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P/F 2022 Mexico City
—————————————— Photography by Nicole Kurily

Mexico City-based writer and curator Su Wu selects some of her favorite pieces from the PF22 collection to wear at some of her favorite spots in the city, which, she says, "also happen to confirm this loose belief I have, about how thought can be facilitated through style."

Can you tell us a little about what drew you to the two very different and distinctive locations in Mexico City we shot at, Torre de los Vientos and Casa Ortega?

I wanted to show off to Rachel some spaces in Mexico City that I love and that also happen to confirm this loose belief I have, about how thought can be facilitated through style. Casa Ortega was the architect Luis Barragan’s first house, a place he built to live in himself, and there’s a meandering and overgrown garden, with patios that seem to descend underground, and staircases to a single tree – I feel like you can see him working through what matters by studying how it looks. And Torre de los Vientos by the Uruguayan artist Gonzalo Fonseca totally surprised me, the first time I ran across the freeway to get there. It was not meant to be approached on foot, but as one of the sculptures lining the route to the 1968 Olympic stadium. And yet Fonseca gives the edifice steps and an oversized font, maybe to wash your feet, and also an actual interior life, scattered with these archetypal forms that so interested him. Maybe I’m mis-conflating style and uselessness here, but in general I think I’m not so practical – I’m drawn to forms still in search of a use.

You're obviously very involved in the art world in Mexico City. How did that come about?

My great luck of being in Mexico City has been finding a place, right when I needed it, that seems to reflect and reward my very spotty understanding of linearity, like I don’t know what might lead to what, and why, but I do it anyway.

Also can you tell us about the exhibition you curated that is now on show at Rockefeller Center?  

The MASA show is a big survey of art and design from Mexico, nearly 70 pieces across three indoor and outdoor sites at Rockefeller Center, mostly contemporary but also 20th-century artworks, including pieces by Frida Escobedo, Miguel Calderón, Alma Allen, Isamu Noguchi, Adolfo Riestra, Pia Camil, Héctor Esrawe, Brian Thoreen, Pedro Reyes, Ana Pellicer, Jose Dávila, and many more. It was MASA’s first show in NY, this scrappy Mexico City-based nomadic gallery, and actually, I’m still sort of shocked that Tishman Speyer, the powers that be at Rockefeller Center, trusted us and gave us so much space and support. Especially when we were, like, we are going to paint this entire post office beige! And hang some old clothes around the world’s most famous ice skating rink!

But in this most monumental and bombastic of sites, and with its particular history, the only show that ended up making sense for me was one of anti-monumentality, like empathy for thwarted ambitions and plans that elude us, and space for liaisons that go awry, and Mexican artists who were underappreciated in the 20th century because of gender or sexuality or because they came from poverty, and all the history that isn’t told by the victors. Like, to highlight some works in the show: an Isamu Noguchi carving that he made right after the end of his affair with Frida Kahlo that has a fetus and a body split in two – it is an artwork that was very nearly lost, and we are showing that, thanks to the amazing generosity of the Noguchi Foundation. And a series of light switch covers by Mexican artist Tomas Diaz Cendeño made of melted down stolen car parts; they depict moments of encounter from the Diego Rivera mural “Man at Crossroads,” which was at Rockefeller Center and destroyed. And a triptych by Martín Ramírez, a migrant worker in California from Jalisco, who was arrested in 1931 for writing “It is going to rain today” on the walls of an empty building and spent the last 30 years of his life institutionalized, making drawings on scrap paper with potato starch and fruit juice. I give a full spill about the show, which is up until June 24, here. I hope it offers a shakier, unsettled sense of this place, basically an entire show of gossip and gaps in history, an alternate canon of Mexican art and design.

Can you specifically tell us about the Laundry piece?

“Saca Tus Trapos Al Sol (Air Out Your Dirty Laundry)” is a large-scale installation by Pia Camil, an artist based in Valle de Bravo, Mexico, whom I last worked with on an exhibition in Oaxaca City. Camil has long used secondhand clothing to engage with questions of material circulation and borders, and the piece with MASA at Rockefeller Center is her largest public installation to-date. Along the 193 flagpoles around Rockefeller Center Plaza, which usually hang all the national flags of UN member countries, Camil instead flies this truly international sight – the clothesline - and with clothing gathered in public exchanges in Mexico City. It was so moving to install – all the people who stopped us to say that it reminded them of Egpyt, or Naples, or their grandmother in Peru – to see these lines of care and human stories go up against this grand backdrop, to make something monumental of the intimate.