by Jan Galligan & Lillian Mulero
Santa Olaya, PR
photos captions -- looking for art ...
Our first trip to the island was in the late 1980s. As artists visiting from New York, Lillian and I wanted to see some art. We arranged to leave our one-year-old daughter with her grandparents in Santa Olaya, and drive El Barco, a 1978 Ford LTD, on an excursion into the city. The internet was in its early stages with only crude tools like Gopher, Compuserve, and Archie. There was no Google which you could ask “show me all the art galleries in San Juan PR” and two seconds later get a comprehensive answer.
Somehow, we ended up at el Arsenal in Old San Juan which happened to be exhibiting a survey of posters and graphic art. Neither the exhibition nor the artworks are memorable from that visit. It was, as a friend likes to say, “nothing to write home about,” but el Arsenal as a venue for art made a lasting impression. Over the next twenty years we always stopped at el Arsenal, although we sometimes found it closed or between exhibitions. Our efforts at seeing art were also hindered by our daughter's increasing lack of enthusiasm. “Do we have to look at art? Let's go to the beach!”
Times changed. Google knows everything. Google Translate is now accurate and sophisticated and when our daughter visits from New Orleans, her first questions is, “What's happening in the island's art scene?” Could it get any better? We find that there is more to see than we can find time to write about. The most robust source for information about island art and artists is Facebook. Every artist, gallery and museum has a page, so it has become our daily source of information about exhibitions and events. We run our weekly what-to-do calendar from there. The Events Listing has recently taken us to the following:
LA MUSICA DEL SFJAZZ COLLECTIVE
performed by estudiantes del Conservatorio de Musica de Puerto Rico
Google Translate is good, but sometimes I do not read carefully or understand fully. I expected to see the SFJAZZ Collective in person and assumed the event was organized by Miguel Zenon. First the students played Zenon's arrangement of Stevie Wonder's Superstition. Then, they played Zenon's Lingala, a complex work featuring marimba and xylophone. Halfway through their performance of Dave Douglas's SFJAZZ Suite, I realized that the Collective was not backstage waiting to make an appearance. The eight member group, led by Christina Diaz on piano had mastered an ambitious and difficult set of challenging contemporary jazz arrangements. Carlos Quiros on bass and Isai Rodriguez on trumpet were outstanding, and I was no longer disappointed to not be seeing David Sanchez on saxophone tenor nor Stefon Harris on vibraphone.
PUERTO RICO: PUERTA AL PAISAJE – Parte 1: feroz/feraz
Museo de Historia, Antropología y Arte de l Universidad de Puerto Rico, Recinto de Río Piedras
This exhibition, Part 1, is an introduction to a more complete survey of landscape painting in Puerto Rico organized by Dr. Lilliana Ramos Collado, curator at El Museo de Arte Contemporáneo. Both exhibitions explore the Puerto Rican landscape with emphasis on issues such as territory and territoriality from the time of Francisco Oller up to the present day, and feature a group of contemporary artists including Rafael Trelles, María de Mater O’Neill, Arnaldo Roche Rabell y el colectivo J² (Jaime y Javier Suárez). Seeing this introduction makes us impatient to see Part 2 next month at el MAC.
GALERIA FRANCISCO OLLER
Three art installations
UPR, Recinto de Río Piedras
Three works by three artists who are professors of art fill the intimate gallery. Ivelisse Jiménez, installed a large hanging sculpture made from sheets of transparent plastic casting colored shadows on the wall. Migdalia Luz Barens created a geometric design on the floor of the gallery using thick lines of powdered carbon. Along the periphery of each line is a story or poem, but it was difficult to read exactly what had been written. The best work was made by Carola Cintrón Moscoso, who teaches computer art and sound at Escuel de Artes Plasticas. She made a large abstract painting using only black paint. Attached to the painting is an electronic wand, wired to a small speaker. Passing the wand across the painting creates a series of squeaks and squawks depending on the density of the black shapes in the painting. We wish we had a portable version to bring to every exhibition to make the art “speak” to us.
Galería Nacional, Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña, Viejo San Juan.
Who could resist an exhibit called White Trash - a slang term in the U.S. which Wikipedia describes as “white people who live in trailer parks and spend their meager income buying big screen TV's instead of clothing for their children. These people tend to fight frequently and were regularly featured on the Jerry Springer television show.” Unfortunately we didn't encounter any evidence of those people, but instead observed a collection of white kitsch-derived objects transformed in a manner owing a large debt to artists Richard Prince and Jeff Koons.
artworks by Herberto "BICIO" Morales Montes
Galeria Candela, Viejo San Juan
The first in a planned series of exhibitions organized by the youthful editors of Pernicious Press. Each exhibition will present the work of one artist and include an artist's book specially published for the occasion. BICIO's book includes el Manifiesto del CoCa, and item #4 says: "The performance by any asshole makes an artist. Doing radical things for the sake of attention is not a creative act. Same for conceptual art."
NO VAMOS A LLEGAR, PERO VAMOS A IR
installation by Victor Vasquez
Antiguo Arsenal en Viejo San Juan
The wall text for this exhibition describes it as an imaginary dialogue based on photographic work carried out in an historic ruin in Old San Juan over a span of two years. It was difficult to decipher the effects of two years of study, but our favorite work is the most subtle - shadows cast on the wall at one end of the gallery by a series of ropes, hung with many colored plastic clothes pins.
installation by Frances Gallardo
Sala Central de Antiguo Arsenal en Viejo San Juan
The text by curator Elvis Fuentes speaks of metaphor and of Gallardo being in the eye of a hurricane. She presents delicate cut paper works depicting hurricanes: Zenon, Carmela, Luis Carmen, Juni, Hermes and Eugenio among others. One gallery wall is filled by three enormous cityscapes of New York, San Juan and Havana made of cut black paper. Our favorite work consists of three photographs: documentation of her dotted-line intervention on a small building near the harbor of Cantano, and bocetos for two similar interventions on the facades of Banco Popular's office building and the Galeria Nacional, both in Viejo San Juan.
open studio by Jaime Rodríguez Crespo
Recinto Cerra, 619.5 calle Cerra, Santurce
Recinto Cerra has two studios for artists Jaime Rodríguez Crespo y Jesús “Bubu” Negrón and a small gallery for presentations. For this project Crespo sculpted a Garza Blanca and then photographed the bird in a series of urban settings including: the entrance to el Museo De Vida Silvestre; on the grounds of the San Juan Golf Academy and Driving Range overlooking the port of San Juan; and the San Juan City Garbage Disposal Company facilities where he photographed his life-like, life-sized bird among hundreds of real cohorts.
Finally two new art galleries open this month. Both will present important exhibitions of contemporary art by puertorriqueño and international artists. Both are dedicated to connoisseurship and to developing and promoting the island's thriving art scene.
WALTER OTERO CONTEMPORARY ART
402 Ave. Constitución, Puerto Tierra
Opens to the public with an exhibition of new paintings by Angel Otero. This gallery is the vanguard of what may become a new center of art in the San Juan neighborhood of Puerto Tierra. Otero, quoted in the February 2013 issue of the international art magazine Modern Painters says, “This might be the first gallery with an international program doing six or seven exhibitions per year and a department for prints and publishing. The space is important, because it is symbolic for me and maybe for Puerto Rico.” Artists represented by the gallery include Rafael Vega, Michael Linares and Arnaldo Roche Rabell.
GALERIA AGUSTINA FERREYRA
750 Ave. Fernandez Juncos, Santurce
Presenting the inaugural exhibition Dreaming is a form of Planning featuring work by: Livia Corona, Mexico; Michele Abeles, Matt Sheridan Smith and Marcius Galan, U.S.; Pratchaya Phinthong, Thailand; Irma Alvarez Laviada, Spain; and Julio Suarez, Puerto Rico. The guide for this exhibition says “This work defies conventionalism and explores new possibilities within the 'cracks' exiting between painting, sculpture, drawing and photography.”
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