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Mexico City Art Gallery MASA Brings Its Contemporary Design Spin to Rockefeller Center

By Emmie MurphyMay 10 2022
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On May 5, the Rink Level Gallery was treated to a complete transformation when MASA, a Mexico City-based nomadic gallery, opened its first New York City exhibition. Together with Rockefeller Center, “Intervención/Intersección presents an unconventional look at the intersection of art and design through works within the Mexican canon.

MASA, which was started by a group of creatives in 2019, has taken over spaces of all shapes and sizes, from corporate office buildings to a residential neighborhood in Mexico City — and now, Rockefeller Center. It began as a side project between friends, a way to show work that the founders thought interesting. “It has a lot to do with collaboration and working with people who we really love,” says cofounder Age Salajõe. “It came about as getting together and wanting to show quality work and good work.”

The flexibility of being nomadic allows them greater range in their exhibitions, giving room to experiment and innovate. “Because we’re nomadic, it gives us the freedom to do what we want, when we want, where we want,” explains cofounder Brian Thoreen.

Rockefeller Center’s spring art exhibition in the Rink Level Gallery builds upon previous work by the team. MASA’s first-ever exhibition in Mexico City, “Collective/Collectible,” mixed contemporary design and historical artworks by artists who had either lived and worked in Mexico, were currently working in Mexico, or Mexicans living and working abroad. “It was kind of this introduction and overview of Modernism in Mexico, and that’s what piqued Rockefeller Center’s interest,” says Thoreen. “This, in a way, is an evolution of our first exhibition, so it’s really based around many different perspectives and eras and decades.”

Visitors will be treated to installations by famed artists as well as up-and-comers. There will be a bench made from chain link by architect Frida Escobedo, a car hood repaired using the Japanese method of “kintsugi” by Rubén Ortiz Torres, and a plaster relief by Isamu Noguchi.  Visitors will be struck by the transformation of the space into an unexpected realm. “From the craziness of outside to this is kind of surreal,” explains Thoreen. “The space feels kind of strange… in a good way. It's a kind of transportation to a different world.”

Above all, there is interesting and thought-provoking work to be seen. With curator Su Wu, MASA has assembled over 60 works by 20 artists. Building upon the bones of the original architectural footprint, the team brings something new and striking to the Rink Level Gallery. “We’ve completely converted it into a group exhibition space, but it still has the memory of the [former] post office,” says Salajõe. Editor’s note: The post office relocated to 50 Rockefeller Plaza on West 51st Street.

And the Rink Level Gallery isn’t the only thing that’s transformed. On Center Plaza, artist Pia Camil reimagines the usual 193 flags that represent the individual countries of the United Nations. Instead, these flagpoles are strung with more than 700 personal items collected from Mexico City residents by the artist. Entitled “Saca Tus Trapos Al Sol” (“Air Out Your Dirty Laundry”), the installation – Camil’s largest to date – uses these articles of clothing to represent the histories and stories of the people from whom they were collected, stories that were recorded at the time of collection.

The result of these varied factions is a valuable look at place and time, cross-cultural currents, and global conversation. Through mini murals, erotic drawings, conceptual seesaws, and even visualized sound waves, MASA looks back at the history of creative exchange between Mexico and the United States while also considering pressing issues of our time. It is a rare opportunity to examine and reflect on how we define ourselves, our countries, and our heritage, and a broad look at the power of art and design beyond base aesthetics. Prepare to be transported.

MASA’s “Intervención/Intersección” is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday from 10am to 6pm in the Rink Level Gallery until June 24; the exhibition on Center Plaza ends June 10.

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