For This Artist’s Bar, It Wasn’t Last Call After All

The materials are simple — plexiglass, plywood, medium-density fiberboard, Formica, nails, screws and light bulbs.

Out of these, in 2009, Jorge Pardo constructed an enchanting, geometric-patterned red bar — about 14 feet long and 7 feet high — used for an arts school in Chinatown in Los Angeles. Named the Mountain Bar, it hosted drinks, smokes and conversation.

But when the Mountain Bar space closed in 2012, the physical bar almost became trash. Mr. Pardo’s ex-wife persuaded him to put it in storage. It has emerged only for special exhibits.

Considering the bar’s mundane beginnings and near-ending, Mr. Pardo said he was amused that it would now be the centerpiece of the Petzel Gallery’s booth at the TEFAF New York fair.

“I didn’t make it to put in a bar, then take out of a bar, and then wrestle with ‘How does this artwork work?’” Mr. Pardo said in a phone interview from his home in Mérida, Mexico.

And yet, here it is, standing as an emblem of Mr. Pardo’s abundantly curious career. At 60, Mr. Pardo is a Cuban-born contemporary artist whose work defies definitions.

He makes furniture and fixtures, as well as sculptures for public commissions around the world. He designs private homes and hotels, and he exhibits in venerable museums. He’s as analytic as he is playful, a MacArthur “genius grant” winner who looks to tease meaning from basic objects.

“It’s interesting to think about work not just as something that gets locked into a gestalt of an image,” Mr. Pardo said excitedly. “It’s something that’s a little bit more real, which is how it changes every time you see it — and where you see it — and how these contingencies start to play much larger on the work than something as unimaginable as an intention.”

In other words, art, like life, is unpredictable.

Mr. Pardo’s family left Havana when he was 6 and immigrated to Chicago. That experience has informed his worldview. Nothing, not even art, exists in a neutral space.

“Being an immigrant, you’re constantly assimilating — especially at the beginning,” he said. “You’re measuring yourself to what is reality, your life is forming, you’re always negotiating, you’re thinking in Spanish, you’re thinking in English.”

He added: “I became an artist the same way I became an American, through the process of assimilation. There was nothing I took for granted.”

He once built a house to serve as a museum: Visitors were shuttled from the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles to the house, at 4166 Sea View Lane. Later, he lived there with his family.

Currently, he’s living in a lush, airy 7,000-square-foot house he constructed in the Yucatán, with 20-foot ceilings, ceramic-tile floors and an open kitchen where Mr. Pardo loves to cook and to host chefs.

He paints smaller-scale works, too, like the two six-foot acrylic works on engraved medium-density fiberboard, plywood and gold leaf that Petzel will show next to the Mountain Bar at TEFAF.

“He always pulls the rug out from under my feet,” said his friend and the gallery owner, Friedrich Petzel. “He’s always surprising me. His work is all about the discussion that you can have with an audience. He tries to unravel the mystery of what constitutes art.”

Mr. Pardo’s vision of immersive art coincides with an eagerness for social experiences in a world scarred by Covid. The Petzel Gallery will set up the bar in segments, hanging his three plexiglass lamps above. Where once the bar had fluorescent bulbs to backlight it, now it uses eco-friendly LED lights.

Mr. Pardo chose red plexiglass because that was the ubiquitous color of joy and luck in its Chinatown neighborhood. On the Upper East Side of Manhattan, the Mountain Bar’s meaning will morph again.

“It has this funny history,” he said. “It has a very casual relationship to what it might mean. It’s not a directive.”

One thing the artist did request: that tequila be served at the bar at the V.I.P. reception the night before the opening of TEFAF.

Sometimes, a bar is just a bar.

Source: Read Full Article