When we first moved to the island, we made weekly trips to Border's bookstore in Plaza Las Americas. We'd rarely go seeking a specific book; normally we were guided by serendipity. Lillian would browse the bookshelves, I would surf the magazines then we would meet in the cafe for coffee and pastry to share our discoveries. It was a disappointment when they went bankrupt. We wandered, a bit aimlessly, for months.
Bookstores come and bookstores go. Cronopios, a used bookstore and cafe in Santurce closed. Things improved when Libros AC opened on Ponce de Leon, with a bookstore, bar and cafe. A good book is improved by coffee, but is even better accompanied with a glass of wine or a shot of rum.
photo by Jan Galligan, 2015
ADAL MALDONADO (more info)
by Jan Galligan and Lillian Mulero
Santa Olaya, PR
Last August, photographer/artist, Adal Maldonado invited his 2500 followers to become a part of an art exhibition at Roberto Paradise gallery by uploading a selfie photograph to his Facebook page. “There are no restrictions,” said Adal. “It can celebrate or criticize narcissism, or it can be an act of artistic intention.” Over 500 people responded to his invitation, which was also a challenge and a rebuke. Adal's challenge was an attempt to try to move selfie pictures away from static self-images towards a more artistic interpretation of the self. The rebuke is implicit in the title.
Fuck Yourself, entered the published lexicon in 1836 when a Boston
woman was convicted of public obscenity after calling a group of
women “bloody whores” and telling them to “go fuck themselves.”
Adal seems to say that selfies, in their generic format are not worth
the effort, “fuck them” while also condemning such images as
The Ultimate Selfie (detail) Adal Maldonado, 2014
As Adal said in
one of his ongoing News
postings: Selfies are a cybernet reflection of the f-cked up way
society teaches young people that their most important quality is
their physical attractiveness. I propose that posting a more
thoughtful or creative selfie or the selfie as political activism or
an intentionally unattractive selfie can be ways to explore issues of
body image as a reaction against the narcissism or over-sexualization
of the typical selfie.
The first selfie, or photographic self-portrait, is attributed to Robert Cornelius, an American pioneer in photography, who produced a daguerreotype of himself in 1839 which was also one of the first photographs of a person. The modern internet-based selfie first appeared on MySpace and was soon supplanted by thousands of self-portraits published on Facebook, starting around 2005, and characterized as “amateurish, flash-blinded self-portraits, often taken in front of a bathroom mirror.” These self-images quickly evolved to photos, mostly of young females, shot from a high angle which exaggerate the size of the eyes and give a flattering impression of a slender pointed chin. In 2007, Apple introduced the iPhone which featured a camera lens not only on the back of the camera body, the standard mode for taking pictures, but also on the front, designed to provide a picture of the user when the phone is used for FaceTime or Skype conversations. People immediately exploited this feature as a means to make still-image self portraits, in a manner that was easier and faster, and which allow users complete control over how they present themselves.
of use and user control are what appealed most to Adal in issuing his
invitation. In response to an inquiry on his Facebook page, he
project is … evolving in many interesting directions. It began when
I agreed to exhibit my auto-portraits at Roberto Paradise in
Santurce. Reflecting on how the expo might also have a current
urgency and noticing how a cybernet pop culture has sprung up around
the selfie - although mostly concerned narcissistic issues - I
thought that it might be interesting if I started an anti-selfie page
Fuck Your Selfie
and encouraged my artist friends and the general public to upload
selfies … to me it seems like we are redefining the selfie as
past year has seen a world-wide explosion of selfies. The online
mobile photo-sharing and social networking service Instagram reports
an astounding 53 million photographs labeled with the hashtag
#selfie. According to a Time magazine article, the Philippines, New
York City, Miami, Malaysia, and Los Angeles are among the most
popular places in the world for selfies. This has led to a
proliferation of selfie-related terminology including: Selfie Face,
Selfie Arm, Selfie Addict, Selfie-Holic, Selfie Session, Selfie
Thursday, Selfie Overload. The Urban Dictionary defines
Selfie-Obsessed as “a person so self-obsessed that they post
copious amounts of selfies on social media with no purpose other than
to say "Look at me!" They do this in hopes of getting
'likes' and comments telling them they are good looking since that is
their way of validating their looks and sense of self(ie)-worth.”
people see themselves and how they choose to depict themselves in
public was definitively explored by the sociologist Erving Goffman in
his seminal 1959 book, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life,
the first study to treat face-to-face interactions as a sociological
subject. Goffman's insight was to define and interpret those
interactions as private theatrical performances presented in public.
By applying terminology of the theater to personal interactions,
Goffman demonstrated that in everyday encounters, people could best
present themselves by: believing in the role they are playing,
generally a different role for each person encountered; using
dramatic effect when confronting others, especially to emphasize what
they most want to convey; presenting an idealized version of
themselves which adds a feeling of significance to the encounter;
seeking to maintain control of their expressions, either to maximize
what they are presenting, or to conceal what they do not wish to
present; creating a sense of mystification about themselves, which
helps to maintain social distance in the observer; and finally
seeking to maintain a distinction between the real and the contrived,
in themselves and their presentations.
Taken together, these precepts can provide a step by step guide for the creation of selfie photographs that can then have an impact on the social media audience. Yet more work is required to move these images from the social medium to the realm of art. Can selfies be art? Art critic Jerry Saltz has written recently in their defense. He says that it is rare for a new genre to appear in art, but he considers selfies to be a type of self-portraiture formally distinct from all others in history, distinguished by their being boring, silly, casual, improvised, fast, and nearly always taken at arm's length unless a mirror is employed. Nonetheless, he considers them significant. Meanwhile a war of words is taking place in the art critical arena. Some writers have joined Saltz in his call to include selfies as legitimate works of art. Others have taken a strong stance against the possibility that selfies might ever be considered art.
1204 Ponce de León Avenue
THE FABRIC OF LIFE
by Jan Galligan and Lillian Mulero
Santa Olaya, PR
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.
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
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
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).
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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,
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.
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
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.”
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.”
intransmutability of Body Art
Jan Galligan & Lillian Mulero
Santa Olaya, PR
could have taken a bullet for the artist Chris Burden,” declares
“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.
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.
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.”
Alana Iturralde [blog] http://iturraldeleon.tumblr.com
galeria 20-20 [Facebook] https://www.facebook.com/galeria2020
Dwelling Projects [website] http://www.dwellingprojects.com
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: ¿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)
ARBITRARY : ARBITRATION (response to the film ARBITRAGE)
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)
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)
“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.
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.
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.”
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.
2001, Bea Santiago Munoz, not knowing the work of Esteban Valdes,
accidentally discovered a copy of Fuera
Feeling an aesthetic and intellectual affinity with the poems, she
worked with Michy Marxuach to include Valdes in M&M
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
Marxz Rosado followed those instructions to fabricate a six-foot
version of the signature in bright red neon.
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
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,
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.”
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,
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.
Article in Spanish, as published June 9,.2014 in En Rojo, cultural supplement to Claridad, Puerto Rico's national newspaper.
by Jan Galligan &
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.
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.
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.
Rabindranat Díaz Cardona, (left, detail) I am Puerto Rico, (right) Aaron
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!
Luis Vargas, Un
viaje interrumpido (the interrupted voyage)
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.”
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).
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).
Rosado Seijo, 365
días en el bosque tropical lluvioso (365 days in a tropical rain forest)
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
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).
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.'”
COVER ARTICLE PUBLISHED IN EN ROJO -- APRIL 23, 2014
CULTURAL SUPPLEMENT TO CLARIDAD, PUERTO RICO'S WEEKLY NATIONAL NEWSPAPER
ARTICLE AS PUBLISHED (IN SPANISH)
published in EN ROJO, Feb 27, 2014
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.
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.
Lillian Mulero Santa Olaya, PR
From: Jan Galligan To: Lillian Mulero Subject: PLASTIC PLEASURES Date: WEDNESDAY 4:44 PM
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.
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”.”
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?
To: Jan Galligan
Subject: I'D PREFER NOT TO
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.
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.
Fontaine, "America (Burnt/Unburnt),"
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
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.
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
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.
From: Lillian Mulero
ARTICLE IN SPANISH AS IT APPEARED IN EN ROJO:
Jan Galligan & Lillian Mulero
Santa Olaya, PR
http://75Grand.posthaven.com [foto blog]
http://cinefestsanjuan.posthaven.com [cine blog]