Consider it Mexican modernist vernacular inside and out. Curator and gallerist Elisabeth Johs’ latest endeavor, JO-HS, opened to the public on November 4, bringing a sprawling slice of local and international contemporary art to a historic building in Mexico City’s San Miguel Chapultepec neighborhood. Normally based in New York City but left stranded by the COVID crisis last year and unable to re-enter the United States due to travel restrictions, Johs relocated to Mexico City permanently and founded the eponymous gallery.
The new gallery is housed inside what used to be a combination residence and architecture studio realized in 1981 by Mexican architect Carlos Herrera. A modernist known for his clean lines and fondness for beige and muted earth tones, the new home of JO-HS is no exception. The building was restored and renovated, and the JO-HS team aimed to create a flowing, open floor plan delineated by materiality. The double-height ceilings, some barrel-vaulted with brick and punched with skylights while others lay the thick timber beams bare. The floors are similarly ostentatious yet undecorated, with marble herringbone tiling flowing from the entrance toward the inner galleries. Wide white oak planks were used for the more contemplative viewing gallery, where lush plantings mingle with work from the ongoing (and inaugural) Vivarium exhibition below a coffered skylight. The painted, but still deeply textured concrete used throughout lends the building a sense of weight and age beyond its 40 years.
Mexico City-based design studio Cadana worked closely with Johs to restore the 7,000-square-foot home-office-hybrid, as well as the interior and exterior landscaping. Contemporary Mexican furniture company ATRA contributed much of the furnishings, but pieces from Knoll and Smeg also feature prominently.
“I’m thrilled to debut JO-HS and to fulfill a long-held vision for a place to slow down, create and appreciate art in Mexico City,” said Johs in a statement. “I have long admired the vibrancy and creativity of this city and aim for JO-HS to be a hub for international creativity where we celebrate the work of Mexican artists in particular.”
Aside from small, medium, and large gallery rooms, the all-in-one art space also holds studios and a space for artist residencies, including a kitchen and dining room, and a shop.
Vivarium currently runs through December 4 and the gallery is open to the public from Tuesday through Saturday. Curated by Johs, the exhibition polled eight Mexican artists on how art can “escape the contemporary” and survive into the future. To that end, the creation of art is posited a just as important as the end products—a vivarium is a self-contained enclosure for keeping animals alive, and the show of the same name demonstrates the living web that art exists in. Ceramics, sculptures, large-scale textile installations, and drawings are all given their appropriate due in Vivarium, each occupying their unique part of the artistic ecosystem.