Minerva Cuevas is a Mexican conceptual artist, who believes that art is totally connected to social change. She creates site-specific paintings, murals, wall art, sculptures, installations, video and interactive art. Her work, functioning as social protest, is primarily rooted to Mexico and social justice. Her art explores the practices of global capitalism which emerged as a result of the earlier histories of colonialism.
Cuevas was born in Mexico City, and from 1993 to 1997 she attended the National School of Plastic Arts, which is part of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). In 1998, she established her non-profit Major Vida Corporation (Better Life Corporation) in Mexico City to help people. The MVC would offer free services or products, such as subway tickets or barcode stickers to reduce the price of grocery store goods. Art world iterations of Major Vida Corporation have appeared at museums in Mexico, Belgium, and Germany. One example, which occurred at the Museo Tamayo in Mexico City, had MVC make student ID cards for everyone – student or not – to allow visitors to enter the museum as students for free.
In 2003, Cuevas started her mixed-media installation “Del Montte Campaign.” This ongoing work deals with corporate exploitation of natural resources in Central and South America. While her 16 by 20 foot acrylic wall painting looks like a Del Monte food label, she adds the words ‘Pure Murder’ under the ‘Del Montte Criminal’ label. The name change to ‘Del Montte’ also refers to the 1982-1983 president of Guatemala, Jose Montte, who used military strikes and massacres against Indigenous people, who were not allied with his government.
Since 2008, Cuevas has been documenting forms of activism with her long-term project “Dissidencia.” Here she produced a video archive of images, which would be used in rallies, marches, mass mailings, and the media for political and social protests in Mexico City.
In her exhibition “Feast and Famine,” Cuevas uses chocolate in her pieces. In the past cacao was used as currency in pre-Hispanic Mexico. She sees capitalism as a kind of cannibalism. For her the most important part of her installation was having chocolate dripping from the ceiling of the gallery. Each drip represented a person dying of starvation every three seconds somewhere on our planet.
In 2016, Cuevas founded the International Understanding Foundation (IUF) to serve the public good. It began as her contribution to a group exhibition at the Museum Ludwig in Cologne and featured archival photographs, social-protest graphics, and the pairing of disaster paintings with their original sources.
Cuevas has worked on a project for San Francisco MoMA as part of the museum’s Public Knowledge initiative, which addresses shifts in the Bay Area caused by the technology industry boom and its resultant socioeconomic inequality. She engages with local people about the city’s changing ecology through the primary image of fire. This references the horrendous 1851 fire in San Francisco as well as the 2016 Ghost Ship fire in Oakland.
Her work has appeared in Biennials in Liverpool, Berlin, Lyon, Sao Paulo, and Istanbul. She has participated in group exhibitions in South London Gallery in 2016, the Guggenheim in 2015, the Museu Jumex in Mexico City in 2013, and the Musee d’art Moderne de la Ville de Paris in 2012. In 2010, her work was shown in Liverpool, Whitechapel Gallery, KW Institute for Contemporary Art, and Centre Pompidou. In the last ten years she has had solo shows in Mexico, Netherlands, Switzerland, and France.
Her work has been showcased in Mexico City and New Orleans as well as in the Dallas Museum of Art, Museum Ludwig in Cologne, and San Francisco MoMA.