During Mexico City Art Week this past February, design gallery AGO Projects presented Traducción Simultánea, the first exhibition of collectible design pieces by Niños Héroes, the multi-disciplinary creative studio based between Madrid and Mexico City. Under the creative direction of Luis Úrculo and co-founders Nuria Úrculo and Gabriel Romano, the exhibit seeks to bridge the limits of drawing, space, materiality, and physicality. Úrculo explores how drawing and his specific graphic language extends to a utilitarian place, or as he puts it, “how color enters into a space and becomes material.”
Cobalt blue sketches leap from blaring white ceramic tile walls, which match the color of the pool Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich’s iconic 1929 German Pavilion for the Barcelona International Exhibition. Niños Héroes transmute van der Rohe and Reich’s use of extravagant materials like onyx, travertine, and marble, for vernacular ceramic white tiles, tempered glass, bronze, sand, and volcanic rock. The result is a collection of over 22 pieces, including tables, chairs, wall lighting, and textiles. Úrculo describes the challenge of creating for permanence, and of the importance of considering the time domestic objects spend “in that other life, the inert life.” Consider the lamp that lives its life more off than on. Aplique de cobre (2023), a series of ten bronze wall sconces referencing vernacular ritual masks, take on distinct materiality drawn in by reflecting light. The utterly exposed parts of pendant lamps Chandelier Catenaria (2023) are reminiscent of the neon tubes, telephone cord, and plastics that attract shoppers in Centro Historico, México.
Niños Héroes focus on the ready-made, observing cases of urban phenomena or everyday actions that transfer into the studio space and eventually are implemented into projects. For Úrculo, as a Spaniard living in México, the fascination with the piñata begins with its imperfect spatial volumetry. The person making them is not working from a mold, but from imperfect muscle memory. The head-like columns finished in sand and gravel, distance themselves from their paper maché origins. “In the end what you have is neither one thing nor the other, it is in a liquid transitional space.” The piñata side table series — voluminous head-like shapes stacked atop each other mixed with gravel, sand, and resin, then fixed with volcanic rock or marble table tops — capture Niños Héroes’’ ethos and position within design.
AGO Projects’ community building completes a dialogue around the circular, non-binary relationship between art and design, something that co-founders Rodman Primack and Rudy Weissenberg celebrated alongside PIN–UP and Tiffany & Co.’s on the first night of the exhibition — and the first night of Mexico City Art Week 2023 — last month at Ticuchi, Enrique Olvera’s cavernous circular mezcal bar in Polanco. The spirit there carried over from their showroom, which serves as a site where collectors can interact with and envision the works in their own domestic spaces, with a focus on first-time designers, the handmade, and connecting buyers with Latin American collectible design. As AGO Projects co-founder Primack puts it: “What people don’t always understand is that good design can gain a patina.”