In 2021, when Grupo Costeño needed an artistic concept for its new restaurant Animal, located in Polanco, Mexico City, it looked no further than artist Karla Mayrl
to create a visual experience that would set the stage for what the diner could expect to see when he or she went up the elevator to reach it.
After initially asking Karla to create a piece to put in the elevator, Karla recommended that instead they make a piece out of the elevator an artwork that would be movable. A piece that could serve as a transporter between the city and the other completely different ambiance of the restaurant. Following suit of the jungle-animal-zebra-pattern concept of the restaurant Karla designed zebra-styled stripes, along with mirrors (to create the infinitely repetitive patterns now characteristic of her work), lights, colors, and an audio recording to create the portal for the restaurant. Since then, the elevator has become a hit and a very instagramable experience - #elevadoranimal.
The idea to include this up-and-coming prominent Mexican artist in this series of interviews occurred a few weeks ago, while talking with my artist friend dan guz man, I asked him who he recommended that I interview next. He told me, There is an artist that collaborated towards getting one of my paintings exhibited at a benefit auction in the Museum of Contemporary Art, MARCO, here in Monterrey. Her name is Karla Mayrl and if there is anyone that I am incredibly grateful towards and recommend artistically - it is her.
He gave me her phone number and I contacted her through WhatsApp. After introducing myself and telling her a bit about what I wanted to do - a series of interviews with local artists -she agreed to be interviewed and we made an appointment to meet one week later at her home/studio.
The day arrived, and I got there on time, I walked up a set of stairs and went into a small apartment, very contemporary, with modern granite floors and a metal staircase that led to a second floor. The apartment was very small. It had a bedroom, small dinner table, and a tiny kitchen. We greeted each other and she offered me a drink, and as always, I asked for water. After that we both sat down at the table, and I could not help looking at her striking blue eyes - she is blonde, tall and thin, and most of all charming woman.
As I started telling her what I intended to do with this interview and who I was, etc., she suddenly stood up and quicky went past me and opened a door, and out of the other room sprung a beautiful white dog, Tobiaz, a cockapoo who approached me, smelled me, and then went to the kitchen to lie down.
Towering over the dinner table was one of her works conformed of hundreds of cones made out of a delicate aluminum foil encased in an acrylic box. When I asked her what it was, she said it was the paper that tacos are usually wrapped in and served upon all around Mexico. All of them just kind of set loose and delicately nailed to wood. She said the title of the work was Oro por Espejos (Gold for Mirrors) which was the way the Spanish traded mirrors for gold with the Native Mexican when they first arrived in Mexico in the 1500s.
To my right and on the floor was an acrylic box filled with what looked like an endless stream of pink silk ribbons, forming a huge, strange bow ready to grace a gift.
Karla uses everyday objects to make her works of art. She likes going to popular city markets and buying many of one material for what will ultimately become her new work of art - such as wrapping paper, ribbons, foils, textiles, and even small colorful piñatas amongst many others. Then after transforming those things by hand, painting them, and gluing or nailing them to a board or canvas and encasing them in acrylic boxes they are done.
Looking around her studio you notice that everything is clean. Even though she cuts up and makes hundreds of pieces of materials for her work - there is not a single piece of paper on the floor. She says that comes from her Montessori upbringing, where she was taught to clean up after she finished her work in school.
When asked about when her interest in art began Karla replied that since she was a little girl she always knew that she wanted to be involved in creating art and that she believes that an artist is born not made, and that though an artist that is not a naturally born one can educate his or herself in art disciplines the vocation to truly be an artist is one that you are born with.
She mentions that themes pertaining to culture were important in her family and that is why she decided to study art at the UDEM in Monterrey, NL, Mexico. However, after graduating, she confided that she felt like she was less fluid and more fearful about techniques compared to before she started to study because of the artistic rules that were instilled in her within the universitys curriculum. She further said that she feels that it might have even been better if she would have traveled around the world visiting museums and taking workshops instead, because it would have loosened up her natural instincts even more.
Little by little though she began to disassociate herself of those limitations and started to lean towards more monochromatic and pure color preferences, and soon developed a personal style of painting that can be defined as very repetitive brush strokes which resulted in a prelude, which by the way was the name of her first exhibition Preludio (in Spanish), which is what Karla says she currently does repetitive monochromatic movements but instead of painted - now made with other materials.
During Karlas early artistic years she started out working at a local museum and various galleries as she simultaneously painted and endeavored to develop a style that would ultimately define her. One of those primary accomplishments was experimenting with figurative painting, which resulted in a project of colorful cubes that got the artist her first big break at Galeria Emma Molina; Preludio, 2012-2013. Karla acknowledged that it was Emma who took her work to her first international art fair, Zona Maco.
At that time Karlas style mainly evolved around painting figurative geometric patterns on canvases for which she had numerous individual shows until she felt that style had run its course and she took some time off, and decided to experiment with a more original approach to her art. It was soon after that that Karla started investigating the different possibilities of objects working more with her hands, making patterns with distinct types of colorful popular materials found at local markets.
Karla mentions that one day she went out to lunch with her friend, Rodrigo Odriozola, who organizes an affordable art fair in Mexico named FAMA and afterwards he had a meeting with local gallerist, Hugo Chavez, owner of Alternativa 11 Gallery to mention her artwork to him.
Subsequently, the director of FAMA invited Karla to go with him to visit the Alternativa 11 where Mr. Chavez instantly recognized her and asked what she was currently creating artistically and asked her to send him a small collection of her works, after which evolved into her holding a solo exhibition there and her career received a boom. As a result, Karla is now working with not only that gallery, but also other individual projects with a variety of Mexicos finest interior decorators and architects.
Currently, Karla is also being represented in Mexico by the online art gallery Artifice directed by Paulina Gil and Adriana Mendez. Paulina Gil, director of the gallery describes the artists work as such: For Karla there is an intrinsic value in making something with her hands. She is interested in the introspection that is generated as a consequence of repeating an action many times during the production process of her pieces.
When asked if she herself ever collected anything she said no - she does not even keep any of her works. She does not attach herself to any of her creations and as soon as they are finished, they go out the door, either to a gallery, or delivered to the client that commissioned it. In fact, the creative artist went as far as to say that she has destroyed pieces that she is not herself satisfied with to not have them just laying around.
Karla points out that all her works are monochromatic, and that after starting one work of art she needs to finish it before she can even consider starting a new project. She does not work simultaneously on various pieces at a time and prepares all of the materials for her work beforehand. She enjoys the process of preparing them even more than the final piece, as she considers that part almost as a sort of therapy, and her studio is extremely neat defying the normal disarray so normally seen amongst artists.
Karla considers of special importance to mention that one time a housekeeper asked her if she was playing when she saw Karla cutting her pieces of paper to make her work of art to which she said, No, I am working if you want, you can help me to cut the papers and I will pay you for that too!
Shortly after Karla had up to five women at a time helping to prepare the specially designed pieces that she would ultimately need and said that at one time one of the women shared that she found the cutting therapeutic herself and found that she stopped watching soap operas, slept earlier and felt calmer because she was so into the cutting.
As a result, Karla currently contributes to an annual project at the prestigious EGADE Business School of Monterrey where she gives an art therapy course.
A normal day for her now starts with meditation, walking her dog at the park or yoga, and then some administrative tasks, whether it be desk work or going out to the market or shops to search for unique new materials that she can incorporate in her works of art, and then she works on her pieces from 3 pm to 8 pm. Afterwards she sometimes meets up with some friends, visits family, or just relaxes at home by herself as opposed to her earlier more obsessive style of working that needed to be all day every day or she would feel uncomfortable and like she was letting herself down as an artist.
When we met, Karla was taking a little time off from her artwork and getting ready to go on a vacation, after which she will create even more commissions to send out to the galleries, and in October she will be starting her biggest commission to date. At this time Karla wants to keep details of that project under wraps because several elements are pending, but she estimates it will take her about a month to complete, and she promised to invite us into the studio where she will be creating it.