‘Demoler! Demoler! Demoler!’ As far as statements of punk intent go, the band Los Saicos pretty much nailed it in Peru way back in 1965 with the guttural chorus to ‘Demolicion’. Screaming ‘destroy’ until you’re blue in the face is basically all punk was ever really good for, because the minute it came into existence, it was obliterated– that’s how it was designed.
Fortysomething Mexican conceptualist Abraham Cruzvillegas namechecks Los Saicos in the handout for this show. He has based his collaboratively constructed sculptures on the idea of destroying punk, on ‘un-learning’ and ‘destroying destruction’ as he puts it. I hate to be the guy to point this out, but you’re not going to destroy anyone’s idea of punk in a Mayfair gallery, buddy. This isn’t how or where you change minds or start revolutions.
These conceptual issues niggle at you as you wander through the works. The main gallery looks like an explosion in a junkyard, caught mid-boom. Chunks of lumber and masonry float in mid air. There are animal jawbones, piles of wood, metal railings draped in cloth, a smashed guitar (punk rock!). It’s like an emaciated version of Phyllida Barlow’s new Tate Britain installation.
The works in the space down the street are a little more successful. Two large Styrofoam sculptures and a big wooden climbing frame work best; imposing, dumb and rough. But you’ll wish you could un-see the pictures of men pissing, the beer bottle molotovs and the pile of porno with a knife in it.
This isn’t challenging the idea of what punk is. It’s just reinforcing it. It’s screaming ‘destroy’ when punk stopped doing that 40 years ago. Whatever ideas Cruzvillegas might have about celebrating the forgotten Latino roots of punk and conceptualism – or even of subverting punk through repetition of its clichés – are lost. He’s an artist who has made some incredible, vital and interesting work in the past, but this is pretty wide of the mark.