August 30, 2016

Fired Up

José Noé Suro gives the Dallas Art scene some ceramic soul.

By Christopher Mosley

Straddling the chasm between fine art and commercial enterprise can be a delicate balance, but a ceramic facility in Mexico has been doing so for more than a quarter of a century.

Based in Guadalajara since 1951, Cerámica Suro Contemporanea specializes in ceramic products for the luxury hotel industry. In 1993, the company incorporated contemporary art making into its arsenal, and the marriage between the two services has been a harmonious one ever since.

Cerámica Suro boasts a highly impressive list of clients and projects in contemporary art, including Marcel Dzuma’s acclaimed dada-inspired work that was commissioned by the New York City Ballet and premiered at Lincoln Center in early 2016. They’ve fired ceramics for art world power couple Jorge Pardo and Milena Muzquiz. They’ve worked with artists from David Zwirner’s blue chip stable, including Yutaka Sone (and the aforementioned Dzuma).

Cerámica Suro was the brainchild of Noé Suro Olivares, who opened the facility in Tlaquepaque, Jalisco, in 1951. It was his son, José Noé Suro, who had the idea to expand into the art market some forty years later.

“He was an incredible mentor,” Suro says. “I had the privilege to work with him for more than 25 years. He was a very interesting character. He really started this company from the bottom.”

Although José Suro was pushing the boundaries of the company’s more utilitarian beginnings, he says his father kept an open mind.

“He was always very generous with me, allowing me to work with artists and allowing me to bring to the company things that interested me and were not necessarily interesting to him,” Suro says. “And he also fired me every week,” he adds before breaking into hysterical laughter. Speaking to Suro, it is clear that the family also deals heavily in charm.

Perhaps the evolution into art objects was a natural one. The Suro brand has a way of transforming an ashtray or a serving dish into something so colorful and bold that you might want to pick one up and just stare at it.

Guadalajara plays heavily into Cerámica Suro’s aesthetic. Suro stresses that it’s the second-largest city in Mexico, but that’s not all it’s famous for.

“A lot of the things that are nice about Mexico have their origins in Guadalajara, like tequila, the charro… all these Mexican traditions originated here,” says Suro. “Some of the most important writers and artists, painters, and architects in the 20th Century—all of them were from Guadalajara. It’s always been a vibrant city. There is a lot of talent here.”

Suro started working with Rosewood Hotels in Dallas and with area designers more than two decades ago. And some new and exciting projects in the Design District and at high-end retailer Forty Five Ten have him coming back to the city quite frequently.

“It’s one of the best cities in the world to see art,” Suro says of Dallas. “The private collections and the museums have incredible works.”

It was local collector and curator John Runyon who first introduced him to some of these collections, including the expansive one located inside The Joule, which features pieces by Andy Warhol, Richard Phillips, Andrew Kuo, and more prominently throughout the hotel. A traditional example of Suro’s work—buttery-smooth porcelain tiles—can be seen inside The Joule’s Italian restaurant, Americano.

“Anybody who is interested or related to art and goes to Dallas will be at The Joule,” Suro says. “The place makes you feel very comfortable, and there’s a lot of art in the hotel. You always find somebody there, no?”