Frieda Toranzo Jaeger Paints Christ Crucified by Capitalism

In her exhibition at Travesía Cuatro in Mexico City, the passion of Christ becomes a parable for the antihuman politics of the global gig economy

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BY Anna Goetz in Exhibition Reviews | 05 MAR 24

In recent years, Frieda Toranzo Jaeger has developed a unique practice that critically engages with the medium of painting and its historical and contemporary discourses. With her canvases she builds three-dimensional structures, often at large scale, which evoke both early Renaissance altar panels and futuristic-looking vehicles – such as rockets or cars with gull-wing doors – symbolizing capitalism’s essential drive toward ‘progress’. Her detailed imagery in oil paint, supplemented by traditional Mexican embroidery, depicts queer-erotic scenes within lush landscapes and high-tech car interiors. Telling of lust and pleasure, but also of control and domination, they are reminiscent of the 15th century paintings of Hieronymus Bosch and of works by 20th century Mexican artists, such as Francisco Toledo and José Clemente Orozco.

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Frieda Toranzo Jaeger, La supremacía más white de los whitexicans nos chupa a todes (The Whitest Supremacy of the Whitexicans Gets Us All Sucked), 2023, ‘Uber: Déjame entrar’, 2024. Courtesy: Travesía Cuatro and Galerie Barbara Weiss; photograph: Ramiro Chaves

In ‘Uber: Déjame entrar’ (‘Uber: Let Me In’) at Travesía Cuatro in Mexico City, the artist – whose work will also be included in the main exhibition of the upcoming Venice Biennale – presents a new body of five, wall-hung works. Rather small by her standards, they are no less visually powerful and loaded with art-historical references. The title of this solo show – only her second in her native city – alludes to the twisted power dynamics of Uber, the quintessential proponent of the gig economy and informational capitalism, which promises an aspirational lifestyle combined with the illusion of self-management. In return, Uber demands not only our time but also the investment of our private infrastructure, such as our roadways and telecoms, while vampirically sucking our data – the capital of the modern world – during the transaction process.

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Frieda Toranzo Jaeger, Una serie de ausencias que, paradójicamente, nos hacen percibir nuestra propia presencia (A Series of Absences That, Paradoxically, Makes Us Aware of Our Own Presence), 2023, ‘Uber: Déjame entrar’, 2024. Courtesy: Travesía Cuatro and Galerie Barbara Weiss; photograph: Ramiro Chaves

Three of the works on display depict car interiors charged with Catholic iconography. Two feature the figure of Christ, based on Paolo Veroneses Pietà (c.1581), and the third shows calla lilies in a handbag – all embroidered onto the otherwise oil-painted background. The lilies echo a motif frequently used by Mexican muralist Diego Rivera to honour Indigenous labour and tradition. In the triptych La supremacía más white de los whitexicans nos chupa a todes (The Whitest Supremacy of the Whitexicans Gets Us All Sucked, 2023), Christs body, as if freshly removed from the cross, lies in the back of an Uber. The wings of the triptych can be folded in and locked with hooks to reveal a kitschy, glittering image of an open coffin, referencing the workershousing estate in Alejandro Jodorwskys surrealist satire of consumerism, The Holy Mountain (1973). In the single-panel Una serie de ausencias que, paradójicamente, nos hacen percibir nuestra propia presencia (A Series of Absences That, Paradoxically, Makes Us Aware of Our Own Presence, 2023), Christ is in the drivers seat, leaning over the steering wheel, seemingly exhausted and disillusioned. In both works, blood, depicted in rhinestones, drips from his neck as if from a vampire bite – stigmata received from having been deceived and sucked dry by the ride-sharing company. As both passenger and driver, he is a victim of information capitalism and a casualty of the free-market system.

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Frieda Toranzo Jaeger, ‘Uber: Déjame entrar’, 2024, installation view. Courtesy: Travesía Cuatro and Galerie Barbara Weiss; photograph: Ramiro Chaves

Drawing on a wealth of references, Toranzo Jaeger once again takes on capitalism with acuity and wit in works whose titles are a scathing comment on classism in Mexican society. In La supremacía más white de los whitexicans nos chupa a todes, for example, she invokes the colloquial pejorative ‘whitexicans’ – white Mexicans who are unaware of the privileges they enjoy because of their skin colour and who emulate a Western concept of development – and denounces them as the cause of social and environmental ills in Mexico. For Toranzo Jaeger, the iconography of the beaten and bleeding Christ conveys the forceful penetration of an ideological occidental machinery that subsumes everything on its own terms and for its own profit.

Frieda Toranzo Jaeger's 'Uber: Déjame entrar' is on view at Travesía Cuatro, Mexico City, until 23 March 

Main image: Frieda Toranzo Jaeger, ‘Uber: Déjame entrar’, 2024, installation view. Courtesy: Travesía Cuatro and Galerie Barbara Weiss; photograph: Ramiro Chaves

Anna Goetz is a curator and critic based in Mexico City, Mexico. Previously, she was curator at MMK, Museum für Moderne Kunst Frankfurt am Main, Germany. 

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