Mexican artist Pedro Reyes has won international attention for large-scale projects that address current social and political issues. Through a varied practice utilizing sculpture, performance, video, and activism, Reyes explores the power of individual and collective organization to incite change through communication, creativity, happiness, and humor. He designs ongoing projects that propose playful solutions to social problems. From turning guns into musical instruments, to hosting a People’s United Nations to address pressing concerns, to offering ecologically-friendly grasshopper burgers from a food cart, Reyes transforms existing problems into ideas for a better world. In the artist’s hands, complex subjects like political and economic philosophies are reframed in ways that are easy to understand, such as a puppet play featuring Karl Marx and Adam Smith fighting over how to share cookies.
In 2008, Reyes initiated the ongoing Palas por Pistolas where 1,527 guns were collected in Mexico through a voluntary donation campaign to produce the same number of shovels to plant 1,527 trees. This led to Disarm (2012), where 6,700 destroyed weapons were transformed into a series of musical instruments. In 2011, Reyes initiated Sanatorium, a transient clinic that provides short unexpected treatments mixing art and psychology. Originally commissioned by the Guggenheim Museum in New York City, Sanatorium went on to many international iterations. In 2013, he presented the first edition of pUN: The People’s United Nations at Queens Museum in New York City. pUN is an experimental conference in which regular citizens act as delegates for each of the countries in the UN and seek to apply techniques and resources from social psychology, theater, art, and conflict resolution to geopolitics. In 2015, he received the U.S. State Department Medal for the Arts and the Ford Foundation Fellowship.
Reyes has had solo exhibitions at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami (2014); The Power Plant, Toronto (2014); the Jumex Museum, Mexico City (2014); the Queens Museum of Art, Queens, New York (2013); Labor, Mexico City (2012, 2010); Walker Art Center, Minneapolis (2011); Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (2011); CCA Kitakyushu, Kitakyushu, Japan (2009); Bass Museum, Miami (2008); and San Francisco Art Institute (2008). He has also participated in Sharjah Biennial 11, Sharjah, United Arab Emirates; In the Spirit of Utopia, Whitechapel Gallery, London; and The Carnegie International, Pittsburgh.
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