It takes both magic and trust to build a creative community. Infinite-hyphenate writer/curator/poet/etc. Su Wu (@imrevolting) has an uncanny knack for unearthing that magic and creating spaces for it to grow. Recently transplanted from Joshua Tree, California to Mexico City where she’s lived “for the length of one child who was conceived and gestated and born here,” Wu has helped to draw international attention to the art and design community in CDMX through curating and organizing multiple exhibitions and projects.
Her first endeavor there, MASA gallery, for which she co-curated the inaugural exhibition with Constanza Garza, melded art and design—and the historical and the contemporary—into one site-specific exhibition comprising 70 works and housed in an abandoned mansion on the north side of town. Then, finding inspiration in place yet again, Wu opened Casa Ahorita, a temporary gallery and store on the ground floor of her new home, a 1920s former theater and home of William Burroughs located in Roma Norte. The space was filled with a mix of homegoods and art objects like plump sheepskin pillows from Elise Durbecq, plates adorned with tiny, ceramic strawberries from the artist Isabel Sanchez and volcanic neon crackle cups from LA-based Raina Lee.
Wu commissioned the works from friends from near and far, somehow creating a deep and singular sense of place despite the objects’ varied provenance. The project is a testament to her ability to bring worlds together—art and design, past and present, local and international—and of trust. Not only emanating from Wu to her artists, but from the artists to Wu: that whether in abandoned mansions or on garage shelves, Wu’s aesthetic discernment is unwavering, her worldbuilding otherworldly, and that she’ll know just what to do in whatever city she calls home.
Here, Wu shares with us what makes CDMX an international art and design destination and where to visit when you’re there.
How would you describe the art and design scene in CDMX?
The artist Francis Alÿs once said in an interview that he lived in Mexico City because it was a place where people would still describe themselves as poets, without qualification or embarrassment. What I take that to mean, after having been on the receiving end of Alÿs’ generosity in letting us exhibit his work, and in having visited what is rumored to be his first painting — down a rainwater and laundry-lined alleyway, covering up a hole in a crumbling facade — is that there is a certain openness to ideas that are impractical and antithetical to personal gain, and also a streak of wildness, and most of all old-school manners.
What opportunities do you think are afforded by living in CDMX and why do you think so many people are attracted to the area as an international center for art and design?
I do think it is important as an outsider and as an immigrant to think about my life like there is only life, and no place is a detour from any other default life.
How did you approach commissioning new works for Casa Ahorita?
All I wanted, really really really, was for Casa Ahorita to exist. I wanted to see it, even if just for a weekend, these works by friends in a shop in my garage. That it might grow into something seems like a lucky byproduct. The shop was like a poem, of words that might hang together or not, and not a rhetorical argument. Whereas perhaps exhibitions are meant to be rhetorical arguments, or they should be? That’s the ostensible reason for the curator? Anyway, I love curating, but I want to keep Casa Ahorita as a little poem, like a desire rushing ahead, waiting for the reasons to catch up.
What’s next for MASA Gallery?
I’m working on my third exhibition for MASA gallery, to coincide with Hacer Noche, an ambitious new Mexican biennial in Oaxaca City in September 2021, with lead curation by Elvira Dyangani Ose. If it all works out, after this year of learning not to get too attached to plans, the exhibition I’m curating will be centered around an artist I’ve long admired, showing an influential series of work that she made in Oaxaca in the ‘70s, but that has never before been exhibited there.
Su Wu’s Top 6 CDMX Art & Design Destinations
Chapel and Convent of the Capuchinas Sacramentarias
My favorite Luis Barragan structure, a working convent where they take your phone and sell you eggnog.
Stunning example of warm brutalism by the architect Teodoro González de León.
Small, ambitious gallery run by my dear friends Javier and Karla, with their unerring eye and curiosity, ranging from rare Jeanneret furniture to Dan McCarthy and Takuro Kuwata vessels to paintings by Louis Fratino.
Another great gallery, showing mostly Ibero-American artists, including a boisterous recent show by Milena Muzquiz.
Homegrown blue-chip gallery representing my favorites Danh Vo, Roni Horn and Miguel Calderon, which had more artists in the last Venice Biennale than any other. Housed in a brilliant renovation by Alberto Kalach and currently subdivided into a series of smaller spaces to show more emerging work and host artists represented by other galleries.
Isamu Noguchi’s Mural, “Historia de México”
A very strident mural in the Abelardo Rodriguez Market by Noguchi who wrote, “How different was Mexico! Here I suddenly no longer felt estranged as an artist; artists were useful people, part of the community.”
Abbye Churchill is a multidisciplinary artist and author who works with textiles, plants, food, and community. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Vogue, Food + Wine and W, among others. She was the Editorial Director of Wilder magazine and her first book, A Wilder Life was featured in the New York Times Book Review’s “Best of Summer.” Her most recent title is The Gardens of Eden: New Residential Garden Concepts & Architecture for a Greener Planet. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.