ARTISTA EN PERFIL: Natalia Martinez

(right) Chemi Rosado Seijo and Natalia Martinez, Les Amantes, photo by Ivelisse Jimenez

by Jan Galligan and Lillian Mulero
Santa Olaya, PR

“Are you sure you have all the documents we need?” asks Lillian. “I think so,” I tell her. We have carefully prepared for our third annual trip to secure the registration for our car. We know that this can be an all day ordeal, so we have brought books, magazines, puzzles, games, water and snacks, along with all the paperwork related to the car and our residence. We are nearing the front of the line and soon will have our audience with the Department of Transportation clerk. I sort through the papers again. “Uh, I think I left last year's registration form in the car,” I confess to Lillian. This can be a fatal omission. Last year, after waiting on line at the Bayamon DTOP office for nearly five hours, when we presented our material to the clerk, we were missing the proof for the physical address of our house, and had to drive back to Santa Olaya to retrieve that document, and then return to DTOP and rejoin the endless line snaking through the office. This year, we are better prepared, and as well we have come to the DTOP office in Caguas, where we had heard, the lines are shorter. This is true. “I'll be right back,” I tell Lillian, as I run for the car to retrieve the missing document before she reaches the front of the line.

We need to finish our quest within one hour, because we have an appointment to meet the artist Natalia Martinez at AREA art space, for a tour of her exhibition. As well as having a more efficient bureaucracy, we have discovered that Caguas aggressively promotes and supports the arts. In addition to the Museo de Arte, there is also Museo de Caguas, Museo del Tabaco, Casa del Trovadore (singer), Casa del Compositor (writer), and the Museo de Artes Popular, all supported by the city government. AREA is a private enterprise started 10 years ago by José Hernández Castrodad as “a place for the exchange of arguments, critical thinking and the development and presentation of art projects that seek to make connections between artists in and out of Puerto Rico.” Natalia Martinez is presenting her work along with two other exhibitions: Visual Identity, is a collaboration between visiting artist in residence Julie Sass of Denmark and Ivelisse Jimenez, who lives and works in San Juan, and features work made during Sass's residency at AREA; Lujan Perez, a young spanish artist living in Florida, presents a series of portraits tightly cropped to the head and shoulders, large format drawings and woodcut prints, titled En Busqueda de Lilliath. (Searching for Lilliath).

The exhibition, Sobre amor y otros cosas, (About love and other things) by Natalia Martinez should be considered an installation. Each work illustrates a different perspective of her overall concept of assembling a group of objects which at first seem unremarkable and unrelated. Because of the way they are placed they appear to be devotional objects, imbued with nostalgia. Because each object has a history, they become talismans or souvenirs, and their meaning acquires significance, giving them a substance you otherwise would not expect.

The eight works on display are objects she has found, collected or been given over a number of years. The most simple, yet most poignant, is a single page from a well worn, used paperback copy of Julio Cortazar's book Un Tal Lucas, which Martinez purchased years ago from a street vendor in Caguas. She was so enamored of Cortozar's story, a series of disjointed observations that manage to present a complex portrait of Lucas, that she read and re-read the book until it literally fell apart. She has preserved this page, pressed between two sheets of glass and mounted in a frame.

In the middle of the gallery floor sits a rusted, crumpled sheet of corrugated tin roofing which looks like it has been folded in half. In fact, this panel was blown from the roof of her family's house in Juncos during hurricane Hugo, which devastated the island in 1989, when Martinez was in grade school. Her family's house was destroyed and the roof panel ended up wrapped around a tree, where it remained until last year when it finally fell to the ground.

Next to this, also on the floor, sits a rusted tin can, the type used to water plants when tending to the garden. This can belonged to Henry and Else Klumb, and was given to Martinez by artist Jorge Gonzalez while he was working on the gardens at Casa Klumb in Rio Piedras. Martinez has filled the can with a large plant from her own patio garden at her home in Santurce.

A few years ago, another artist friend, Joe Leon, gave Martinez a collection of materials he had inherited from the house of his grandmother, a cuban immigrant, whose profession was a seamstress, and who over many years amassed a large collection of fabrics, patterns and materials used while making dresses for her clients. These included the remnants of hundreds of dresses carefully rolled and tied with ribbons. In addition there were paper and plastic bags filled with fabrics cut to size according to specific patterns for customers who for various reasons never returned to complete their order. Each bag is labeled with the customer's name and a description of the dress that was to have been made.

Among the fabrics from Joe's grandmother, Martinez found a pile of deteriorating brightly colored material. She divided the pile and nailed one half to the wall. Then she tacked the other half onto the wall, and when it was secure, she removed the nail, letting it fall to the ground. She titled this work, Rainbow falling.

Mounted on the wall is a white wooden shelf that holds two small birds nests, which Martinez collected from her garden. Each nest contains threads and bits of fabric she had discarded while sitting on her patio and working on sewing projects. She considers this work a collaboration between herself and the birds that visited her patio over many seasons.

Nearby are two other pieces of fabric, plain off-white linen, draped side by side from two hooks. Next to them is a small rectangular metal souvenir copy of Rene Magritte's painting, The Lovers, which she purchased in a museum gift shop last year. In Magritte's painting, the lovers kiss, but each has their head shrouded in fabric. “Our secret desire,” wrote Magritte, “is for a change in the order of things.”

“Did you get the paperwork?” asks Lillian, when I return, panting and out of breath. She is now the next person in line. “Yes,” I tell her. “Good,” she says, “but next year, I'll be the one who gathers everything together before we leave on our visit to the Department of Transportation. By the way,” she asks, “are there any good restaurants here in Caguas?” “I'm not sure,” I tell her, “let me check the Yelp listings for Caguas downtown. Do you want Middle Eastern food? We haven't had tahini or tabbouleh in a long time, and the restaurant Los Olivos is showing four stars.”


article in Spanish, published in En Rojo, Feb 4, 2015

Natalia Martinez @ AREA


ARTISTAS EN PERFIL: The intransmutability of Body Art

The intransmutability of Body Art

by Jan Galligan & Lillian Mulero
Santa Olaya, PR

“I could have taken a bullet for the artist Chris Burden,” declares Lillian. 


“You know I have always been interested in disrupting the natural order of things. And, for me, art should be a means to provoke questions, not a platform that provides answers,” she says. 

“O.K.,” I tell, her, “But, would you really put it on the line for Chris Burden?”

“Well, not him personally, but for art, yes. Let's talk about this later,” Lillian instructs me. 

Chris Burden, Shoot, November 19, 1971, F Space, Santa Ana, CA.

We are just leaving La Puntilla in Old San Juan having toured the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture's three exhibitions, which have as the subject, the body: Cuerpo/Materia presenting twelve artists using performance to explore issues of the body; Behind the Scene: Arte, Cuerpo y Derecho featuring ten artists whose work directly questions censorship and the naked body as a contemporary subject for art; and Cosas, a diverse collection of twenty-two artists whose common subject is the human body. “Which work did you find most interesting?” asks Lillian. Before I can answer, she says, “Jorge Gonzalez has made the one piece that most clearly represents the body as both subject and the instrument of creation.” Using a gigantic stick of charcoal, Gonzalez inscribed a twenty-foot semicircle directly on the wall at the end of the gallery. “It is as if Da Vinci had given his Vitruvian Man big pieces of chalk and asked him to draw on the wall with his outstretched arms. Here, Gonzalez depicts the limits of the artist's ability to mark his place in space and time,” she says. In fact, I was thinking of the same work, entitled Vara de madera de doce pies, quemada por un soplete que permite un registro delimitado del cuerpo delineado sobre una superficie, although I saw Gonzalez's drawing more like the chalk outline left behind at a crime scene investigation. When the exhibition is over, this work will disappear.

At this point, we have reached our next destination, a small artist's studio apartment on calle San Justo in Old San Juan where Alana Iturralde has installed an enigmatic grouping of her artworks. The exhibition, entitled All That is Solid Melts into Air, presents seven ethereal pieces: El último toque de Midas, is made from ten tiny cake-like disks of porcelain and gold which she has arranged by placing one disk under each of her fingers and thumbs, with her hands spread as wide as possible. Iturralde says it is her intention that whoever would later install this work, place the disks using their own hands as the measure. In this way that person would directly become a part of the artwork. Cruces/cross is a small work on paper made from embroidery on canvas; Botanica rara, comprises a small grouping of dried plants, the leaves and branches have been coated with powdered purple pigment. Sobre plantas Carnivora, is made from rope which has been dyed blue and tied into knots; Poncho sentimental made from heavy cloth, calls to mind the felt shroud used by Joseph Bueys in his seminal 1974 performance where he shared an art gallery with a coyote; Monolith was created by pouring cement into a piece of fiber-board packing material such that the sculpture represents a cast of the mold originally used to make the the fiber-board packing material. Estumados is a small group of drawings made by rubbing the page with a charcoal covered cloth. Iturralde's exhibition is in the spirit of the 1980's when artists took the initiative to exhibit their work in apartments and art studios on New York City's Lower East Side, which led to a proliferation of artist run galleries and artist collectives, including ABC-NoRio, Patti Astor's Fun Gallery, and Gracie Mansion's tiny gallery in her one room apartment.

Alana Iturralde, Poncho Sentimental, worn by Monica

 Back on the street in Old San Juan, I ask Lillian what other body-art artists or artworks she might have interfered with if she had the chance. “Well,” she says, “I wish I had been born earlier so that I could have participated in some of Alan Kaprow's happenings, or the Pop Art events of Claes Oldenberg, Robert Whitman and Jim Dine. I know that I would have found a mattress or something to break the fall when Yves Klein jumped from that roof in Paris. Who knows, if I had been there, I might have tried to get Carolee Schneeman, Marina Abramovic, or Karen Finley to let me stand in their place.”

 The third stop on our art tour is galeria 20-20 on calle Cerra in Santurce to see the exhibition Entrenudos, organized by Sofia Bastidas and the Miami based Dwelling Projects, an organization which supports the creation, presentation and dissemination of contemporary art through an artists residency program and various exhibitions. Bastidas has brought together five artists plus a two-person collective, all working with fibers and fabrics to make art using materials normally found in hand crafts such as weaving and macrame. Of particular interest is a group of drawings on raw canvas by Greisy Lora of Miami, made using a sewing machine and multi-colored threads. From a distance they look like traditional pen and ink drawings. Close inspection reveals the stitches and elaborate cross-stitches used to create the images. Lillian says that the newest sewing machines can be programmed to reproduce a scanned image, “but you still have to work very carefully to feed the fabric into the machine.” In addition to the drawings, there are three small pieces that look like pages torn from a diary. I can make out a few of the words. It seems to say: if you really think about it, I mean really think about it, like really think about it and so forth, and seriously take a second, then you might ... Also of note is a set of three drawings by Leila Mattina of San Juan, which look like scientific diagrams. Careful analysis shows them to be a record of all the moles, beauty marks and blemishes found on the bodies of three people, all in their twenties. Mattina has included herself in this grouping, and it is interesting to see that she has nearly twice as many markings as the other two. Each portion of the body: head, arms, legs, torso, neck, back, etc. is indicated by a line radiating out from a central hemisphere. The marks are plotted along each radian and have been painted with special glow-in-the-dark colors. When the lights in the gallery are turned off, the drawings leave an eerie but mesmerizing after-image.

 On our way out the door I ask Lillian again about her willingness to disrupt various body-art performances from the 1970's and 80's. “What about Vito Acconci?” I ask her. “Sure,” she replies, “I could have stepped in for him in any number of his conceptual video works.” “And Hermann Nitsch?” I ask. “No,” she says, “not him. Those Germans were too extreme for me. But, I would have jumped up on the stage with Gilbert and George to sing a few verses of Underneath the Arches.”

Gilbert and George and Lillian, singing Underneath the Arches, 1973/2014

Link to article in Spanish, published in En Rojo, Oct. 7, 2014

Alana Iturralde [blog]

galeria 20-20 [Facebook]

Dwelling Projects [website]


Artistas en Perfil : TABLE OF CONTENTS : February 4, 2015 -- June 29, 2011

A series of articles on art and artists in San Juan, PR : published in En Rojo, cultural supplement to Claridad, the islands weekly newspaper. by Jan Galligan & Lillian Mulero, Santa Olaya, PR.

 ARTISTA EN PERFIL: Natalia Martinez 

 ARTISTAS EN PERFIL: The intransmutability of Body Art

ARTISTA EN PERFIL: Esteban Valdes Arzate

ARTISTA EN PERFIL: Now is the future



ARTISTA EN PERFIL: Art Diary – summer 2013


ARTISTA EN PERFIL: ¿Obras o modalidades?  (the art of Michael Linares)


LET'S DO THE TIME-WARP, AGAIN (exhibition at La Cerra)

ARTISTA EN PERFIL : Steve Staso (exhibition at LA15 art space)

"I always say, one's company, two's a crowd and three's a party”. ― Andy Warhol.

Exes : Anne Delaney and Steve Staso @ LA15, Santurce, PR


These eleven artists makes us uncomfortable... (a question and an answer)

ARTISTAS EN PERFIL: En mi banco esta -- THE WAY IN (exhibition at Banco Popular, Hato Rey)

ARTISTAS EN PERFIL: Su casa es tu casa (por arte) [three exhibition spaces]

BRINDI... (a toast)

A nice touch  (an Assisted readymade GIF image)

Artistas en Perfil: A Portrait of two artists, as young men. (Emilio Arraiza and Patrick McGrath)

GOLD FEVER | FIEBRE DEL ORO (performance by Amaury Oyola)

[Michael Linares (born1979, Bayamón, Puerto Rico), lives and works in San Juan, Puerto Rico. His work has been the subject of numerous exhibitions.]

ARTISTA EN PERFIL: Zilia Sanchez – Lunare, la marca de la belleza

ARTISTA EN PERFIL – Llamado: NO HAY LUGAR COMO EL HOGAR! Repuesta: No hay lugar como el hogar! (Ashley Hunt)

Artista en Perfil: No. 2 -- Jorge Gonzalez (exhibition at Chemi Room)

Artista en Perfil: A NEW SERIES OF ARTICLES ON ART IN PUERTO RICO (exhibition by Nels Figueroa)

ARTISTA EN PERFIL: Esteban Valdes Arzate

“A particular vanguard impulse persists. Poetry is transforming, but remains a weapon loaded with the future.” 
– Esteban Valdes Arazate, La Otra PueRta, Editorial La Mano Negra, San Juan, PR, 2011.

El Soneto de las Estrellas en el Bosque Tropical
by Jan Galligan & Lillian Mulero

The location icon on our GPS Is flashing and glowing brightly. Siri says “Drive straight for one-half mile and you have reached your destination.” Meanwhile, we are stuck at the end of a dead-end cul de sac in the middle of urb. Ramon Rivero “Diplo” near Naguabo on the southeast coast of the island. We are trying to find El Bosque Auxiliar and the Casa Club, a tree house in the middle of the forest, the site of Poseia desde la Oficina de Desempleo, an exhibition organized by curator Marina Reyes Franco featuring the poetry of Esteban Valdes, with contributions from Jesus “Bubu” Negron, Radames “Juni” Figueroa, Marxz Rosado, Beatriz Santiago Munoz, and Chemi Rosado-Seijo. 

“We can't drive straight ahead,” I tell Lillian. “What do we do now?” She suggests we turn around and drive back to the center of Naguabo. “Turn right!” says Lillian. “Now, turn left.” I follow her directions. “Good,” she says. “Now, one more left turn.” As we turn the corner, we find Esteban Valdes standing beside the road, cell phone to his ear. We stop, and he climbs into the backseat of our car. “I was just trying to help a group coming down from San Juan,” he tells us. “It is not easy to find this place, and once you do, you still have to find the entrance into the woods. That's it, you can park right here.”

Directons to El Bosque Auxiliar and the Casa Club in Nagaubo, PR, by Marina Reyes Franco

El Bosque Auxiliar is a sustainable forest project organized by Luis Agosto Leduc. Casa Club Tree House was created by Radamés “Juni” Figueroa and opened to the public in June, 2013, as a haven, an outdoor art gallery in the midst of a tropical forest. Using materials found in the forest and items salvaged from throughout San Juan including his barrio, Puerta de Tierra, Figueroa built a large platform fifteen feet above the ground, sheltered by a transparent sloping roof. Perfectly located in the center of three Rainbow Eucalyptus trees, Tree House is painted with psychedelic colors to match the trees. Casa Club inspired two more sculptural installations: Breaking the Ice, featured in the 2014 Biennial at the Whitney Museum, and Naguabo Rainbow Daguao Enchumbao Fango Fireflies presented at the Sculpture Center, also in New York City. Both sculptures are informed by the rain forest and allow Figueroa to “speak of what I know best: life next to the sea – the heat, the music, and a relaxed aesthetic.” Both belong to what Figueroa calls tropical readymades, or the creation of an artistic language from the Caribbean tropical context.

Casa Club Tree House superimposed with the poem Soneto de las Estrellas by Esteban Valdes.

Poet, artist, and labor rights organizer, Esteban Valdes has worked in that context since the early 1970s. Born in la Ciudad de Mexico in 1947, Valdes studied science and history at Universidad de Puerto Rico and in 1970, founded the literary magazine Alicia La Roja, dedicated to “those who oppose the capitalist order with a beautiful voluptuous disorder.” The work was presented as posters pasted to the walls near the university in Rio Piedras. In 1977, Valdes collected some of his contributions to Alicia along with many other examples of his concrete poetry in Fuera de Trabajo, the first book of concrete poetry published in Puerto Rico. Valdes explains his concrete poetry as “a conceptual visual appeal that has prevailed. I still insist that the style is free poetry, free words. My influences come from the archaic eras, but I stand in the second generation after Brazilian and European poets – if that makes any sense – also Mexicans, Venezuelans, Cubans, Argentines and other Latin American artists.”

In addition to writing and publishing, Valdes was involved in another art movement of the 70s called Mail Art, in which artists and poets created works they circulated among their peers. Each week, poems and art works were sent by the mail and every day, new works arrived in the mailbox from all over the world. Foregoing the decorative or illustrative, these works commented on events or politics of the day. Participants maintained lists of their correspondents, and the work, usually created in editions of 10 or 100, was limited to what would fit inside of a mailing envelope. The most interesting aspect of this work was the collaborative nature of the activity. Sending and receiving large quantities of work, the poets and artists were influenced by what they encountered and often chose to comment directly on works received, mailing their revisions and elaborations back to the original sender. Subsequently, many worked on projects together. A number of print journals collected and published these correspondence-art activities, the most subversive and well known was FILE magazine, published in Canada, from 1972-1989.

In 2001, Bea Santiago Munoz, not knowing the work of Esteban Valdes, accidentally discovered a copy of Fuera de Trabajo. Feeling an aesthetic and intellectual affinity with the poems, she worked with Michy Marxuach to include Valdes in M&M proyectos 2002 island-wide art survey PUERTO RICO'02 [En Ruta]. Fourteen artists were chosen to recreate some of the poems as an homage to one of the most interesting experimentations in Puerto Rican art. One Valdes poem is a seven step list of The process to get the signature of Pedro Albizu Campos reproduced in neon. Marxz Rosado followed those instructions to fabricate a six-foot version of the signature in bright red neon.

As the program in the woods begins, Valdes tells us he was recently invited to submit a work for an international poetry anthology being published in Afghanistan, in support of the oppressed Hazara. He emailed them his biography and a photograph of the page Soneto de las Estrellas from Fuera de Trabajo. They wrote back to thank him for agreeing to participate, but asked, “Where is your poem?” He replied, explaining about the picture and concrete poetry, but wondering why, given that the asterisk represents the deity in Mesopotamia, they didn't see it. As he says, “The development of technological innovation allows us accelerated communication, as human beings in the global village, and to share our feelings. The communication network is more direct and personal. What you do in Puerto Rico runs around the world instantly and presents you in Argentina or even Russia – even if they don't always understand what you are saying.”

Having arrived just before sundown, we are now watching a video by Jesus “Bubu” Negron. First presented in January, 2014 at Sala de Arte Público Siqueiro, Mexico City, this video homage to Valdes' poem, recreates Soneto de las Estrellas using people holding burning torches and arranged in the same geometric pattern as the asterisks representing the stars in the Valdes poem. Lillian leans over and and tells me that I should turn around. “Look!” she says, “The fireflies dancing in the air look just like the people in Bubu's video, which look just like the stars in Esteban's poem.” Of course, she is right.

Esteban Valdes, Bumper Sticker poem, 1977/2002

Article in Spanish, as published June 9,.2014 in En Rojo, cultural supplement to Claridad, Puerto Rico's national newspaper.


ARTISTA EN PERFIL: Now is the future

by Jan Galligan & Lillian Mulero
Santa Olaya, PR

“You know, we've been on this island for almost four years,” says Lillian. “When do you think you'll finally begin to understand Spanish?” she asks. She is correct. The conjugation of Spanish verbs is like a forbidden jungle to me. “I'm working on it. Poco a poco,” I tell her. 

Now is, however, a good moment to recognize that during that time we have met many artists, visited studios, galleries and museums, and seen a considerable amount of art. In trying to take some measure of what has proven to be a vibrant and energetic art scene, we have witnessed a continued growth in activity and support for local art and artists. The inclusion of San Juan in the recently published Phaidon art book, Art Cities of the Future: 21st Century Avant-Gardes confirms that island artists are gaining in international exposure and reputation. At the moment, Pedro Velez and Rademes Juni Figueroa are included in the Whitney Museum's 2014 Biennial exhibition. Rafael Trelles, Hector Mendez Caratini, Enoc Perez, Charles Juhasz-Alvarado, and the duo Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla will be represented at the Perez Art Museum in Miami with works selected by curator Elvis Fuentes from Caribbean Crossroads, the 2012 blockbuster survey which was shown at three New York City museums.

Attending the opening reception at one of our favorite art venues, the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture's Antiguo Arsenal de la Marina Espanola, we were pleased to encounter many artists we have come to know, and delighted to see many art works which we now like to think of as “new old friends” in three simultaneous exhibitions curated by Abdiel Segarra, director of Programa de Artes Plásticas at the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture.

A 15-year survey of work by Rabindranat Díaz Cardona entitled “imagin r survivor” includes a series of cartoon-like drawings of boxers, which we first saw in 2011 at the former cArtWatch gallery in Santurce. They are accompanied by drawings of legendary salsa musicians, exhibited last fall in La Cerra All-Stars: un tributo a la Fania at 20/20 gallery in Santurce. In addition, there are large paintings, diptychs and triptychs, accompanied by very small paintings on wood panels that could be studies for the large paintings. The exhibition concludes with recent large scale portraits. Deviating from the cartoon-like, narrative style of the other works, these images appear computer graphic, and seem to derive from the flattened pseudo-realistic paintings of Alex Katz.

Rabindranat Díaz Cardona, (left, detail) I am Puerto Rico, (right) Aaron

The second Arsenal exhibition, ¡Vidente desde niño! features the work of José Luis Vargas. Organized in three parts, the first presents twenty paintings, originally created by Haitian artisans and made to sell in hotel gift shops. Vargas has added small details to the palm tree landscapes, and given them captions like ¿Quien Sera Hoy? and Todavia Soy La Misma. We saw these paintings recently at Roberto Paradise gallery's newest location on Ave. Ponce de Leon in Santurce.

In an adjacent room, Vargas presents drawings on large sheets of heavy paper. One group is a series of dream-like images which we first saw in 2010 at LA15 Contemporary Art Space in Santurce. They tell the story of Toño Bicicleta, Puerto Rico's notorious criminal, whom legend says, could escape from any jail that tried to hold him. The other drawings are abstract. The title cards suggest they are intended for children, and the only recognizable image is a recurring portrait of Albizu Campos. The final part of Vargas' exhibition features monumental paintings on unstretched canvas, dramatically installed on both sides of a long, narrow, high-ceilinged passageway. Painted in a style echoing the drawings, they also tell a story, probably about Toño Bicicleta. The show culminates in three brightly colored pictures that look like posters from a Mexican circus. At the far end of the hall, hanging on a wall facing the viewer, rises JOSE EL TERRIBLE, like a fish emerging from the water. The phrase NO TE LO PIERDAS slashes in from his right. Below in very large letters is written: ¡VIDENTE DESDE NIÑO!

José Luis Vargas, Un viaje interrumpido (the interrupted voyage)

Renuncias y adopciones, the third Arsenal exhibition, is also the name given to a group of 18 Puerto Rican artists, described by curator Abdiel Segarra as artists whose work comments on the creative process and the status of contemporary painting, by means of formal explorations of the materials and methods used in their creation. The Institute says they see this as “the beginning of a new cycle of ICP exhibitions in which they want to provide a platform to promote discussions about contemporary painting on the island.”

For us, this exhibition serves as a reunion, as we now know the work of most of these artists, and it includes many works that we've come to appreciate. Those artists and the venues in which we first encountered their work include: Jonathan Torres' wonderful, small sleeping dog was delicately created from the flowering parts of elephant grass, (Roberto Paradise). Michael Linares' large all white painting were created by thickly pouring gesso directly onto the canvas, (Walter Otero Contemporary Art, Puerta de Tierra). Angel Otero's heavy, impasto-layered-paint-skins could be an updated version of Jackson Pollack, (Walter Otero). 

(left) Michael Linares, Imprimación, (right) Angel Otero, Untitled

Omar Obdulio Peña Forty's series of delicate drawings have been computer generated, (2BLEO gallery, Santurce). Javier and Jaime (J2) Suarez's small plastic recycling bin is filled with art materials and mounted on top of a kitchen stool, (2BLEO). Easily overlooked, is a bright, primary color geometric abstract painting by Ivelisse Jimenez, which has been installed at floor level in a corner of the gallery, (UPR's Galeria Francisco Oller). Chemi Rosado Seijo's very large abstract painting titled, 365 días en el bosque tropical lluvioso. was created by placing a clean, freshly primed canvas on the floor of the jungle and leaving it there for a year to collect the tracks of animals and insects and develop a wonderfully complex patina of dirt and mold, (Roberto Paradise).

Chemi Rosado Seijo, 365 días en el bosque tropical lluvioso (365 days in a tropical rain forest)

Myritza Castillo's video projection shows her cutting and slashing a group of paintings, as if she might be a ninja warrior, (METRO: plataformaorganizada). José Lerma's monumental, 20-foot tall paint and office carpet collage, El Pendejo has never previously been exhibited in Puerto Rico, but was part of his recent one man show at Loock Galerie in Berlin, (courtesy, Roberto Paradise).

Hector Madera Gonzalez's three large photographic portraits of famous artists appear to be covered in surgical tape so that the men look as if they might have suffered some terrible accident. (Chemi Rosado Seijo's Chemi Room exhibition space, Santurce).

Hector Madera Gonzalez, Pablo, (detail)

 Rafael J. Miranda's post-painterly abstract paintings were first shown in an exhibition called Don’t Fuck with Post Painterly Abstraction, (Art Lab 753, Miramar). Finally, we were pleased to have gotten reacquainted with Zilia Sanchez's 1975 shaped painting from her Erotic topologies series. In one of our first ARTISTA EN PERFIL articles, we wrote, “At first this looks like a classic example of 1960's minimal art. A simple, clean, white rectangle that has something projecting from behind the surface. Something appears to have been trapped inside and seems to be trying to get out. 'This is really beautiful,' says Lillian. 'We need to find out more about this artist.'”






published in EN ROJO, Feb 27, 2014

Lillian & Jan, drawings by Lillian Mulero, 1988.

From: Lillian Mulero
To: Jan Galligan
Subject: Querido Jan
Date: SUNDAY 1:44 PM

You are there, and I am here, and this is the first time this has happened since we began writing our column ARTISTAS EN PERFIL.

Last Wednesday I attended the opening of the Festival de Cine Internacional de San Juan @Cine Metro and then went to a gallery opening @Agustina Ferreyra with our friend Betty.

 I loved the show "OPEN" (or rather NOPE as the neon work reads). The artists are a duo with a 2 year-old child, known as Claire Fontaine, (the artists not the baby :)

 It made me want to know them personally.  By far the best presentation @Agustina's tiny but highly formal space.

 Five art works, clean and fine, cool and crisp, almost fill the room.  Like a Buddhist raked garden. Ironically because the materials are what would constitute refuse, like plastic. Remember my exhibition called "Plastic- Pleasures"?  But not all is trash.

 Very japanesey, clean and perverse and elegant.  They're French, which makes sense.

 I'm not going to describe each work. Hopefully the gallery's website has fotos u can view.

 Please, let's not talk about the bills today.

Luv U

Lillian Mulero
Santa Olaya, PR  


From: Jan Galligan
To: Lillian Mulero

How could I forget? That was one of your most interesting exhibitions here in New York's Capital District, and since I am now with the archives @75GRAND, I took the trouble to dig out examples from that show. My favorite is your sculpture of three women's heads floating downstream in a red plastic snow sled placed atop a grand piano.

Lillian Mulero, PLASTIC PLEASURES, sculptural installation, 1999.

Yes. I was able to see all the works in the exhibition by logging onto the gallery website. I see now why it recalled your own PLASTIC PLEASURES. I also read the press release for the exhibition and I especially like how Agustina describes their work as being “a variation of the Herman Melville character Bartleby’s -- famous sentence “I would prefer not to.” It calls for a pause, a reflection, because everyone knows that saying “no” is always more important and more painful than saying “yes”.” 

Exterior view of galeria Agustina Ferreyra, Claire Fontaine, OPEN, 2013

This is an incisive observation not only about the process of making, or viewing, art but also about the process of trying to slog one's way through the daily mire. So, NOPE, I don't think we should talk about those bills today. But, please tell me more about the Cinefest and what you and Betty thought about the films you saw there. BTW: what was Betty's reaction to the OPEN exhibition?

Con carinos,


Albany, NY 


From: Lillian Mulero
To: Jan Galligan
Date: THURSDAY 6:14 PM

I think Betty enjoyed seeing the exhibition though she didn't really comment.  She does like things that are over-the-top like the Claire Fontaine Burning America piece.

The story goes that the 1st time that this action took place, burning a sculptural map of the USA – they accidentally set fire to the Queen's Nails art gallery in San Francisco.   "Sometimes it makes you wonder about the people going under." Stevie Wonder.

Claire Fontaine, "America (Burnt/Unburnt)," 2013

As to the Cinefest, I was only able to see the premiere movie, Hugo, Paco, Luis y tres chicas de Rosa, a Puerto Rican film which I enjoyed very much.  Echos of Pedro Almodovar -- funny macrabre magic-realism. Tonight was the award ceremony which I couldn't attend. 

This morning I mailed out all the bills at our local Post Office. (What's her name) wants to know what's the story with El Jefe? Why have you been away so long?


PS: Claire Fontaine's pee bottle, "Votre familia is a pisser because in a way similar to , "Ceci n'est pas une pipe" it is just a photograph – there is no urine.

Lillian Mulero
Santa Olaya, PR 


From: Jan Galligan
To: Lillian Mulero
Subject: Doo-doo-DOO-doo; Doo-doo-DOO-doo
Date: FRIDAY 6:13 AM

It's truly a Wired Weird Web. With Skype, txts, Instant messages, facebook, and Google+, I'm virtually there with you, never any farther away than your iPhone, kindle, or iPad. I went to the Cinefest website for information about the film you saw, but because I was using instant translation, when I copied the film title into the google search box, it came out Huey, Dewey, Louie, and all the information from google was about those Walt Disney ducks.

The Internet Movie Database says that the film is not scheduled for release until February, 2014, so you saw the world premiere, which I confirmed while reading an article about the Cinefest that I found on Terra Networks in Chile. Then I watched the trailer on YouTube. The most amusing part was young Paco repeatedly whistling the theme from The Twilight Zone. Do you think anyone even remembers that tv show these days? I learned from the Caribbean Cinemas blog that the Rodriquez brothers, director and screenwriter, created the film as a Puerto Rico, Argentina co-production, using actors from both countries and filming in both locations. The New York Times indicates that Edmundo Rodriguez has been very active, directing five films since 2004, but the reviews for all the films have been mixed, at best. Magic-realism is difficult to handle in cinema. You can show people floating in the air and ghosts walking through a room, but it's hard for the viewer to suspend disbelief in order to accept what's going on.

Although I can't send Edna at the post office a phone txt or email -- maybe I'll mail her a postcard. Can't decide if I should address it to her – or to you, and then hope that she reads it anyhow. 

BTW, thanks for paying all the bills.

Con carinos,


Albany, NY


From: Lillian Mulero

To: Jan Galligan
Date: SUNDAY 6:14 PM

Remember, when you speak of the "spectator" you always have to take into account the culture. The Latino is always ready to suspend his sense of disbelief.



Jan Galligan & Lillian Mulero
Santa Olaya, PR [foto blog] [cine blog] 


  We are standing outside the gallery Agustina Ferreyra, near the border between Miramar and Santurce, where we've arrived for the exhibition of Beatriz Santiago Muñoz presented in two parts. Tonight, the first part, she presents her video documentary, La Cueva Negra and I need a clarification.

"Did Bea just say I look like Leo Tolstoy?" I ask Lillian. "That makes me think of War and Peace, or Memoirs of a Madman." 

"No. She said you resemble Leon Trotsky, so it would be better if you thought of Literature and Revolution. "

"Is it a good thing, looking like Trotsky?" 

"Depends on who is looking," answers Lillian.

  Beatriz Santiago Muñoz is an artist who thinks like an anthropologist or sociologist, but works more like a revolutionary theorist. During her 15 year career, Santiago Munoz, has exhibited in galleries and museums in Europe, South America, Mexico, the U.S., and here in the Caribbean. She has received several awards and scholarships and given lectures and workshops on her work. Most recently, she was invited by Gasworks, contemporary art organization in England, associated with the Tate Modern museum that offers residencies for artists. Santiago Munoz was charged with the creation of two works, La Cueva Negra and Pharmacopoeia, for exhibition in London. Both works present a view of the natural scenery of Puerto Rico.

  The Black Cave, a video documentary of 20 minutes, follows two cousins, as they explore the Paseo del Indio, an important Taino Indian archaeological site, largely forgotten and located next to a stream which runs beneath a highway overpass. The children, who live nearby, come on horses to play games and weave fantasies. Barefoot and shirtless, they move through the jungle environment with a sense of belonging and a close knowledge of the landscape. Here the viewer thinks he sees a documentary that was made in the late twentieth century, but the present quickly intrudes. On the soundtrack you hear a constant loud hum of trucks passing overhead. They also find many relics of the modern environment: old mattresses, refrigerators, abandoned cars, and other detritus of our disposable culture. Undeterred, they incorporate these finds into their fantasies.

 Simple in its construction, this short video at first seems to depict play and exploration. In fact, it represents a long period of study by Santiago Muñoz, who spent months getting to know the history and archeology of the site, and winning the confidence of the cousins ​​during many sessions of filming them at their games. This intense study and promotion of trust characterizes the Santiago Muñoz's method. Establishing a relationship with individuals who are the characters in her film, and are active participants in the revelation of the story. This allows her to develop the story in a way that is faithful to the time and place - its history and its environment. Her projects function as critique and indictment, at the same time. This is the political backbone of her work. In developing this unique method while working in communities of people marginalized or suppressed, Santiago Muñoz has found a way to include thoughts and ideas of the protagonists of her studies. This process invites a political education of her subjects. 

Pharmacopoeia, is a documentary about six minutes long, shot in 16mm color film instead of video. This is an important distinction to Santiago Muñoz, since the technical and physical characteristics of the film are very different from video. Video allows different forms of presentation, from small iPhone or iPad screens to video projections on a large scale. In the case of video, Santiago Munoz is open to different formats and possibilities. When it comes to film she is more particular. Pharmacopoeia is designed specifically to be shown non-stop via a 16mm projector equipped with a continuous loop mechanism. The projector is positioned to project a small 16 by 20 inch image on a wall. 

La Cueva Negra is a narrative, while Pharmacopoeia is a literal document. Constructed as a series of photographs, Santiago Muñoz presents a collection of little-known native plants, used by Indians and early settlers for medicinal and hallucinogenic effects. These plants are: Nicotiana tabacum, cultivated for its narcotic effect Versicolor Brugmansia, Angel's Trumpet, whose seeds can be hallucinogenic in small doses and deadly in large quantities and Hippomane Mancinella, Manchineel tree.  Standing under a tree during a rainfall can cause blisters on the skin, and burning the tree creates a smoke that can cause blindness. The Carib Indians used the poisonous sap of this tree on the tips of their arrows, and poisoned the water of their enemies with the leaves. Ponce de Leon was killed in Florida by an arrow poisoned with Manchineel sap. About her film, Santiago Muñoz says "the government's efforts to eradicate Hippomane Mancinella from the island, greatly changes the ecology of coastal areas" and she examines "how this desire to make the landscape harmless contributes to an image that deliberately promotes Puerto Rico as an idyllic tropical Caribbean island."

This exhibition was organized in two parts. In the first part, presented only the video La Cueva Negra, as avprojection entirely covering the back wall, while a high-quality sound fills the gallery with the thunder of the huge trucks. In the second part, Santiago Muñoz, selected works by artists Lourdes Correa-Carlo, Edra Soto and Ylva Trapp. Santiago Muñoz, presents her film Pharmacopeia sculpturally as described above, along with botanical drawings of the plants shown in her film.

About her work, Santiago Munoz says: "Over the last year I have developed a number of projects that have to do with the construction of the symbolic meaning of the experience and representation of the land and the landscape of Puerto Rico. I'm interested in the different ways the possibilities of representing the earth, proposing through play and improvisation a new mythical and symbolic relationship and a new visual and formal language, which can produce other relationship. You can challenge the standardization of the senses to which we are currently subjected. Both La Cueva Negra and Pharmacopoeia are the result of this interest. " 

This brings us to Cosmogony, the study or theory of the origin of the universe, or cosmos. For Santiago Muñoz, this suggests a possible creation myth of the Tainos, the original inhabitants of the island, that describes the creation of the universe as a series of cycles. In the first two cycles are Yaya, the first cause, and the original cave, vagina, or cosmic body. In the third cycle, according to the text of Santiago Munoz, "For 2,000 years, their medicine has shown us the future and the past, but one day disappears the bichote  and the federals arrest all the chiefs, and there are no more visions, only the bridge, the cars, the river still coming down the mountain, and a new TV show that starts today at nine in the evening."

Generally speaking, art is an expression of the need for a harmonious and complete life, that is, the need for benefits of which a society of classes deprives us. That is why a protest against reality, either conscious or unconscious, active or passive, optimistic or pessimistic, always has creativity as part of the work. Every new tendency in art has begun with rebellion. - Leon Trotsky

Note: the work of Beatriz Santiago Muñoz is included in the section on San Juan, PR in Art Cities of the Future: 21st Century Avant-Gardes, published this fall by Phaidon Press. More information about the artist can be found on her website: and at Agustina Ferreyra gallery on their website:



ARTISTA EN PERFIL: Art Diary – summer 2013

by Jan Galligan y Lillian Mulero
Santa Olaya, PR

Lillian says, “An artist tried to sell his car, but couldn't find a buyer, because it had 250,000 miles on it.” “What happened?” I ask her. “He told his actor friend who told the artist to call his mechanic friend who could set the mileage back to 25,000 miles.” “Did he sell the car?” I ask Lillian. “No,” she replies, “It only has 25,000 miles now...”

Installation view Agustina Ferreyra gallery

Dreaming is a form of planning

Galeria Agustina Ferreyra
750 Ave. Fernández Juncos, Santurce

Ferreyra's new art gallery is reminiscent of Gavin Brown's Enterprise, in New York City, which had a modest beginning before becoming an important force in the artworld. Works in her whip-smart inaugural exhibition include: New Yorker, Michele Abeles' deadpan still life photo of a male nude sitting on a desk being cooled by a small desktop fan; Mexican, Livia Corona's color photo diptych created without a camera; Thai, Pratchaya Phinthong's handmade reproduction of a ready-made pre-stretched canvas panel, complete with a carefully hand-painted label; Spaniard, Irma Alvarez-Laviada's very large, framed sheet of crumpled blue paper; and Puerto Rico native, Julio Suarez's handsome and austere geometric abstraction, painted with three exacting rectangles of red, white and indigo purple. Brazilian, Marcius Galan's work was executed by Ferreyra according to his instructions: paint a black rectangle on the gallery wall, inscribe an arc in the rectangle with white paint. Matt Sheridan Smith traveled to the island from Los Angeles to create two performances: Donde esta el mar caribe, for which he cooked seven pinchos over small fires in seven clay pots, and Sandra Vasquez, Florista, 787-412-8269 for which Smith contracted the florist to create one bouquet to represent each of the artists in the exhibition, to be delivered weekly to the gallery for the duration of the exhibition. Meanwhile, Ferreyra was asked by Smith to take one clay pot to the beach each week and dump the ash residue into the ocean.

Walter Otero, gallerist and Angel Otero, artist (no relation)

Angel Otero: Recent Work, 2012-2013

Walter Otero Contemporary Art
402 Ave. Constitucion, Puerto Tierra

This inaugural exhibition presented the work of Puerto Rican artist Angel Otero (no relation) in what could be considered an auspicious homecoming for the young artist who has had considerable success in a surprisingly brief time. In various interviews Otero expresses an affinity for Jackson Pollock. As Pollock laid claim to a unique method of painting in the 1950s, the pour and the drip, Otero drew immediate attention for his layered "skins" of oil paint which are peeled from a flat plastic surface and adhered to canvas attached to the wall. Gravity plays an important part, as the heavy paint layers droop and sag into their ultimate positions. While Pollock disavowed any place for chance in his creations, Otero welcomes all anomalies. After four years of substantial attention, it is too soon to speak of maturity for Otero; yet one looks forward to progress and development in his work. The example of Jackson Pollock should be a caution. Pollock had his first real success at age 31. Locked into a personal style of painting and prodded by commercial prosperity, Pollock could not handle the pressure. Likely, Otero will find his way through this artworld minefield, emerging with his Santurce street smarts intact.

Bobby Cruz exhibition poster : Simply Bobby

Simplemente Bobby … .

Recinto Cerra
619.5 calle Cerra, Santurce

Taking the title for his exhibition from a famous salsero, artist Bobby Cruz has recreated Lalo Rodriguez's record album cover as the poster for his own exhibition. This theme of appropriating cultural icons as art works continues with a set of six tourist souvenir beach towels which hang on the wall, draping down from wooden pegs. Nearby hangs a large acrylic painting of a crushed CoCo Rico soda can. Sitting on the floor below the painting are three metal cube sculptures made from sodas cans that have been crushed together by a commercial garbage compactor. On the opposite wall is mounted a two color neon sign, which says: A LO HECHO PECHO. In the backroom is a tableau consisting of two red beach chairs whose fabric backs are the Puerto Rican flag. They sit on either side of a large blue plastic beach cooler with built-in CD player and speakers, which blasts out salsa music. As a backdrop, hanging on the wall is a large framed collage constructed from six more beach towels, cut and resewn together to give the shape of the Puerto Rican flag.

Muestra Nacional de Arte 2013
Antiguo Arsenal, Viejo San Juan

The fifteenth edition of this survey of contemporary art presents 105 works by 84 artists selected from proposals submitted by hundreds of artists from around the island. Works on display include sculpture, painting, photography, video, drawings, prints as well as various combinations of these formats. In most cases the combined formats are the more interesting, representing the most contemporary approaches to making art in the twenty-first century. It should be noted that Omar Obdulio Pena Forty's photographic reproduction of Francisco Oller's famous 1889, oil on canvas, Self Portrait, which belongs to Museo de la Universidad de Puerto Rico, has been updated with los cerquillos (a shaped haircut) which these days in Puerto Rico is popular with younger modern gentlemen. 

The Garden, sculpture - two views

Cody | Jonathan Torres

Roberto Paradise
610 calle Hipodromo, Santurce

Born in Puerto Rico, educated at Escuela de Artes Plasticas in San Juan, studied at Brooklyn College, now living and working in Brooklyn, Jonathan Torres spent the last four months in residence at Roberto Paradise gallery creating the works for this exhibition which include two very large scale paintings created with heavy impasto oil paint on canvas or fabric material. In addition he created a large sized sculpture,

The Garden using foam, paper-mache, synthetic hair, fabric, fiberglass, artificial flowers, and spray paint. Most sublime is a life-sized sculpture of a small dog which lies on the floor in the middle of the gallery, seemingly asleep. It has been created from the flowering parts of elephant grass, carefully formed to give an astonishingly life-like appearance. At any moment you expect the little dog to stand up and run around. Torres' exhibition is titled in honor of the subject of this sculpture.




by Jan Galligan & Lillian Mulero
Santa Olaya, PR

photo caption: a large square hole was excavated in the outdoor patio of the gallery. At the bottom of the five foot deep pit, she had made a fire which burned steadily during the night creating both a spectacle and adding a sense of danger to the proceedings

I'm shouting, “Lillian! Stop!!” Lillian is on the opposite side of the main exhibition room bending close to inspect a set of glass vials filled with multi-colored liquids. I've just read the book. Those liquids are deadly. “Permiso! Perdon!” I push my way through the crowd, momentarily having a catastrophic vision of this room full of people slumped on the floor, artists and art patrons alike. A horrible newspaper article starts assembling itself in my mind, reporting on this tragedy. Lillian gives me a puzzled but menacing look. “I caught you just in time,” I tell her. “What?” she says. “I was just reading the artist's book about this work, and everything is not exactly what it seems,” I tell her.

Eight beautiful glass containers are displayed on the top of a waist-high pedestal that has been covered on each of its four sides and top by mirrors. Each container is filled with a brightly colored transparent liquid: chartreuse, turquoise, peach, raspberry, mint, champagne, and sandalwood. They tempt the viewer to make a closer inspection. At first they seem lovely and alluring. Viewed carefully they appear to be the work of a somewhat mad scientist. These containers are in fact flasks and beakers similar to those used in a scientific laboratory. Each has been sealed against tampering or accident. According to the book, there is a different but deadly volatile component mixed inside each of them including: belladona, the drugs benzodiazepine and scopalomine, chloroform, and verbena.

Chaveli Sifre was born 1987 in Wurzburg Germany. She was raised here in Puerto Rico and educated at the Escuela de Artes Plásticas in San Juan. Although young, she has already shown her art  in a number of exhibitions on the island as well as in Berlin, Miami, NYC and other cities abroad. Fixed on the Scent of Light is her second show at the Roberto Paradise gallery and presents work created during the past year while she has been living and working in Berlin. She is a multi-faceted artist and her work includes sculpture, drawing, painting, tapestry, texts, poetry, video and sounds, all employed and presented in a conceptual, contemporary manner. An example in this exhibition is a large wall-mounted sculpture created using neon tubing. White tubes form a large circle that encases the work. Blue tubes describe two faces whose profiles are interlocked. Red tubes depict a pair of lungs. This work is entitled Perpetual Renewal, and it glows softly, illuminating one end of the gallery.

Accompanying these works, Sefri has assembled a large grouping of paintings on paper, all the same size and shape. Each looks as if it could be a page torn from a paperback book. The subjects of these paintings are flowers, butterflies or beetles, slightly abstracted, flattened and presented against  multicolored, textured backgrounds. Careful inspection reveals a skull on every page. Danger or death lurks inside every beautiful image. The viewer is advised to approach with caution. 

In a recent online interview in ArtSlant magazine, Nicole Rodriguez spoke to Sifre about the use of deadly ingredients in her perfume concoctions and asked if she might not have just used water, since the sculptures are in sealed glass bottles. Sifre responded that she needs to go “one-hundred percent” to realize an idea. She said she found some chloroform and mixed it with sandalwood and rosewater because she “wanted to go classic.” She had placed her sculpture on a very low pedestal. “I thought eventually people might knock it over accidentally and then collapse. I hoped for it -- but it didn’t happen.” This exhibition is no exception. Here one sculpture sits dangerously on the floor, in the middle of the gallery. A small coconut has been filled with a dangerous mixture and the hole plugged with a cut glass stopper, the kind used to close a large bottle of expensive perfume. Like “a time bomb” this sculpture sits waiting for someone to kick it across the room, spilling its contents and creating a disaster.

Lillian is curious, I am cautious. Where she's spontaneous, I tend to be deliberate. She's compulsive, I'm obsessive. We tend to balance each other out. She has the insight and I try to compile the background research. For me, Chaveli Sifre's work can be compared with conceptual classics as Marcel Duchamp's 1919 sealed glass ampule of Paris air or Italian artist Piero Manzoni's 1961 small tin can called Merda d'artista. Sifre's neon sculpture brings to mind Bruce Nauman's 1980s series of neon cartoons, although, where Nauman's sculptures are animated, Sifre's casts an unmoving steady glow. Lillian contradicts me on these referents, pointing out that Sifre's work is both feminine and feminist in construction and intent. Lillian suggests better antecedents would include: Eve Laramee and her seminal sculpture Apparatus for the distillation of vague intentions; Kiki Smith, whose sculptures explore mortality and decay; and Janine Antoni, who created a series of deceptively delicate sculptural portraits using molded chocolate. Lillian says that the work of these women artists who are one or two generations older than Sifre, provide interesting points of reference and link her work to a time of important developments in feminist art.

painting on paper: Moth Gauche Franco

The work which probably best exemplifies Sifre's aesthetic was also the most enigmatic and temporal. Constructed solely for the opening of the exhibition, a large square hole was excavated in the outdoor patio of the gallery. At the bottom of the five foot deep pit, she had made a fire which burned steadily during the night creating both a spectacle and adding a sense of danger to the proceedings. The image of the hole is richly metaphoric, while the fire is elemental. Combined they create a compelling icon, the memory of which remains long after the fire is consumed.

The most compelling work encompasses the entire exhibition, providing a record of each of the artworks and presenting sources and explanations for the works on view. This is THE BOOK OF SCENTS, a limited edition, hand-made, 52 page book of poems and recipes. It contains: the formulas, which I had read, for all of the bottled perfumes; the paintings of flowers, butterflies and beetles; and a series of poems, derived in part from dictionary definitions. Sifre says that there is nothing more poetic than a definition. She has been known to use some of these poems as songs and she has presented them in performance works in the form of artistic karaoke. 

One poem, entitled JUST CURIOUS, reads:

What should we do?

What should we call this?

A carousel

Do you think it's life?

And I fall

And we fall

And it is beautiful

Like a rock into a warm glass of milk

[Spanish version of article as published in En Rojo, cultural supplement of Claridad newspaper]

Chaveli Sifre
Fixed on the Scent of Light 
Galeria Roberto Paradise
610 Hipódromo
Santurce, PR


gallery website– 

artist's website –

ARTISTA EN PERFIL: ¿Obras o modalidades? – Michael Linares at Walter Otero gallery

by Jan Galligan & Lillian Mulero
Santa Olaya, PR

                  Michael Linares, "Stuff" 2010, 16”x20”, framed for sale sign

“When is a painting not a painting?” Lillian says. “Is this a trick question?” I ask her. “Maybe,” she replies. “Think of it as a logic question in the epistemology of art.” “When it is a sculpture?” I suggest. “Good,” she says, “Continue.” “When it's a drawing, or, an assemblage, a photograph, a video, the elements of a painting unassembled, a set of instructions for making a painting, or maybe a book about a painting?” “Excellent, she replies. “Now, reverse the argument.” “O.K.,” I respond, “a sculpture is not a sculpture when it is a painting."  “Exactly," she says, “and this is true for all of your previous examples.”

We're surrounded by a dozen works by Michael Linares, presented as examples of what he is calling "unpainting". These include two large canvases, one made in the style of the 1950's Color Field paintings of the Washington Color School, painted with swatches of primary colors, red, green, blue and orange. The other painting is pure white gesso, applied as a thick surface, that has cracked or maybe been incised with a blunt instrument. Next are four small, one-foot square canvases which are covered in a thick layer of impasto paint, one black, one red, one yellow and one blue. Seen from the side, the paint is nearly an inch thick, but the surface is perfectly smooth. Near this work, a large video monitor displays what appears to be a photograph of a female modern dancer in a bright yellow leotard, posed against a green background, standing on a blue mat, and surrounded by a red ball, blue cylinder and black cube. If you look closely, you can see her eyes blink and her chest moves slightly as she breathes. Suddenly she breaks her pose to assume a new position. The video is an infinite loop of slow progressions.

Three empty painting stretchers stand against the wall, one large, one slightly smaller, and much smaller. They are what you would expect to find in a painter's studio, stretchers waiting to have canvas applied, except the wood has been carefully stained as if instead, they were frames. There's a dichotomy here. Next to the stretchers are three photographs, presented as one work. Two photographs are constructed so the frames overlap. Above, is a spectrum, and below, in the second frame, a woman stands reaching up towards the rainbow which drops into her outstretched hands. On the floor, leaning against the wall, the third photo shows a man holding a hammer, ready to pound a nail into the wall.

Next comes another pair of photographs. The large photo shows a bright blue sculpture of a female torso. The smaller photo, hinged to the side of the large one, is of a black bird perched on a limb and silhouetted against the sky. One more painting, a ready-made stretched canvas, blank except for a coat of white gesso primer occupies this same wall. Mounted on the top edge of the canvas is a carpenter's level. The painting hangs in exact, true orientation to the wall and floor.

In the middle of the gallery is perhaps the strangest work, a painter's wooden portable easel, the classic type that might have been used by Van Gogh. Attached to the sketchbox is a pad of drawing paper. The top page is covered in scribbled lines in the manner of Cy Twombly's graffiti drawings. The lines are red and blue, drawn by two magic marker pens suspended over the drawing pad by a helium-filled green balloon. As the air is disturbed by people moving around the gallery, the balloon moves the pens across the page.

At this point, we have a serious collection of art objects, presented by Linares under the rubric of paintings, or not-paintings, but it turns out there is more. In the middle of the much smaller downstairs gallery, a large houseplant has been mounted on a white sculpture pedestal. The plant's long vines are suspended in the air by a few dozen red, yellow, blue and green helium-filled balloons. On one long wall of the gallery, Linares has installed a mini-exhibition of small paintings which include: eleven of the artist's rags used to clean his brushes, stretched and mounted; two large circles which look like irises from two eyeballs; three paintings in which the eyeballs of large-sized dolls have been mounted; a FOR SALE sign mounted and framed under glass; the artist's shoes imbedded in a slab of cement on the floor; two very large unprimed canvases, one stained with a red blob, the other with a green blob; a few small geometric designs painted with primary colors; and three text paintings, one red, one green, and one black which have been enscribed with the statement, ESTA PINTURA FUE ENTREGADA CAMBIO DE UN MES DE RENTA DOMICILIARIO. MICHAEL D. LINARES. (trans. This painting can be traded for one month of rent)

“Well, is this painting, sculpture, video, drawing, or what?” I ask Lillian. “Linares says it's all painting,” she replies, “So, painting it is. That's one of the beauties of being an artist, and one of the true pleasures of making art,” she tells me. “The artist decides exactly what it is he or she is doing, presents the work, and it's up to the audience to decide if they believe what is declared; if they concur with the argument the artist has presented.” “What if they don't agree?” I ask. “That is part art's sifting and winnowing process,” she says, “but regardless, we must take the artist's word regarding his intentions. Then it is up to the spectators to make a decision about the validity of the work. Of course, the opinions of some spectators have more impact. Curators, critics and art scholars carry more weight in this judgment process. Sometimes, despite an artist's impassioned treatise, the judgment goes against him, the argument is rejected and the work is either dismissed or ignored. Regardless, this does not make the art not art. It just precludes the work from being considered as part of the larger argument about art of the moment. Clearly, an artist can be working ahead of, or against, his or her time.”

“That's a rather popular notion, isn't it?” I ask her. “The idea that an artist is working outside the mainstream, not appreciated or even respected for what they are doing. Popular culture seems to perpetuate the myth of the misunderstood artist. Do you think this actually happens?” I ask. “It's pretty rare,” she replies, “that an artist is rejected, works away in relative obscurity, then later is hailed as a long-lost genius. It is not a fickle or capricious process. Time and history are the final arbiters.”

We will give Marcel Duchamp, the master French-American artist who died in 1968 the last word, in the form of a few quotes that we have collaged together to make one argument about art and artists:

In the chain of reactions accompanying the creative act, a link is missing. This gap, representing the inability of the artist to fully express his intentions, the difference between what he intended and what he realized, is the personal 'art coefficient' contained in the work. What I have in mind is that art may be bad, good or indifferent, but, whatever adjective is used, we must call it art, and bad art is still art in the same way that a bad emotion is still an emotion. I don't believe in art, I believe in artists.”

[Spanish version of article as published in En Rojo, cultural supplement of Claridad newspaper]


by Michael Linares

Walter Otero Contemporary Art gallery

#402 Juan Ponce de Leon

Puerta de Tierra, San Juan

787 627 5797