Two exhibitions opening at the Dallas Contemporary this month explore the influence of a Mexican ceramics factory on the international art and design scenes. One is a curated look at the internationally significant art collection amassed by Cerámica Suro, the family-owned ceramic studio located in Guadalajara. The other is a solo exhibition by multidisciplinary artist Eduardo Sarabia, who began incorporating pottery into his work after an informal residency at Suro.
Since the 1950s, Cerámica Suro has functioned as a high-profile workshop specializing in decorative and dinnerware ceramics, many of which are used at luxury resorts throughout Mexico and at quite a few Dallas restaurants (José, Park House, Commissary). When José Suro joined the family business in 1993, he embraced more creative endeavors, inviting some of the most significant contemporary artists to use the studio as a sort of incubator. Many of these were artists who don’t typically work in ceramics, including architect David Adjaye, conceptual artist John Baldessari, textile artist Pia Camil, and painter Sarah Morris. Suro’s collection, which is a direct result of these collaborations, contains more than 700 artworks, a selection from which will be on display at the Contemporary in “Cerámica Suro: a Story of Collaboration, Production, and Collecting in the Contemporary Arts.”
The concurrent exhibition by Sarabia, “This Must Be the Place,” offers an in-depth look at the studio’s impact on the practice of one artist, the very title of the show meant as an homage to the role both Guadalajara and Cerámica Suro played in his career. Sarabia, 47, is a Mexican American artist who earned early recognition for exploring the clichés and complications of his own cultural identity.
He grew up in East Los Angeles, where he attended an art conservatory on the weekends (he was classmates with the painter Kehinde Wiley) and eventually attended the Otis College of Art and Design. When he graduated, in 1999, Suro called him, encouraging him to visit the studio. In a conversation with Artnet, he said it was an impossible invitation to resist: “For this guy to be like, ‘Come to my factory; do whatever you want; don’t worry about costs; just go crazy,’ it was exciting.” By 2003, he had relocated his studio to Guadalajara, and now ceramics are integral to his practice.
Some of his early work will be on display in the larger collection, but for his solo exhibition, Sarabia has created a site-specific home that viewers are invited to walk through. It contains paintings in place of windows, a mural of vines crawling across the walls, and, of course, ceramics. He has filled the kitchen with plates and bowls and decorated with his oversize blue-and-white talavera-style ceramics, all made in collaboration with Cerámica Suro.
This story originally appeared in the April issue of D Magazine with the headline, “Getting Fired Up.” Write to [email protected].