CHRISTOPHER WOOL - FOOL

(American, b. 1955)
Untitled, 1990
Alkyd and acrylic on aluminum
96 × 54 in. (243.84 × 137.16 cm)
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. George Kaiser, Tony and Sue Krausen, Dr. Donald M. Levy, Marianne and Sheldon B. Lubar, Vicki and Allen Samson, Bud and Sue Selig, and Dr. and Mrs. James Stadler
Photo credit: Luhring Augustine (Gallery)
Currently on View at Milwaukee Art Museum


AUCTION REPORT, 2012 via the Observer UK

$7.8 M. Artist Record for Christopher Wool Set at Christie’s Evening Sale

At Christie’s London contemporary sale, Christopher Wool’s Untitled set a new artist record. The price, after the buyer’s premium, was £4,913,250 ($7,758,022) high above the estimate of £2,500,000-3,500,000 ($3,947,500 – $5,526,500).

The piece spells out the word “FOOL,” and beat out the artist’s last record, $5,010,500 (according to Artnet), which happens to have been set by Blue Fool, a canvas with the word “FOOL” spelled out in the exact same way and in the same lettering except the previous record is in blue and the new one is in black 

Truth, nothing, but …

by Jan Galligan & Lillian Mulero, Santa Olaya, PR

Rafael Vargas Bernard asked recently on Facebook what it would take to get someone to write about his exhibition Sobre-Analisis-Sobre presented at El cuadrado gris. While offered in jest, his entreaty opens up a number of interesting questions. As artists and art writers, we understand the quest for attention and the struggle to find an audience


Artist Rafael Vargas Bernard asks, “who do I have to bribe?”

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Relocating from upstate New York, we came here with an abiding interest in the art of the island and the artists making that work. Our initial experience suggested that it was difficult to find a centralized resource for art information. The local newspapers and magazines provided occasional articles, but often those articles were a replay of an exhibition's press release, full of information, but lacking insight. The past seven years have shown improvement. Now art writers often give careful attention – as they explore the methods and intentions of the artists under discussion. Now there are more articles on a regular basis, and writers are given more space for their opinions.

Meanwhile, a couple of small but important local art magazines have ceased to publish, with nothing to take their place. This may be a function of the changing way that such information is distributed. As it becomes increasingly difficult to support printed publications, they are replaced by online resources. We still prefer to read articles in print. The information seems to have more substance and the pictures are more impressive on the printed page. But, our opinion does not have much influence. The world of publishing is rapidly changing and we need to adapt or we will be left behind, stranded with a pile of yellowing newsprint and curling glossy magazine pages.

We have discovered that online publishing is crucial. Online provides a forum in which the writer has more control, immediate access to an audience, and the means to get direct feedback from the readers. We do not see this as a replacement for print publishing, but rather an enhancement, which seems to be the attitude of most traditional publishers. There are few newspapers or magazines that do not also have an online presence, and many of those sponsor blogs in addition to their websites.

For the independent writer, online publishing provides intellectual freedom, the opportunity to express an opinion, and a means for getting your word “out there.” Attracting and keeping readers can be difficult, but there are tools to help ease the way. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and SnapChat can be useful in this process. You can connect a blog to those resources, and every time an article is posted, notices are automatically cross-posted to those other forums. Then, it becomes a project of building an audience through online networking while continuing to add new content.

It should be obvious that we are not limiting our remarks to writing about art. Instead we suggest that this provides a blue-print for doing creative work and seeking an audience. Our previous article, ART IN THE AGE OF THE INTERNET was a cautionary tale for artists using the internet to promote their work. Efforts must be taken to ensure that your intellectual property is protected. You don't want to give away your production, nor would you like to see someone else make use of your work and take credit for it.

So, what about Vargas Bernard and his quest for attention to his exhibition? Searching for him on Google returns 2000 articles, images, and videos related to his art. On Facebook he has over 2000 connections. El cuadrado gris has over 2000 followers. There is probably a large overlap, but the audience in both cases is substantial. Scrolling through the Facebook pages of the gallery and the artist, one finds many comments, questions and emoticons. To what exactly do they refer? For his exhibition, Vargas Bernard installed four works in the basement space of the gallery as shown in this diagram …
Each work consists of common objects connected to home-made electronics. A) tocaperiodicos, consists of a record player turntable whose stylus has been replaced by an optical sensor which reads the patterns on the front page of local daily newspapers, which are used instead of vinyl records. What the viewer hears through headphones is sounds produced by the spinning newspaper.

Tocaperiodicos, artwork by Rafael Vargas Bernard, 2017

B) franja reciproca is an elaborate piece of flat plastic electronic ribbon cable to which sensors and other electronic have been hand-wired. This work requires two viewer participants, each of whom inserts a thumb into a small harness. While attached, as they move around, they can hear modifications to the sound of their heart rhythms. 

 Omar Obdulio Pena Forty, Rafael Vargas Bernard and Lillian Mulero, with franja reciproca, artwork by Rafael Vargas Bernard, 2017

franja reciproca, (installation viewartwork by Rafael Vargas Bernard, 2017


C) discojon island
is a map of Puerto Rico with various electronics and speakers attached, which emit sounds when approached by the viewer.


discojon island (detail) artwork by Rafael Vargas Bernard, 2017


D) Reclamor firme, the most elaborate work, includes a side room with the floor covered in dirt, underneath which has been installed sensors and electronics. The viewer is encouraged to pick up a flag. The bottom of the flag pole also has a sensor. The viewer is instructed to plant the flag in the ground. As the pole strikes the dirt, a loud drum sound is produced while a segment of La Borinqueña fills the room. The more one bangs the floor, the louder the sound and the longer the segment that is heard.


Reclamor firme, (installation view), artwork by Rafael Vargas Bernard, 2017

Reclamor firme, (installation view), Lillian Mulero performing -- artwork by Rafael Vargas Bernard, 2017

Regarding the meaning, when possible we prefer let artists speak for themselves. Vargas Bernard says, “When the public comes into the exhibition, I want them to open the door and activate the work, and to feel an ownership of this work. Because I created it, therefore I release it so that they might do what they want, while creating their own version in the process.”

He says he considers these works to be “strange experiments” which “measure vital signs” and which can “create sensations and emotions between two persons.” His discojon island, while appearing to be a traditional painting, in fact “reacts to the audience, and changes depending on their proximity.”

As for us, we will take his word for it.

















FAIR USE or FAIR GAME, art in the internet age

PICTURE CAPTION (left to right) : Elaine Sturtevant, 1966, Duchamp Man Ray Portrait; Richard Pettibone, 1968, Andy Warhol, "Marilyn Monroe," 1964; Sherrie Levine, 1981, After Walker Evans; Deborqh Kass, 2012, The Deb Suite 
[ARTICLE AS PUBLISHED in En Rojo cultural supplement to Claridad newspaper]

by Jan Galligan & Lillian Mulero, Santa Olaya, PR

"It's all fair use," says Jan. "Maybe so," replies Lillian, "but in any event, these days we are all fair game..."

The internet changes everything. This is the mantra and the meme of the moment, and the art world finds itself under the spell. The rules have changed in ways that make it seem like there are no rules. What once was difficult, now is easy. What once took time and effort now can be done in a few keystrokes. Where previously art resided in semi-protected environments: art studios, galleries, museums – now artists, galleries and museums present themselves in the all-sharing, everything up for grabs domain of the world wide web. On one hand this provides for enormous exposure, while on the other, it opens an artist's oeuvre to appropriation, adaptation and reuse, often without the artist's knowledge or permission.

Appropriation has been a part of the practice of art since the early 20th century, originating with Dada and Surrealism. The intention of these artists was to provoke a sense of heightened verisimilitude, while making comment on the contemporary milieu. In the 1950s Robert Rauschenberg created the first contemporary art work employing the work of another artist, when he convinced Willem de Kooning to provide one of his pencil drawings which Rauschenberg then laboriously erased, creating his Erased de Kooning Drawing.

Appropriation became an art movement in the 1980s with the work of Sherrie Levine, rephotographing Walker Evans seminal pictures; Mike Bidlo recreating paintings by Andy Warhol, Picasso and Jackson Pollock; Elaine Sturtevant making perfect copies of Warhol and Marcel Duchamp; and Richard Pettibone creating exact miniature replicas of Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, and Jasper Johns.

Appropriation art matured and the concept became more sophisticated in the 1990s as other artists took up the practice including Deborah Kass, who made Warhol-like paintings using her own image; Damien Hirst, who used the Disney Mickey Mouse to his own ends when he wasn't making paintings using Spin-Art machines; and the artist who now epitomizes appropriation art, Richard Prince.

Unlike other artists of his generation, Prince embraced the internet – as a means to present and promote his work and as the source of material for his art. Recently this has led to a series of law suits against Prince, as well as against artist Jeff Koons, by the authors of the originals. The success or failure of those law suits has hinged on the concept of fair use – whether or not the new art work sufficiently transforms, or definitively comments on the original source. Prince was sued by a photographer whose images of rastafarians Prince used in his paintings, the result was a split decision: 23 of the paintings were deemed fair use, five were not. Koons was sued successfully by a photographer whose photo was the model for a Koons sculpture of a couple holding eight puppies; and most recently by the photographer of the 1986 Gordons gin advertisements Koons rephotographed for his own Luxury and Degradation series of 1986; that case is still in the courts.

Facebook was founded in 2004 and Instagram in 2010. Both are now heavily utilized by artists for self-promotion. Some artists now directly present their work on Facebook or Instagram, and a few are trying to make those platforms work metaphorically as their canvas or paintbrush. The problem is, that while they are public entities providing world-wide access, according to a copyright attorney in New York – by posting pictures and videos, you grant Facebook “a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any content that you post on or in connection with Facebook.” Instagram's terms of service states: “To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.”

So, where does that leave the artist in today's internet free-for-all? One would be advised to proceed with caution when uploading personal artworks of any sort to the internet. You cannot stamp them with a copyright notice and expect that it will be honored or remain in force. On public forums your work is fair game; unless you take the trouble to publish your work in a more controlled private format, say on your own website, or a website where their terms let you retain copyright to your original material. Fair game means anyone, anywhere can collect your work and do with it as they wish: use it outright, incorporate it into their own creations or stamp it with their name and present and sell it as their own.

Closer to home, in 2005 Spanish conceptual artist Antoni Muntadas was commissioned to create a public art project for the Roosevelt station of the inter-urban train. He used photographs from two books by photographer Jack Delano: De San Juan a Ponce en el Tren and Puerto Rico Mio. Muntadas work is titled On Translation: El Tren Urbano, and reproduces Delano's photographs exactly, enlarging them to enormous, 20 x 30 foot, backlit transparencies. In documents regarding this work, Muntadas acknowledges Delano. Although he does not specify that his work is an homage, clearly it is an artistic appropriation.

Contrast this with the work of local artist Carlos Mercado who has appropriated many of Jack Delano's photographs, turning them into a series he calls Iconos, in which he gives no mention of Delano, in the titles or accompanying descriptions.

(left) Antoni Muntadas, On Translation: El Tren Urbano, Roosevelt Station; (right) Carlos Mercado, Iconos, employing colorized photographs of Jack Delano

Mercado's addition of color to Delano's photographs undermines their iconic power, turning them into a decorative pastiche that renders them as oversized picture postcards. Further negating their original meaning, Mercado has given each of the photographs his own title. For instance, a 1940s Delano picture of a group of workers, packed onto a farm truck, is titled COMO SALCHICHA EN LATA. Mercado is able to use Delano's photographs for this purpose without concerns of copyright because they are freely available for download at the Library of Congress. An interesting exercise at best, Mercado's pictures, unlike the carefully considered work of Muntadas, do not pay tribute to – or in any way honor – the original art of Jack Delano.


FAIR USE
(in US copyright law) the doctrine that brief excerpts of copyright material may, under certain circumstances, be quoted verbatim for purposes such as criticism, news reporting, teaching, and research, without the need for permission from or payment to the copyright holder.

FAIR GAME
(hunting, archaic) quarry that may legitimately be pursued according to the rules of a particular sport


MECA art fair, San Juan, PR -- June 1-4, 2017 acquisitions with links to Instagram, Twitter, Facebook et.al.

Picture caption -  various items from the MECA art fair, on the couch at home in Santa Olaya, PR including: Tunica LESS THAN NOTHING shopping bag (Embajada); [his] EL ODIOSO OLOR DE LA VERDAD (the hateful odor of the truth) & [her] SONAMOS BAJO EL MISMO CIELO (we dream under the same sky) T-shirts from Rirkit Tiravanija & Tomas Vu (their GREEN GO HOME project); poster (MECA); books, postcards and announcements (various)


Picture caption -  (DETAILS): Ilan Stavans & Adal, I LOVE MYSELFIE, Duke University Press, 2017; Karlo Andre Ibarra, A VECES SUENO QUE CAE UN METEORITO SOBRE MI PAIS Y LO CONSTRUYE (sometimes I dream that a meteorite fell on my country and rebuilt it), Projecto Local, 2016; SINESTESIA (synthesis), photo exhibit by Arnaldo Cotto, Casa Aboy, summer 2017; JUNTE (join), special project in Adjuntas, PR, summer 2017; OUT OF SPACE,  curated by Andrea Bauza and Melissa M. Ramos Borges for FADS; MULTIMEDIA, Eva Mayha ProjectsDOBLE AMARILLO (double yellow) painting by Julio Suarez at Galeria Agustina Ferreyra; MECA art fair poster; New Yorker magazine, May 15, 2017 issue; ESTADIDAD (statehood) informational flyer advocating statehood in the June 11, 2017 plebiscite on status for Puerto Rico, and the PIP (independence) position


IN ADVANCE OF UNA PUBLICACIÓN EN ESPAÑOL

La Barra de Paquito, with Christopher Rivera, Paquito, Juni Figueroa, Jorge Gonzalez, Lillian Mulero, Bubu Negron

Tropical Readymades (assisted): the artist as curator
by Jan Galligan & Lillian Mulero, Santa Olaya, PR

In 1913 Marcel Duchamp presented Bicycle Wheel, the first in a series of artworks he called Readymades, objects selected using a method of visual indifference in which the idea came first. At the time, André Breton defined readymade as “an ordinary object elevated to the dignity of a work of art by the mere choice of the artist.” To create Bicycle Wheel Duchamp selected the front wheel and fork of a black bicycle, mounted it upside down on the seat of a white wooden four-legged stool, then signed and dated the work, adopting readymade, a term used to describe manufactured items, distinguishing them from handmade goods. Duchamp adapted the term ironically to specifically define artworks he would create merely by selection. Because he combined two already made objects into one, he labeled Bicycle Wheel a Readymade (assisted) and then created others including With Hidden Noise,  a ball of twine clamped between two brass plates, joined by four screws. An unknown object was secretly placed inside the ball by one of his friends, and he never discovered what it was. Examples of “pure” Readymades include In Advance of a Broken Arm, 1915, a snow shovel with the title written on the handle, and Traveler's Folding Item, 1916, a leather Underwood typewriter cover, signed and dated by Duchamp.

In 2005 Jesus “Bubu” Negron was included in the Whitney Museum Biennial, where he presented Honoris Causa, consisting of a table from an African street vendor selling handicrafts, coupled with a hot dog cart – locating them both outside the museum. In 2014, Radames “Juni” Figueroa was selected for the Whitney Biennial, and he created Breaking the Ice, a small wooden structure, similar to a typical Puerto Rican casita, that sought, says Figueroa “to bring a bit of Caribbean atmosphere to New York with references to the tropical and beachy architecture of Puerto Rico, and which included several heaters placed to warm up the space, recreating a tropical climate.”

Late last summer, Negron and Figueroa took over the Embajada gallery on calle Cesar Gonzalez in San Juan, and turned it into a clandestine speak-easy, of the sort found along the calles of Bayamon. They called it La Barra de Paquito, named after Figueroa's dog, Paquito – who, for the duration of the exhibition, served as the bartender.  

Artists following a similar aesthetic, Negron and Figueroa until this exhibition, had not previously created art together. Billed as a one-person exhibition of new work by Negron, the project was curated by Figueroa who, in the manner of his Whitney installation, built the make-shift bar from various scraps of lumber, at a slightly small scale – to fit the stature of his dog Paquito.

Negron made a number of works specifically for the exhibition, including a series of 30 photographs laminated onto shaped wooden panels, recalling low-cost religious items found in discount stores around the island. Each photo depicts an invented internet meme of the sort typically found on Facebook. Apparently, all of the meme slogans came by way of text messages exchanged between Negron and Figueroa prior to their exhibit. About his artwork, Negron says, “I like working on projects that promote social interactions (usually) against authorities or power structures. What results, usually becomes an art object or documentation,” or as he has been know to say, “Delving into the bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla bla.”

Other works created by Negron include two cute puppies painted on the back of cardboard beer cases and a slot machine simulating the locally made and illegitimately rigged machines found in convenience stores around the island, this one made of paper mache, cardboard, and an iPad which displays three dogs as the winning combination.

In addition to the work of Negron, Figueroa chose complimentary works by fifteen other artists, some displayed on the bar and others hung on the walls of the back room, including a painting by Leo Fitzpatrick that says: A MAN WALKS INTO A BAR, and a mixed media group of pint liquor bottles by Jessie Stead & R. Lyon called: Duh Angel Signature Cocktail.

In the leadup to their exhibit, on Facebook Negron and Figueroa posted a series of announcements and messages, all carrying the theme: NOTHING CONCEPTUAL. However, it's possible they were speaking ironically, as in NOTHING PERSONAL – which when used as an apology implies that the speaker really did not mean what he was saying. Here, Negron and Figueroa mean exactly what they say. Both artists have a long history of making work and creating installations that are simultaneously entertaining and a challenge to the viewer's sensibilities. Make no mistake, this is art of the most interesting sort, and – it is conceptual. 

In 1969 Sol Lewitt published 35 Sentences on Conceptual Art in Art-Language magazine. A couple of examples: #1) Conceptual artists are mystics rather than rationalists. They leap to conclusions that logic cannot reach; #14) The words of one artist to another may induce an idea chain, if they share the same concept; and #30) There are many elements involved in a work of art. The most important are the most obvious.

At that time, conceptual artists were considered dry, humorless, intellectual, and against any art that was decorative or representational. Developed in opposition to the tenets of critic Clement Greenberg, who championed formalism against illusion, conceptual art promoted ideas above objects. As artist Lawrence Weiner declared: “Once you know about a work of mine you own it. There is no way I can get inside someone's head to remove it.”

Now you know about some of the work of Jesus “Bubu” Negron and Radames “Juni” Figueroa and so you own it -- it is yours do with as you wish. Just be careful that they don't come looking for you …

Nothing Conceptual, La Barra de Paquito by Bubu Negron, The Warriors



Embajada, Calle Cesar Gonzalez, 382 – www.embajadada.com

Jesus “Bubu” Negron www.artsy.net/artist/jesus-bubu-negron

Radames “Juni” Figueroa www.artsy.net/artist/radames-juni-figueroa


San Juan Art Diary : Summer, 2016

by Jan Galligan and Lillian Mulero 
Santa Olaya, PR

“I still say the art here reminds me of New York's Lower East Side in the 1980s,” says Lillian.

“What? Do you think that the art here looks like Neo-Geo, Neo-Pop, Street Art, and Neo-Expressionism?” I ask.

“No.” What I mean is that the New York art world at that time had a youthful energy and a sense of community and cooperation between artists and gallery owners. Artists worked with colleagues to develop a new culture. At the same time they participated in the international art world and were recognized with important opportunities and represented in influential exhibitions. That's what it feels like here now,” she explains.

Roberto Paradise gallery and Walter Otero Contemporary Art featured in ArtInfo listing for 2015 & 2016.

A good example of that type of energy and commitment is El cuadrado gris / The Gray Square a project of the art couple Anna Astor-Blanco, curator and Ozzie Forbes, photographer. After working and living in an art filled apartment, they decided to find a place of their own that could serve as both a home and an art gallery. They discovered a small uninhabited house in Barrio Obrero which they could remodel to their specifications. Having turned the basement of their building into what they call “a platform for contemporary multimedia artists and their work,” in early 2015 they began presenting exhibitions and multimedia art installations. First time visitors may be surprised to find that from the outside, the building looks like many of the other houses nearby. Except for decorative lights on the front porch and rather loud club music coming from inside, (Forbes has the reputation as a serious dj for contemporary music from Argentina) 455 Tito Rodriguez is hard to distinguish from surrounding houses. Passing through the front rooms and kitchen, you discover a small narrow stairway leading down to El cuadrado gris, two interconnected basement rooms – walls, ceiling and floor painted a medium gray, creating a perfectly neutral environment for the presentation of contemporary art.

Most recently, Astor-Blanco and Forbes turned their subterranean space over to the fertile imagination of artist Nayda Collazo-Llorens who took literal advantage of the opportunity, creating the project she calls Debajo de la Casa / Under the House. Collazo-Llorens says she immediately felt an affinity between their repurposed domestic space and her own house where she grew up, the homes of her aunt and grandparents, and the house she used as her studio, all in nearby Santurce. She says she was captured by a curiosity about this hidden space, “not knowing what might be found, a mix of the familiar and the unknown, the near and the far, it is a space that requires navigation.” Her answer was to bring elements of her earlier experiences into this underground architectural space, presenting them in a new and updated context. These include a collection of her grandfather's books that she stacked in a corner, from the floor to the ceiling, placed with their spines against the wall hiding the titles from the viewer and creating a sense of mystery about the stories and history they contain.

The largest and immediately impressive element of her installation is also the most mysterious. Entering El cuadrado gris one discovers a series of light gray, abstract, concentric designs painted directly on the walls and pillars. As you walk around they seem connected, but only when you find a specific location do these designs coalesce into one coherent pattern that suddenly floats within the space, appearing to hang in the air just out of reach. The effect is startling, impressive, and is its own reward for having exercised your curiosity.

Debajo de la casa, site specific art installation by Nayda Collazo-Llorens

El Cuadrado Gris / The Grey Square, 455 Calle Tito Rodriguez, Barrio Obrero. Visits can be scheduled by appointment via email sent to: elcuadradogris@gmail.com


After a nine month residency, part of Beta-Local's La Practica program, artist Ramon Miranda Beltran was given use of Casa del Sargento to present sujecto/objecto, a series of related sculptures and projected photographs created during his residency. Beta-Local was founded as a non-profit in 2009 in the spirit of 1980s New York organizations such as Exit Art, and Art in General. Beta-Local is dedicated to promoting local artists and connecting them to the international art community. Through programs like La Practica, they support and encourage artistic practice and aesthetic thought working to make art an essential social and political part of the life of the community.

Beltran, a recent graduate of UPR and the School of the Art Institute in Chicago, has made his sculptures from cement and wood native to Puerto Rico. Each object, meticulously crafted, has been carefully placed within the main room of Casa del Sargento, situated for easy viewing, but also arranged in a precarious balance. Made from heavy and substantial materials, the sculpted objects lean on and support each other in such a manner that an incautious or accidental touch would cause them to tumble to the ground. Beltran's photographs follow a similar narrative. One group of pictures were made looking out the windows of model apartments in the controversial Paseo Caribe complex and the others were taken through the windows of office spaces used by residents of the adjoining Caribe Plaza – residents who have come to the island specifically to take advantage of new tax exemption laws. For Beltran these businessmen have a relationship to the island as tenuous and uncertain as the parts of his sculptural constructions have to each other.

Ramon Miranda Beltran, sujecto/objecto, installation view at Casa del Sargento

Ramon Miranda Beltran, http://ramonmirandabeltran.com
Beta-Local, http://betalocal.org
Casa del Sargento, Calle Sol esquina Barbosa, Viejo San Jan


Last winter, Christopher Rivera and Manuela Paz converted a small clothing store in Hato Rey into a clean white space for showing art, leaving one of the walls, covered with floor to ceiling mirrors, intact. This was an excellent decision, as it makes the long and narrow space feel much larger, while providing an interesting challenge for artists when displaying their work. In the most recent four person exhibition, LEAN, artist Esther Klas who was born in Germany and works in Barcelona, used the mirrors as the surface onto which she drew a series of small faces. They are subtle and could easily be overlooked. On the floor sits a pair of bright orange running shoes, sculpted from beeswax, by Melissa Hopson of Indianapolis. Together Hopson and Klas created a pair of inkjet photographic prints which are mounted on the front window and can be seen from either side, depending whether you are inside or outside the gallery. Claudia Peña Salinas, born in Mexico and lives and works in Brooklyn, has used the former fitting room to present a group of one-of-a-kind inkjet prints which are mounted on wax panels which adds a luster to their day-glo colors. Among Brooklynite Linda Matalon's sculptures is a pair of wooden frames, coated with wax, which literally lean against the wall. The six struts for each frame are assembled, unattached. Three pieces lie on the floor, while two others lean against the wall, with the final strut balanced on top.

Lean is a good title for this exhibition, as many of the works are presented leaning or balancing instead of being traditionally attached to the walls. The exhibition itself is lean. These works, curated by Elena Tavecchia, are judiciously few in number, spare in their materials, minimalist in presentation, while they seem to have a special resonance in these lean economic times.

Installation view, LEAN, group exhibition. Note mirrored wall on right.

Embajada, Calle Cesar Gonzalez 82, Hato Rey, http://embajadada.com


Now in its third year in a refurbished commercial building in the Puerta de Tierra district, Walter Otero's gallery is distinguished by the full length glass paneled overhead door which is its front entrance. On particularly balmy evenings the door is raised and the gallery becomes an open-air emporium. The door also serves a practical purpose, allowing large scale art works to be easily brought into or out of the building.

Temporarily closed for July vacation, the gallery recently presented a group show by a dozen gallery artists. Prominent among them was a group of working drawings by Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla. Titled Body in Flight (Delta), they depict one of six works presented at the 2011 Venice Biennale under the title Gloria. Each drawing in this set shows a female gymnast in a brightly colored leotard using a business-class airline seat as a platform for her Olympic style balance beam routine. During the Biennale, Allora and Calzadilla presented Body in Flight (Delta) as a continuous series of gymnastic dance performances. Local gymnasts, were instructed to perform a routine, choreographed in conjunction with a modern dancer to include both gymnastic and dance elements. Unlike normal gymnastic routines lasting two minutes, these were designed as 17-minute tests of endurance contradicting, as they say “the intention of the luxurious airline business class seat designed for maximum comfort of the passenger and functioning as an object of admiration in our capitalist culture.”

Another contradiction of creature comfort is found in the work of Rademes “Juni” Figueroa, a 2013 graduate of the Beta-Local La Practica program who also exhibited at the Whitney Museum Biennial that same year. Figueroa here presents a pair of automobile radiators whose grills have been incised with a blunt object, probably a screwdriver, creating brash, yet delicate drawings on the surface of the cooling fins. The drawings have the characteristic of slapdash graffiti wall drawings seen all over the city, and the imagery, palm trees, pirates, sunbursts, and occasional words like VAQUERO, COCO, or even phone numbers completes that connection. Of course, once the surface of the fins are damaged, the device will no longer function to provide cool air.

Radamés "Juni" Figueroa, .40 Living the Dream, 2015, Air conditioner


Walter Otero Contemporary Art, 402 Ave. Constitucion, http://www.walterotero.com



TABLE OF CONTENTS FOR PREVIOUS ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES



Personal Attention (an art installation and performance)

ARTISTA EN PERFIL: Chaveli Sifre

by Jan Galligan and Lillian Mulero 
Santa Olaya, PR

We first encountered Chaveli Sifre and her art at Roberto Paradise when the gallery was located in a beautiful old wooden house on calle Hipodromo. We wrote about her exhibition, Fixed on the Scent of Light, in a June 12, 2013 article titled Chaveli Sifre: Scents and Sensibility. Since then, Sifre has moved to Berlin where she continues her art practice and sings with her pop band House of Life, while Roberto Paradise has relocated on calle Roberto H. Todd. We remained in contact with Sifre by way of Facebook, and were delighted when she posted an announcement for a one night project to be presented at La Estacion Espacial in the Miramar arts district which includes galeria Agustina Ferreyra and the recently announced El Museo de Arte y Diseno de Miramar, scheduled to open in 2018.

La Estacion Espacial, directed by Guillermoe Rodríguez and housed in a former bodega is a temporary platform for contemporary art created with the support of Beta-Local's La Practica project. La Estacion Espacial presents a continuing series of micro-exhibitions and seeks to open a local / international dialogue in the art community.

Sifre's description of her project Personal Attention said she would convert the exhibition space into a healing center employing different faiths, various rituals, and therapeutic methods – in particular the Japanese alternative medicine technique Reiki, which was developed in the 1920s by a Buddhist and has since become a world-wide phenomenon. The name is derived from the Japanese words rei – miraculous spirit, and ki – breath of life. Reiki masters claim that they are able to perceive a subject's ki-energy and determine if the life force is functioning at a high or low level. If the energy s low, a Reiki master can, by passing hands over the affected areas, transfer energy and improve the subject's health and happiness. This appealed to me because for many years I have suffered from tinnitus, a condition of the inner ear which fills my head with various ringing, roaring, buzzing, clicking and hissing sounds. Apparently listening to rock and roll music at very high volume when I was in my twenties caused this. Now that I am nearly a septuagenarian, I am haunted by the echoes of my youth. There are no cures for tinnitus, no medications and no operations which can silence the background noise. I've tried various homeopathic treatments, but they had no effect.  

Preparing the background for Sifre's installation

When I told Lillian about Sifre's project and insisted that we attend the performance, she treated me to a series of Ricky jokes about Ricky Rosello, Ricky Riccardo, Rikki Tiki Tavi - Rudyard Kipling's mongoose, and that joke about Ricky Martin changing a light bulb. Arriving at La Estacion Espacial, we found many people outside the storefront. Inside it was calm and serene. The wall opposite the entrance was covered in a large diaphanous fabric that rippled gently with two fans providing a cooling breeze. I learned from Sifre that the fabric was professionally dyed using two colors certified by Pantone corporation, the international arbiter of color popularity. Each year Pantone names a color of the year. For 2016 they picked two colors: number 13-1520, Rose Quartz and number 15-3919 Serenity. Pantone attempts to lead the marketplace with their color choices. They say, “As consumers seek mindfulness and well-being as antidotes to modern day stress, we join together Rose Quartz and Serenity (a warm embracing rose tone and a cooler tranquil blue) to effect a soothing sense of order and peace.” Sifre has literally joined those two colors in a subtle blend from rose to blue creating a gentle mauve where they mix together.

In the center of the exhibition space Sifre installed a sinusodial sculpture made from metal mesh painted an aqua color. The center peak serves as a bench where a person sits when having a Reiki session. Two Reiki masters dressed in matching white tunics imprinted with various religious symbols simultaneously apply their no-touch massage therapy, while the subject, facing away from the audience, can contemplate the slowly wafting fabric or dream their own thoughts as the treatment progresses. I watched two patients being treated while I waited for my own session to begin.

Meanwhile, Sifre explained a video she had installed on a small monitor in one corner of the room which can be watched while sitting on a soft white cushion imprinted with the same symbols as the Reiki robes. This video is designed to induce ASMR in the viewer. ASMR was named in 2010 by a New York cybersecurity professional. When watching and listening to security monitors for long periods, she would feel a subtle sensation of tingling and euphoria, starting on the scalp and moving down the neck resulting in a kind of spine-tingling brain orgasm. She named this sensation Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response and started a Facebook Group to share her experience. Sight or sound can cause the sensation. Repetitive sounds can trigger a response. This might explain the feeling that I often have of fingers caressing the top of my head and the back of my neck. It could be that the repeated ringing and clicking noise of the tinnitus in my ears is causing an ASMR response on my skin. I was asking Sifre about this when her assistant told me it was time for my Reiki session.  

Watching others receive Reiki made me realize that not only are they the subjects of the treatment, but they are the material of Siefre's art. The Reiki masters, acting on Sifre's behalf, sculpt and mold the energy field of the person under their treatment, adding or subtracting ki and altering the subjects overall mood and well-being. As I sat down on the sculpture bench to begin my session, I realized that I know what it is like to be the subject of an art work – a portrait or a self-portrait, and the object of an art work – the viewer or the recipient, but never before have I been the actual material from which the art is being made. Not only that, but this art work, of which I am the material, if successful, will remain with me after I leave the exhibition and if it has any long-term effects might continue to exist in the days ahead.

Chaveli Sifre's Personal Attention, with Wave sculpture, tunics and Reiki masters

I decided to keep my eyes open and stare straight ahead at the soothing color of the curtain in front of me. Because I have an age-related eye condition, I am not able to see well on the periphery, so I did not see the two Reiki practitioners as they begin working their way around my body. I did feel my hair begin to stand up – on my head and the back of my neck, and I swear I could see waves of energy flowing in the space between me and the curtain. The curtain moves in the breeze, but I saw separate, distinct waves rising from the area near my waist then floating away, above my head. A sense of peace began to overtake me when the Reiki master touched me on the shoulder to say that my session had ended. I stood up slowly and thanked them both for the personal attention.

Back outside, I found Lillian in conversation with a small group of artists. “They were just telling me about TMS,” she said. “Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. It's a new scientific technique that uses electrical pulses to stimulate the brain. A writer for the New Yorker described how TMS made him feel like a savant when he tried it. He was smarter and excelled at mental tests and mathematics. And another writer, with no skills in drawing, made remarkable pictures while under TMS stimulation.Let's try it,” she exclaimed.

I wonder what effect it would have on my hearing or my vision.


Note: Chaveli Sifre, House of Life, Roberto Paradise, En Rojo, La Estacion Espacial, Galeria Agustina Ferreyra, Guillermoe Rodríguez, Beta-Local, Reiki Puerto Rico, Ricky Rosello, Ricky Riccardo, Rikki Tiki Tavi, Ricky Martin, Pantone, ASMR Preliminary Research, Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation and the New Yorker are all available on Facebook.



TABLE OF CONTENTS FOR PREVIOUS ARTICLES IN THIS SERIES

@ el CERRO, Naranjito, PR -- con la EXITOSA y mas

Jan Galligan sharing a drink with Tonino near the top of el CERRO.

Lillian Mulero, stopping in a shady spot, half way up the hill of el CERRO.

El CERRO is an ongoing project by artist Chemi Rosado-Seijo of San Juan, PR -- located in the el Cerro community of Naranjito, PR 30 miles south of San Juan in the foothills of the central mountainous corridor. 

Chemi says, "for the first time in 14 years we present to the general public The El Cerro Project in the beautiful community known as el Cerro in Naranjito, Puerto Rico. Since 2002, we worked with the residents to paint their houses with different shades of green to so honor the design and spontaneous architecture of this community. In addition, we are offering creative workshops, training and other activities of social impact for the community.

During this past year, thanks to the financial support of an "Artist as Activist" grant from the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation, we were able to paint more than 60 residences and impact the economy of  this community helping many residents become proficient at the skill of painting -- some have even turned professional."

ABOUT THE PROJECT

more photos here ...