Pylon Icon: Luis Barragán

Built in 1948, Casa Luis Barragán in Mexico City was first a bachelor pad (for its architect, Luis Barragán), then a family home (for the architect’s family), then a masterpiece of Mexican Modernism frozen in time, and now, since 1994, an archive and art space for global artists such as Danh Vō. 

In the winter of 2018/2019, the Vietnam-born Danish artist exhibited “Garden with Pigeons in Flight” inside the structure that sits on Mexico City’s Calle General Francisco Ramírez. In actions that included rearranging the furniture, removing original carpets to reveal sun-bleached floors, and installing a nearly room-to-room, wall-to-wall supply of pink candles made by Oaxacan master craftspeople, Vō asserted that “permanent” entities like architecture and history are more malleable and rewritable than they sometimes seem.  

Much of Casa Luis Barragán’s facade is cement; gray, bland, expressionless—the ultimate foil for the way that the garden-wrapped interior uses non-harmonic color schemes to amplify light and isolate time. Named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2004, the space is frequently cited as one of the most important homes of the 20th century.  Vō’s candles are a mixed bag of references: the cultural tradition of insect-derived carmine dye, Catholicism’s rich aesthetic ceremonies, and the environmental effects of hours, days, and years on man and nature. As ideas about colonization, globalization, and home reverberate in our current conversations, the very idea of “Gardens with Pigeons in Flight” and the enduring, transmuting presence of Casa Luis Barragán lend plenty of thoughtful light.