by Ingmar Bergman, and received an award as an emerging actress and best actress for La Sonata de los Espectros by A. Strindberg. Along with Juan José Gurrola, she collaborated in other theatre pieces named Landrú operetta and El Halibut. She was the producer and actress for Nahui Olin, the premiere was presented downtown in Mexico City and also in New York, Washington and Amsterdam. She also produced Las Bodas del Cielo y el Infierno, directed by Antonio Castro. She also cooperated with the musician Jorge Reyes during 11 years in concerts around the world.


© Estancia FEMSA, 2017. Photographs by Ramiro Chaves. / Courtesy of Fundación Gurrola A.C. and House of Gaga CDMX and Los Angeles.