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


Diario del arte : Feb 2013

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:

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.

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.

Aaron Salabarrias
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."

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. 

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. 

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.”

Facebook or webpages for venues discussed:

Conservatorio de Musica de Puerto Rico

Museo de Historia, Antropología y Arte

Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Puerto Rico

Galeria Francisco Oller de UPR, Rio Piedras

Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña

Pernicious Press

Recinto Cerra

Walter Otero Contemporary Art

Galeria Agustina Ferreyra



by Jan Galligan & Lillian Mulero
Santa Olaya, PR 

Some of the crowd at La Productora for the opening of the exhibition "o te peinas o te haces rolos"


Jangeando (hanging around) a large crowd gathered on Calle Cerra, Lillian and I are outside of #619, home to La Productora the newest addition to an energetic and expanding art scene here on the island. An even larger group is crowded into the gallery, filled with music and artworks by artists who have helped to ensure that Santurce continues to rule. We have been reflecting on the changes we have seen since moving to the island over two years ago. We have seen this community become a center for art activity and this street become the center of the neighborhood. Because of the noise of the crowd and blare of the music coming from the gallery, Lillian has to lean in close to make herself heard.  

"This reminds me a lot of the art scene in the 1980's on the Lower East Side in New York City," she says. "Same kind of high energy and excitement, a feeling of a home-grown, do it yourself aesthetic; thumbing one's nose at the art establishment; art on the streets and in the galleries created and run by artists, for artists; artworks based on things happening at the moment and politically charged in response to issues of the day."

I know what she means. We were there and saw it as it happened. At the moment we are both reading about that New York artworld of the 1980s. Lillian is reading Alan Moore's new book ART GANGS, which recalls the protest and counterculture of the downtown art community, and I am reading Cynthia Carr's new biography FIRE IN THE BELLY, about the life and times of David Wojnarowicz, one of the artists who helped make the Lower East Side a vibrant and politically aware art scene. One thing that distinguished Loisaida, as it is still known to Nuyoricans, and sometimes called Alphabet City, is that it is an Hispanic neighborhood. During the 1980s there was a large influx of artists who came primarily for cheap rents and readily available work-spaces. They quickly established themselves, opening art galleries, cooperatives, and alternative art spaces which presented art exhibits, music, poetry and experimental theater. Most importantly these artists and their venues were supportive of the people and culture surrounding them. The artwork was quite distinctive, made from objects and images discovered on the Lower East Side, often reflecting icons and folk art of the Boricua community. In addition many important Puerto Rican and Nuyorican artists were welcomed and became instrumental in establishing that art scene. Some of them founded the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural Center in a former public school building. There they presented theater, dance, music and art and rented out fifty studio spaces to community artists. It remains an important and vital cultural center today.

Our reverie is interrupted when Lillian spots Carla Acevedo-Yates, a young art writer and independent curator. We met Carla when she presented her project The Dialectic City at Laboratorio de Artes Binarios in 2011. At the moment she is completing graduate studies in the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College in upstate New York. Lillian motions to Carla and she leans in to join our conversation. I ask if she can translate the title of this exhibition "o te peinas o te haces rolos" into English for me. "Literally, it means 'either comb your hair or put it up in rollers,'" she tells me. "But figuratively, it means make up your mind and do something." "Sort of like our saying, 'shit or get off the pot,'" I suggest. "Sort of," says Lillian, "but more like 'he who hesitates is lost.'" "O 'no es lo mismo decirlo que hacerlo,'" says Carla. "How about, 'if you're going to eat three frogs, eat the biggest one first,'" I suggest. They look puzzled. "I had a fortune cookie yesterday which said, '"There is no time like the pleasant.'" I tell them. They both stare, choosing to ignore me. Suddenly I am out manned and out gunned. It might be time for me to either start fishing, or get rid of the bait.

Lillian Mulero in front of LA CERRA music store, #620 Calle Cerra, Santurce. 

Carla points out that the text in support of this exhibition says that La Productora started from the need to have an alternative space where artists can create and share their art. The name comes from the location, 619 Calle Cerra, where 30 years ago there was a center for distributing typical music of Puerto Rico. Now it has been reinvented as a space for the distribution of creative ideas in art and design. She says the text also suggests that the artists in this show have a shared aesthetic based on a dichotomy in their work and a duality in their techniques, where the viewer can perceive a child-like feeling but at the same time find a mature perception. It also says these artists share an appreciation for the work exhibited in the Bad Painting show of 1978, the first exhibition at the New Museum in New York City. Curator Marsha Tucker wrote that the artists in that exhibition “expressed a freedom to mix classical and popular art-historical sources, kitsch and traditional images, archetypal and personal fantasies, which constitutes a rejection of the concept of progress,” and served as a thumb in the eye to the patriarchal phallocentric art establishment of that era. The New Museum was the first major contemporary art institution founded by a woman, and now has a long history of supporting the work of women and minority artists concerned with social and political issues.

Lillian asks, "Doesn't the title of this exhibition "o te peinas o te haces rolos" refer specifically to women?" Carla says, "Yes, but it's referring to a sense of indecisiveness, a trait unfortunately attributed to women." "But there are no women artists in this show," declares Lillian. "True," says Carla, "although this is the first exhibition of the gallery." "Give them some time," I suggest. "The gallery is new, and they are just getting started."

For the moment at least, they do not contradict me.

Artists Juan Alberto Negroni, Rabindranat Diaz-Cardona, Martin Albarran, Omar Obdulio Pena, Jaime Crespo and friend in front of LA CERRA, an artwork by Jesús “Bubu” Negrón


"o te peinas o te haces rolos"

Artists: Rabindranat Díaz-Cardona, Hector Madera, José Lerma, Roberto Márquez, Jesús “Bubu”Negrón, Juan Alberto Negroni, Radames “Juni” Figueroa, Fernando Pintado, Omar ObdulioPeña y Jonathan Torres. With the collaboration of Roberto Paradise / Martin Albarran


La Productora
Calle Cerra #619, Santurce
(787) 647-7461


Carla Acevedo-Yates




Steve Staso's ULTRASECRETO book project.

by Jan Galligan
Santa Olaya, PR
November 20, 2012

Steve Staso calls himself an anti-artist and anti-filmmaker and says he is an anti-police. Born in Monroe, Michigan in the 1950's and raised in Detroit, he moved to New York City as a young man, where he always lived in one of the the Puerto Rican barrios. Staso was politicized at at early age, especially after reading The Society of the Spectacle, Guy Debord's seminal critique of contemporary society which argues that the life of contemporary society has been completely colonized and subsumed by consumerism. Debord writes, “Since art is dead, it has evidently become extremely easy to disguise police as artists... by the same process a cultural cover is guaranteed for every agent or auxiliary of the state’s networks of persuasion.”

Anne Delaney and Steve Staso installing his drawings at LA15 in Santurce, PR : photo by Rebecca Zilenziger.

For more than 30 years Staso has been creating films, drawings and paintings which explore and present the social political critique espoused by Debord. At the same time, Staso's exposure to the Puerto Rican diaspora had a strong effect on his art and politics, as he came to understand the plight of a people subjugated in their homeland and for many, forced to live and work “in the belly of the subjugating beast” in order to earn a respectable living for their families.

Read full article here:

Steve Staso and Anne Delaney outside their exhibition CAPITULACIONES at LA15 in Santurce, PR : photo by Rebecca Zilenziger.


Article as published in En Rojo, cultural supplement to Claridad, the weekly national newspaper of Puerto Rico here:



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

photo caption: Construction of the Walter Otero Gallery, San Juan, PR as if photographed by the controversial documentarian Edgar Martins. (photo illustration by J. Galligan [ed.])


“ANDY WARHOL WOULD HAVE LOVED TO BE AT THIS PARTY,” said Ultra Violet, Warhol superstar who attended the legendary party hosted by Walter Otero Contemporary Art at the Bass Museum of Art in Miami Beach during Art Basel week.

Classic video clips from movies such as La Dolce Vita, Metropolis, Auntie Mame, Julieta of the Spirits, and Barbarella were collaged with footage of Puerto Rican cult icon Iris Chacon. Images from artists including Carlos Betancourt, Angel Otero, Allora & Calzadilla, Arnaldo Roche, Luis Vidal, Rafael Vega, Gamaliel Rodriguez, Michael Linares, Ramon Miranda, Monica Rodriguez, Axel Ruiz, Victor Vazquez, Hector Arce, Osvaldo Budet, Ignacio Lang, Andres Serrano and Fabian Marcacio danced in the video mix throughout the night.  Betancourt, whose musical selections accompanied the video, was seen dancing all night. Also on the dance floor was Walter Otero and Ultra Violet -- moving to the rhythms of Hector Lavoe.

Walter Otero, proprietor of the Walter Otero Contemporary Art gallery, announced that the opening of the gallery will take place "sometime early in January, 2013." The gallery is located on Avenida Ponce De Leon #402, in the Santurce art district of San Juan, PR.


More info on photographer Edgar Martins

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

El Centro Curatorial de Arte Contemporáneo LA15 presents New York city artists Anne Delaney and Steve Staso 

Capitulations can sometimes be seen as an agreement on economic issues in a marriage. This time it represents a creative covenant between two artists – a couple whose marriage has ended but who reunite to share in this presentation of their drawings.

Anne Delaney uses figuration to portray signs of excessive consumption – sometimes as an act of disobedience to the rational use of the family finances.

Steve Staso has created a series of drawings which depict elements (elementos puertorriqueñistas) that highlight the Puerto Rican nationality and that are emblematic of the island's ongoing struggle for independence.

The viewer is invited to explore the work of these two artists who work with divergent subjects. They are none the less joined here through the medium of drawing where their work reflects their past relationship – presented now from a different point of view.

Capitulaciones : installation photographs by Rebecca Zilenziger


Robert Miller  Richard Gere
Ellen Miller         Susan Sarandon
Det. Bryer          Tim Roth
Julie (mistress)   Laetitia Casta

Roadside Attractions presents a film written and directed by Nicholas Jarecki 
Running time: 107 minutes. Rated R (for language, violent images and drug use)



Having just phoned his lawyer, instructing him to contact the district attorney and arrange a meeting where he will face indictment and turn himself over to the police, Richard Gere, seen from above, is on his bed, hands behind his head, staring directly up at us, the camera, on the bedroom ceiling of his Gramercy Park mansion. Suddenly he bolts from the bed, grabs the phone and calls his lawyer again. "Have you contacted the D.A.?!" he shouts into the phone. "No? Great! Don't!" He's had a sudden inspiration.

Gere plays Robert Miller, CEO of a billion dollar hedge fund. He's on the verge of selling the company to a rival firm -- in part so he can pay back the $410 million a friend loaned him to cover a loss in a Russian copper mining deal gone bad that Gere/Miller has hidden by juggling the books. However, it's not the debt and hidden loss causing him to lose sleep nor is that the subject of his sudden inspiration.

While the sale of his company was inching towards conclusion, Gere/Miller caused a fatal accident on the northbound side of the Bronx River Parkway. Driving a vintage Mercedes sedan belonging to his mistress, new owner of a Soho art gallery which Gere/Miller has funded -- with her sleeping on his shoulder, he falls asleep at the wheel and the car crashes -- flipping and rolling spectacularly. Gere/Miller survives the crash. The mistress dies. No one is witness to the crash. It is late at night and the parkway is deserted. In a moment of panic-driven inspiration Gere/Miller, about to dial 911 on his cell phone, puts it back in his pocket and instead uses a nearby pay phone and makes a collect call to the Harlem home of Jimmie, the son of his former corporate chauffer. Speaking rapidly, Gere/Miller gives young Jimmie, explicit instructions about how and where to find him on the parkway. "Take I-95," he tells him. Jimmie follows those instructions to the letter.

Weeks later, Gere/Miller is under suspicion when investigators discover his collect phone call to Harlem in the records of the pay phone. Looking for the disappeared driver of the fatal crash, they have also discovered: Gere/Miller was the victim's lover and benefactor; Gere/Miller was the last person seen with her on the night of the crash; they know that Gere/Miller employed Jimmie's father; they know Jimmie accepted the collect phone call and talked for 1.5 minutes. They suspect he left home and drove somewhere, but have no proof. They suspect Gere/Miller is the missing driver and want to connect him to the phone call and to Jimmie.

In a moment of inspired desperation, the lead detective manufactures a piece of evidence. He doctors a photo from the Robert F. Kennedy Triborough Bridge tollbooth, making it show Jimmie's Jeep Grand Cherokee and rear license plate. This evidence is presented to a grand jury. Jimmie is about to be indicted as accessory after the fact. He's in trouble. Although Jimmie is a former felon, Gere/Miller has sworn him to secrecy and offered big money, two million dollars. Jimmie has his pride. He refused the money, but promised to keep his mouth shut. Now, facing serious jail time, Jimmie is incensed -- he never even went near the Triborough bridge. Gere/Miller told him not to.

This is what wakes Gere/Miller from his tormented reverie, as he seemed about to sacrifice his family, his company, his own future -- everything he had worked so hard to construct and acquire -- in order to repay Jimmie for his silence and loyalty -- taking the rap himself. Gere/Miller has suddenly realized that the photo evidence must be fake, and he can prove it. He gets his own lawyer and the high-powered lawyer he's hired to defend Jimmie into a meeting and they concoct a plan to get a Triborough bridge license plate photo of their own to match against the photo presented as evidence to the grand jury. When the two photos are placed side by side under a magnifying glass -- it's clear: the police photo is a Photoshop fake, and a crappy one at that. 

Whoever made the composite was a Photoshop amateur, unfamiliar with the Distort and Skew tools. The image of Jimmie's license plate, composited onto a picture of a different Jeep Grand Cherokee, is out of proportion and of lower resolution than the tollbooth original onto which it has been crudely pasted. Case closed. Grand jury dismissed. Jimmie is free. Any link between Gere/Miller is gone. 

Take another look at the evidence, please. There was no need for Gere/Miller's sleepless nights. Any competent photographer or digital retoucher would immediately recognize that the photograph provided by the police had been digitally altered. Moreso, take a look at a map. Leaving Harlem to drive north to the Bronx River Parkway takes you nowhere near the Triborough Bridge, just like Jimmie said. You would have to drive south to go north. Nobody in New York does that, especially not a street-smart young man from Harlem. Case closed. 




Jan Galligan 
Santa Olaya, PR [foto blog] [cine blog] [about me]