Miguel Angel Ríos studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Buenos Aires before moving to New York in the 1970’s to escape the military dictatorship in Argentina. He subsequently relocated to Mexico and now divides his time between New York and Mexico City. In his work, Ríos pairs a rigorous conceptual approach with a meticulously constructed, handmade aesthetic. Since the 1970’s, he has made work about the concept of the Latin American, using this idea as both an artistic strategy and a political problem.
Over the past two decades, Ríos has delved into the medium of video to create symbolic narratives about human experience, violence, and mortality. His videos of spinning tops–trompos–use the childhood game as a backdrop for a meditation on the transience of life, and the mechanics of power. In his 2012 Untitled video from The Ghost of Modernity trilogy, Ríos references high modernism–with direct nods to John Cage, Marcel Duchamp, and Donald Judd. “Is this ghostly geometric figure a lens through which the world can be reinterpreted,” the artist asks, “or is it the paradigmatic principle of modernist thought that organizes the world around it?”
More recently, Ríos has produced the videos Piedras Blancas (2014), Mulas (2015) and Landlocked (2015), all depicting an arid mountainous landscape with subjects such as 3,000 white ceramic balls, mules and stray dogs, respectively. With these works, the artist addresses issues of migration and the trafficking of people and drugs through environments situated in countries below the Southern United States’ border and beyond.
Ríos is also known for a series he began creating in the 1990’s, maps that he carefully cut, folded and pleated by hand. Marking the 500th anniversary of the “discovery” of the Americas, the maps trace long histories of power and colonial experience, and they reference traditional indigenous arts in the Americas, including the Andean quipu.
The artist has had solo exhibitions at Arizona State University Art Museum, Tempe; the Des Moines Art Center, Iowa; Museo Carrillo Gil, Mexico City; Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires; Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris; The Art Museum of the University of Houston; and the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C. His videos have been screened at La Biennale de Lyon, the Liverpool Biennial, and the Biennale of Sydney. He has received numerous awards including the John Guggenheim Fellowship for his work exploring the mediums of painting, drawing and collage. Ríos’ work is featured in collections around the world, including the Cisneros Fontanals Art Foundation, Miami; Colección Isabel y Augustín Coppel; Daros Latinamerica Collection, Zürich; Fundación Costantini, Museo de Arte Latinoamericano, Buenos Aires; Kunsthalle Hamburg; La Fundación Caixa Art Forum de Barcelona, Spain; La Maison Européenne de la Photographie, Paris; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Miami Art Museum; Musée d’Art Moderne et Contemporain, Toulouse, France; Museo Nacional, Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Madrid; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Pérez Art Museum Miami; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, among others.
On the occasion of Ríos’ 2015-2016 solo exhibition, Landlocked, at Arizona State University Art Museum, a catalogue of the same title was published. The book features an interview with the artist by exhibition curator Julio César Morales, and written contributions by artist Carlos Amorales, ASU Art Museum Director Gordon Knox, Director of Museu de Arte do Rio Paulo Herkenhoff, artist Crist Lehyt, artist Javier Téllez, and artist Sergio Vega.