The basement of a former schoolhouse in Bushwick designed by an Irish immigrant in the 19th century was an appropriate setting for Brooklyn-based street artist Mata Ruda's first solo exhibition.
Titled Incurable Otherness, the exhibit opened this past weekend as part of Bushwick Open Studios. The show included a few larger scale pieces that the artist is better known for, alongside a series of newer work that offered commentary on the perception of modern immigration in America.
"I've been thinking about the idea of the ‘other’ in terms of the immigrant or cultures, and then combining them with classic poses symbolizing democracy and empire," Mata told FRANK151.
A series of smaller scale paintings took a symbolic and abstract approach to the subject of this trivialized "other” by joining and comparing images from different cultures. Using Montana paint markers, Mata re-created familiar portraits of Napoleon, Caesar, and Alexander The Great and merged them with abstract pre-Columbian symbols.
In Consequence And Development, a pre-Columbian mask and the hands of an arrested illegal immigrant are connected by a white circle. In all of the paintings, white streaks represent the presence of the US-Mexican border. In Tiny Earthquakes, immigrants are shown crossing the border in a white fog, a remark on the use of seismic technology (primarily associated with measuring earthquakes) on the border to detect immigrant activity.
Mata plans to continue exploring this idea of “otherness” in upcoming mural projects.
"My work is all about interaction,” Mata explained. “When it comes down to it, everything is the interaction of society. New York is the immigrant capital of the world—you don’t even see what’s going on and you don’t have to acknowledge it. It just sort of becomes this blank spot.”
More from FRANK: