No. 9 – An Exhibition by Frida Escobedo

No 9 by Frida Escobedo
Mexico City architect Frida Escobedo curates and designs new exhibition at Columbia GSAPP, her first solo exhibition in the United States.
Press Release
02 October 2017

The Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery at Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation (Columbia GSAPP) presents No. 9, an exhibition curated and designed by Frida Escobedo, principal of Frida Escobedo Taller de Arquitectura in Mexico City. No. 9 is Escobedo’s first solo show in the United States. Through archival research and a new sculptural installation, Escobedo explores the history of La Ruta de la Amistad (“Route of Friendship”) in Mexico City, a monumental public sculpture project that was realized as part of the cultural program for the 1968 Olympics.

No. 9 is on view at the Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery in Buell Hall, Columbia University, from October 20, 2017 through January 19, 2018.

About the Exhibition

Sited along an eleven-mile stretch of Mexico City’s then burgeoning highway system, La Ruta de la Amistad comprised a network of nineteen monumental sculptures, or “stations,” by artists from seventeen countries. German-born Mexican artist Mathias Goeritz served as artistic advisor of the 1968 Olympic Organizing Committee and was director of La Ruta. His open-ended brief called for the sculptures to be abstract, made of concrete, and monumental in size, since they would be experienced from the perspective of a moving car. Upon completion, each was painted in bright colors. The multinational and modernist aesthetics of La Ruta’s sculptures amplified government efforts to present Mexico as a thriving, cosmopolitan nation on the global stage of the Olympics — the first games hosted by a Latin American country. Since then, many of the sculptures have been moved as part of a heritage initiative, and the “Route of Friendship” now only exists in the collective imagination.

Responding to the American context of the Ross Gallery exhibition, Escobedo mines the history of the ninth station of La Ruta by artist Todd Williams (b. 1939), who represented the United States in the international sculpture project. No. 9 presents archival construction photographs and documents, and uses these as a basis to reconstruct the underlying steel skeleton of Williams’ original sculpture. The new sculpture is further contextualized through items from the artist’s personal archive, including photographs, ephemera, and correspondence. Collectively, these items allow Escobedo to propose an alternative, more intimate interpretation of the official narrative of La Ruta, uncovering the hidden processes and exchanges that brought the project into being, while also raising timely and complex questions about the role of art and architecture in the construction of national and political identity, and international diplomacy.

No. 9 is curated and designed by Frida Escobedo, and organized by Irene Sunwoo, GSAPP Director of Exhibitions. Archival material is on loan from the Archivo Arquitecto Pedro Ramírez Vázquez, who served as Chairman of the Organizing Committee of the 1968 Olympics, and from the personal archive of artist Todd Williams. Graphic design for the exhibition is by Estudio Herrera, Mexico City.

The presentation of No. 9 at the Arthur Ross Architecture Gallery coincides with a related project by Frida Escobedo: a full-scale reimagining of the sixteenth “station” of La Ruta by French sculptor Olivier Séguin. Titled No. 16, the project is part of the Orléans Architecture Biennale in Orléans, France, which opens October 13, 2017.

About Frida Escobedo
Frida Escobedo is principal and founder of Frida Escobedo Taller de Arquitectura based in Mexico City. Her work has focused mainly on reactivating urban spaces that are considered to be residual or forgotten, through focal projects that range from housing and community centers to hotels and gallery spaces. She operates within a theoretical framework that addresses time not as a historical calibration but rather as a social operation. Escobedo has exhibited widely, including the El Eco Pavilion (2010), the Mexican Pavilion at the Architecture Biennial in Venice (2012), Split Subject (2013), and Civic Stage, presented at the 2013 Lisbon Architecture Triennial. Internationally acclaimed, she is the recipient of the 2014 BIAU Prize, the 2016 Architectural Review Emerging Architecture Award, and most recently, the 2017 Architectural League Emerging Voices Award. Escobedo has taught at Columbia GSAPP, Harvard Graduate School of Design, and the Architectural Association, London. She is the Fall 2017 Howard A. Friedman Visiting Professor of Practice at the University of California Berkeley College of Environmental Design.
About Todd Williams
Todd Williams is an American artist who trained as a sculptor, receiving his fine arts degree from the School of Visual Arts, New York in 1965. His spatially dynamic and textured surfaces combine with mechanistic forms, resulting in complex compositions that create optical illusions and the suggestion of movement. Until the early 1980s, his work focused on large public commissions of sculptures completed in metal, wood, and glass. Williams’ sculptures can be seen in public spaces throughout New York City. By the late 1990s, Williams expanded his practice to include two-dimensional, multi-dimensional, and mixed media works in wood, paper, technical inks, and acrylic paints. Williams was awarded a John Hay Whitney Fellowship in 1965. His work has been shown internationally, including for the pioneering American Academy of Arts traveling exhibition “Ten Negro Artists from the United States” (1965-1968), the First World Festival of Negro Arts in Dakar, Senegal (1966), and in the Whitney Museum’s seminal 1971 group show “Contemporary Black Artists in America.”
La Ruta de la Amistad

List of participating artists in La Ruta de la Amistad, Mexico City, 1968

Station 1: Ángela Gurría (1929- ), Mexico
Station 2: Willi Gutmann (1927-2013), Switzerland
Station 3: Miloslav Chlupáč (1920-2008), Czechoslovakia
Station 4: Kioshi Takahashi (1925-1996), Japan
Station 5: Pierre Szekely (1923-2001), France
Station 6: Gonçalo Fonseca (1922-1997), Uruguay
Station 7: Costantino Nivola (1911-1988), Italy
Station 8: Jacques Moeschal (1913-2004), Belgium
Station 9: Todd Williams (1939- ), United States
Station 10: Grezgorz Kowalski (1942- ), Poland
Station 11: Josep Maria Subirachs (1927-2004), Spain
Station 12: Clement Meadmore (1929-2005), Australia
Station 13: Herbert Bayer (1900-1985), Austria
Station 14: Joop Beljon (1922-2002), Netherlands
Station 15: Itzhak Danziger (1916-1977), Israel
Station 16: Olivier Seguin (1927- ), France
Station 17: Mohamed Melehi (1936- ), Morocco
Station 18: Jorge Dubon (1938-2004), Mexico
Station 19: Helen Escobedo (1934-2010), Mexico

Additional sites along La Ruta by Mathias Goeritz, Mexico; Germán Cueto, Mexico; Alexander Calder, United States.