Rebeca Méndez was born in Mexico City and received her MFA from Art Center College of Design. She is currently a professor in the department of Design | Media Arts at UCLA. Méndez is the recipient of the 2012 National Design Award, bestowed by the White House and the Smithsonian Institution.
She has shown her work at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; the Museum of Contemporary Art in Oaxaca; the Centre Pompidou, Paris; CIA (Centre for Interdisciplinary Arts), Perth, Australia; ARCO Madrid 29th International Art Fair; X Biennial, Cuenca,Ecuador; the National Design Triennial; the Beall Center for Art and Technology, University of California, Irvine; the Alyce Williamson Gallery, Pasadena; and the Broad Art Center, UCLA. In addition, her work has been exhibited at, and is represented in collections of, the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; Cooper-Hewitt, National Design Museum, New York; the Nevada Museum of Contemporary Art, Reno; the Pasadena Museum of California Art; the Denver Art Museum; the Freitag Historical Museum, Hannover; and Museo José Luís Cuevas, Mexico City.
Méndez lectures internationally, including a TEDx Talk in 2011, and reviews of her work have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, The White House Blog, The San Francisco Chronicle, Wallpaper, Eye, Metropolis, and I.D. magazines, among others. Méndez has received extensive international recognition, including artist residencies at the NES Listami∂stö∂ Artist Residency in Skagaströnd, Iceland (2013); the ARS Bio Arctica Art Residency in Kilpisjärvi, Finland (2011), and the HIAP Artist Residency in Suomenlinna, Finland. (2011); The Arctic Circle in Svalbard archipelago in the high arctic (2010) and the Gunnar Gunnarson Institute in Egilsta∂ir, Iceland (2008).
Méndez is recipient of a 2012–13 City of Los Angeles (C.O.L.A.) Fellowship; a GLOW 2013 Fellowship and 1st artist in residency; a 2010 California Community Foundation Mid Career Fellowship for Visual Artist, and was selected for the Artist Pension Trust, México City.
Méndez has created award winning public artworks in buildings by renowned architects including Thom Mayne, Morphosis; Michael Lehrer, Lehrer Architects; and Silvia Kuhle and Jeffrey Allsbrook, Standard L.A. She has collaborated in projects with architects Greg Lynn, Richard Weinstein, Cooper Robertson Partners, and Frank O. Gehry.
Méndezʼs art practice is in various media—photography, 16mm film, video, and installation—with which she explores the nature of perception and media representation, specifically how cultures express themselves through the style of nature that they produce at a given time and the medium through which they construct this nature. She moves through different scales with ease—from photographic prints, to immersive sound and video installations, to murals of more than 25,000 square feet, to installations involving sixty-foot boulders and tons of lava rock. She considers the journey as a medium in itself and has produced a significant body of work based on travels tounfamiliar and extreme places such as Iceland, Patagonia, Svalbard archipelago in the high arctic, and the Sahara, where she is awakened to a heightened level of perception.
Méndezʼs interest in the nature of matter—in cycles and systems, specifically the forces and cross-rhythmic tensions that make natural phenomena emerge—stem from her growing up in two seemingly entropic environments, Mexico City and the Mexican jungle, where she would follow her father in pursuit of Mayan archaeology. Common to both environments is hypercomplexity, multiplicity, and constant change. This pursuit manifests in her work as iterative processes of rehearsal and recurrence, and on liminal strategies, both formal and conceptual. Méndezʼs move to Los Angeles and her expeditions to geologically young Iceland and the severe high arctic have furthered this impetus.
In a career spanning almost thirty years as designer, creative director, artist and educator, Méndezʼs work has focused on critical reflection of visual communication practices, in particular around issues of organization, culture and identity. Her attention and intention considers equally ʻreasonʼ (logic, order and system), as well as the ʻsensesʼ (perception, intuition and emotions) and she practices making the ordinary unfamiliar so to break down preconceptions and perceive more precisely.
Méndezʼs work is driven by the concept of élan vital, developed by the French philosopher Henri Bergson, who described it as “the explosive internal force that life carries within itself,” which he claimed animates all being. Her At Any Given Moment series is further informed by the ideas of the composer Karlheinz Stockhausen, who said: “We are all transistors, in the literal sense. People always think they are in the world, but they never realize that they are the world.” As explained by cultural theorist Sanford Kwinter, what Stockhausen means is that there are no phenomena in the natural world that do not manifest themselves as vibratory or rhythmic phenomena. Those vibrations attack us; they modulate us and, in the end, become us.
Rebeca Méndez lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Adam Eeuwens, and their two cats.