MASA Galeria Displays Mexican Design at Rockefeller Center

MASA, a Mexico City-based gallery, has a contemporary design gallery that includes two chairs by Pedro Reyes, an Isamu Noguchi model of a Teotihuacan-inspired playground, and Miguel Calderon sculptures.
Photo: Kylon Hackwith

In the 1930s, Isamu Noguchi had an affair with Frida Kahlo while he was living and working in Mexico City. Judging from the sick letters he sent her, it didn’t end well. In one he wrote, “Forgive me dearest to me – perhaps when we meet again (hopefully soon) when we love again, I will have the courage and humility to be so real.” The relationship seems to have had an effect on his work. In 1937, he developed a proposal for a fresco with motifs taken from Kahlo’s icons: fetus, heart, a truncated image of a body showing its skeleton. The mural was never sculpted, but Noguchi’s study of the mural is now on display atIntervención/Intersección, “New exhibit for MASA’s Mexico City touring fair at an out-of-service post office at Rockefeller Center.

“That’s really the focus of the show,” says Su Wu, curator of the show. “We highlight the power of gossip and love affairs—the role all these things, not seriously academic, play in creating what we mean by art or design history. We find space for intimacy and private stories.”

Study of an unverified mural by Isamu Noguchi hanging above a seat by Hector Israoui.
Photo: Kylon Hackwith

Artists have a long history of finding familiarity and kinship in Mexico City, just as Noguchi did. He went to Mexico after failing to obtain a WPA commission for a New York City stadium, and was able to secure his first public commission there, a socialist mural on the second floor of a public market. “How different Mexico was!” Noguchi wrote about his experience. “Here all of a sudden I didn’t feel strange being an artist. All the artists were helpful people, they were part of the community.” He fostered this sense of “creative porosity,” as Wu describes the city’s openness to artists, which continues to define contemporary art and landscape design in Mexico City today. MASA founders Hector Israoui, Ige Salagoy, and Brian Thorin, who hail from Mexico City, Estonia, and Los Angeles, respectively, are a case in point. Wu also moved there in 2017 and quickly found her place at the center of the city’s creative scene. The show I collected reflects the openness of the city and the work that can result from blending cultural influences.

Architect Frida Escobedo designed a small spherical chain link chair, in honor of Cuban-American artist Anna Mendetta (above). Die-cast metal stools by EWE Studio are housed in a storage cage (lower left). The lights surrounding a table by Panorammma Design in rawhide, were inspired by the bones left after dinner parties and made by design studio Marrow, a side project of Casa Bosques founder Rafael Prieto and Loup Sarion (bottom right). Photos: Kylon Hackwith.

Architect Frida Escobedo designed a small spherical chain link chair, in honor of Cuban-American artist Anna Mendetta (above). metal castings…
Architect Frida Escobedo designed a small spherical chain link chair, in honor of Cuban-American artist Anna Mendetta (above). Die-cast metal stools by EWE Studio are housed in a storage cage (lower left). The lights surrounding a table by Panorammma Design in rawhide, were inspired by the bones left after dinner parties and made by design studio Marrow, a side project of Casa Bosques founder Rafael Prieto and Loup Sarion (bottom right). Photos: Kylon Hackwith.

Throughout the exhibition, we see how the artists made use of deep personal references. Architect Frida Escobedo, who designs the new modern and contemporary wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, contributed a piece in homage to Cuban-American artist Ana Menedeta whose work was long overshadowed by the circumstances surrounding her death, which some believe was in the hands of her partner, artist Karl Andre. Escobedo creek seat Mendita references ScheduleAnd A 1974 film in which the artist appears naked from rocky waters. Made from hundreds of strands of tiny ball chains, the seat mimics the fluidity on screen. A steel table with a lumpy surface stitched from raw leather and a pink silicone jug decorated with sutures by emerging design studio Panorammma looks like surgically repaired skin and references the founder’s chemotherapy and hospital stay. The exhibition continues in the public square, with Alma Allen sculptures, stone benches for Mario Garcia Torres, and Pia Camille’s installation of shirts, pants, and dresses donated by Mexico City residents hanging like flags around the ice rink. Camille describes clothes as the most intimate item a person has; It “contains our sweat and our secrets; it bears witness to our moments of joy and sorrow. Seeing these items hung in the square where world flags usually fly brings a sense of intimacy and intimacy in the huge space.

Artist Pia Camille hangs clothes donated by Mexico City residents around the plaza of Rockefeller Center. She describes clothes as intimate things that “contain our sweat and our secrets; they bear witness to our moments of joy and sorrow.”
Photo: Kylon Hackwith

It is fitting that most of the parade is organized in a former post office, a place that facilitates the movement of objects and ideas through correspondence, such as the letters Noguchi sent to Kahlo. The setting is not accidental; Reflects MASA’s nomadic strategy. The choice to show in obscure places comes from her desire to challenge traditional expectations about how we perceive art and design – often in sterile environments stripped of any character. Experimenting with different venues often results in less showcased exhibitions of valuables and often surreal, immersive environments where the setting affects how the works are seen. Its inaugural show, in 2019, was held in a mansion in 1970s Mexico City famous for being the site of a horrific murder, which the gallery had red carpets and walls to – in stark contrast to the simple chores. The ‘castle’ built by German expats was the site of the 2020 fair. The house, clad in dark wood paneling, looked as if it was haunted by the furniture on display. The venue for his 2021 show, “The Last Tenant,” was a modernist house from the 1950s with very little documentation of its history, inspiring the gallery to imagine the everyday habits of its last inhabitant and create a story about it.

The exhibition is based on the history of artists moving between New York City and Mexico City. One item that speaks volumes about this is Anna Pellicer’s colossal pin for the Statue of Liberty, made using a 500-year-old hammered copper technique from Michoacan.
Photo: Kylon Hackwith

In the “Intervención/Intersección” many of the post office’s interior features are still – suspended ceiling, fluorescent lights, storage cages, display shelves – but they are all covered in creamy beige paint, dedicated to what once was. Design pieces interact with these elements: they are suspended from the ceiling and displayed on the post office counter; In one case, a set of metal benches were placed by EWE in a mail storage cage. MASA chooses its spaces based on gut feeling, but what happens when they are all grouped together, as in the old post office, can feel “accidental,” says Touraine.

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