Jan Galligan and Lillian Mulero
Santa Olaya, PR
college professor, a businessman, and a janitor are in the forest
where they discover a magic fairy,” says Lillian.
happens?” I ask.
The fairy says, “I
will give you what you most desire if you do someone else's job for a
The professor says, “I'll be a
kindergarden teacher. What can be so hard about that?” So he is
teleported into a classroom. After a few minutes, all the kids are
screaming. He tosses all their supplies aside and gives up.
be a waiter,” says the businessman. “All you do is carry food
back and forth.” He is teleported to a restaurant. After an hour,
the annoying customers drive him crazy. He smashes all the tableware
and gives up.
The janitor says, “I'll be an
artist,” and he is teleported to an art studio. He quickly glues
the classroom supplies and shattered plates to a canvas and sells it
for a million dollars. The fairy asks the janitor how he was so
The janitor replies, “Easy.
Years ago I got a masters degree in art.”
standing in the middle of the Embajada gallery in Hato Rey where they
are showing work by eight artists and one video collective in an
exhibition titled, The
Joke is on You,
presented as “an homage to humor where the works don't just laugh
by themselves, but laugh with each other.”
The piece that seems to laugh
loudest is the video installation by Basica TV, a transgender art
collective who, costumed as giant stork-like birds, are chasing each
other around an artist's studio while squawking and flapping their
wings. The sounds of their squawking reverberates off the gallery
video is surrounded by a group of paintings: Roadside
a small oil on linen of a woman's head by Emily Davidson; Applause
by Tess Bilhartz, a collage of watercolor and photograph mounted on
plexiglass depicting a close up view of a woman's torso wearing a
dress that appears to be a landscape with another woman standing amid
the trees; and an oil on canvas by Jonathan Torres, titled Falling
shows two figures falling from the ceiling towards a third figure
lying on the floor. Interestingly, these paintings have been hung
from 2x4 planks erected from floor to ceiling, allowing you to see
both the front and back of each canvas while they appear to float in
the middle of the room. A
very large wall mounted canvas that combines acrylic paint and
silkscreened images, has been left untitled by artist Fernando
Pintado. Other works in the exhibition are by Sam Borstein, Matteo
Callegari, Stuart Lorimer and Elsa Maria Melendez.
second companion exhibit is installed in an adjoining room. Two long
tables are covered with a large collection of objects collected on
the Playa Limones and Bahia de Jobos beaches in Guayama by Javier
Orfon as part of a project he has worked on since 2007, which he
These objects include fragments of coral, rocks worn smooth by the
sea, small pieces of tile and other construction materials that were
found near the ruins of Central Aguirre and the long abandoned power
plant. A few of the rocks and coral forms have been decorated with
carefully painted landscapes or portraits of people. Orfon considers
his project a kind of topofilia, which Allen Watts described in his
My Own Way,
as a special love for peculiar places. Aguirre certainly fits this
definition as it has a tragic history while remaining very scenic
and, despite it present state of ruin, maintains some deep local
pride and even patriotism by those who, like Orfon, might consider it
a sacred space worthy of what he calls “amor a la tierra” a love
of the land.
Lorenzo Homer, Turistas
like a couple of art tourists, we next found ourselves at Museo de
Arte de Puerto Rico in Santurce where we'd come to see Repatriacion,
billed as a cultural exchange between this museum and the National
Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture in Chicago. Having been an
art student in Chicago many years ago, I was especially interested in
this collaboration which features ten artists who live and work in
Chicago. All are part of the diaspora, maintaining family or other
ties to Puerto Rico.
Billy Ocasio, director of the
National museum, initially planned to bring the work of a group of
island artists to Chicago, but after hurricane Maria, decided instead
to bring artists from Chicago to exhibit here in Puerto Rico as a
gesture of solidarity soon after the storm.
Josue Pellot, born 1979 in
Mayaguez, is represented by a very large photograph of El Morro which
he has modified by adding signs and storefronts to the facade,
turning the fortress into a gigantic shopping mall, as a kind of
fantasy post-hurricane reconstructive bid for increased tourism.
Lerma, born in Spain in 1971, has maintained close ties to the
island. He is represented in the Museum's permanent collection and
has shown regularly with the Roberto Paradise gallery. Working in the
more traditional vein of acrylic on canvas, here he presents two of
his signature paintings of noses, one large, the other small. The
large painting is called El
Huelebicho (The Douchebag).
For those unfamiliar with the term, the Urban Dictionary says a
douchebag is a man with an inflated sense of self worth, who thinks
he is a ladies man, but is a joke to all but the most naive
observers, while he remains an arrogant phony.
a display case, a group of small ceramic models of typical suburban
homes, stand next to series of documentary photographs of similar
houses, distinguished by the fact that the second story of each house
remains unfinished. Concrete block walls jut upwards from the flat
roofs as a testament to the unrealized hopes and dreams of the
occupants. Javier Bosques, born 1985 in San Juan, calls these works
and in an interesting twist, he has created the ceramic models in
collaboration with his mother Elba Melendez.
on the island in 1971, Edra Soto has been in Chicago since she was
27. Widely exhibited and in numerous museum collections, her work in
this exhibition presents a large group of empty liquor bottles that
she collected over a two year period from the streets near her art
studio in the Garfield Park area of west Chicago, a low income
neighborhood with a reputation for gang activity and violence. After
collecting many discarded cognac bottles, itself an act of litter
control, Soto carefully washed and cleaned them to a like-new
appearance, then organizing them in various still life arrangements,
she photographed them as if they were an advertisement for
themselves. Here she presents a grouping of the actual bottles
mounted on a shelf, along with a set of the preliminary photographs
and one large format, billboard sized final photo, which she has
24 Hours: Cognac (Remy Martin, Courvoisier V.S., D'Ussel, Hennessy)
tribute to the various brand names of the bottles collected.
Other work in this exhibition
curated by Bianca Ortiz Declet of MAPR, include paintings and
installations by Bibliana Suarez, Candida Alvarez, Luis Rodriguez,
Nora Maite Nieves, Omar Velazquez and Oscar Martinez.
we left the museum, we looked at a large collection of silkscreen
posters from the 1970s that included this striking work by Carmelo
Sobrino, titled Paz,
paz, paz … un dia de estos, carajo (Peace, peace, peace, one of
these god-damned days)
as well as another collection of black and white woodblock and
linoleum prints by Lorenzo Homar, Rafael Trufino and others, truly
one high-point of the island's fine art heritage.
paz, paz..., 1970
got another story for you,” says Lillian. “It goes like this ...”
While working in his studio, an
artist gets a phone call from his dealer. “I've got good news and
bad news,” says the dealer.
“Give me the good news,”
replies the artist.
client asked me if the value of your work would increase when you're
course,” says the artist.
what I told him, and he bought ten paintings.”
the bad news?” asks the artist.
Cesar Gonzalez, Hato Rey
de Arte de Puerto Rico
Avenida de Diego, Santurce