ART IS THE LIE THAT REVEALS THE TRUTH : Pablo Picasso, Paris, 1901

Wall mural ARS LONGA VITA BREVIS by Alexis Bousquet, calle Cerra in Santurce arts district

by Jan Galligan
Santa Olaya, PR
June 1, 2023

Santurce es Ley / Santurce Rules, is an annual three day festival of art, music and food organized by c787 Studios, which takes place in Santurce, the art district of San Juan, PR. The eighth edition was held May 26, 27 & 28. We've had the pleasure of attending éach of them over the past 10 years. The previous two years were missed due to the restrictions of Covid.

One of our earliest experiences of art in Santurce was in 2013 at an event presented by an enterprise known as La Productora, an alternative artists' space named for its location, 619 Calle Cerra, where 30 years prior there was a distribution center for salsa and other typical music of Puerto Rico. It had been reinvented as a space for the distribution of contemporary art by artists Juan Alberto Negroni, Rabindranat Diaz-Cardona, Martin Albarran, Omar Obdulio Pena, and Jaime Crespo.

At the time, discussing our discovery, Lillian said, "This reminds me of the art scene of the 1980's on the Lower East Side in New York City. Santurce has the same high energy and excitement, a feeling of a home-grown, do it yourself aesthetic. Art on the streets and in the galleries created by artists making artworks based on the things happening at the moment with a politically charged response to issues of the day."

We were there in NYC and saw it as it happened. One thing that distinguished Loisaida, as it is still known to Nuyoricans, is that it is an Hispanic neighborhood. During the 80s there was a large influx of artists who came for cheap rents and readily available work-spaces, and quickly established themselves by opening art galleries and alternative art spaces which were supportive of the people and culture surrounding them. The art was distinctive, made from objects and images discovered on the streets of the Lower East Side, often reflecting icons and folk art of the Boricua community. Although now the rents are high and many have moved to Brooklyn, the area still remains an important cultural center.

The La Procuctora event was where we encountered the work of a group of local artists including: José Lerma, Jesús “Bubu” Negrón, Radames Juni Figueroa, Fernando Pintado, Martin Albarran and Jonathan Torres, as well as dealer Francisco Javier Rovira Rullan, of the Roberto Paradise gallery. All remain active in the Santurce art scene today.

Among the artists whose careers we have followed closely is Radames Juni Figueroa. One of his earliest works that we encountered was an air conditioner onto which he had scratched a drawing entitled .40 Living the Dream, simultaneously both a sculpture and a drawing.

Juni regularly makes drawings, large and small paintings, sculptures, and installations. When not working on these projects, he also has a line of clothing and designs he calls Warevel Socio and which he describes as a Beauty Salon. Interested parties are encouraged to check out the Instagram feed here: Warevel Socio

Most recently Juni's work was featured at the Embajada gallery in San Juan's La Milla de Oro, Hato Rey district, in an exhibition he calls La 187 consisting of three large paintings by that title, a series of small sculptures and small drawings based on the coconuts, called coco frio, sold by vendors on the beach, especially around the beaches of Loiza, plus two large curtains defining the entrance to the gallery space, made from the linen normally stretched and mounted for paintings, covered by t-shirts and boxer shorts (some from his Warevel Socio collection) which are smeared with various oil paints to look like what's commonly known as action-paintings.

Pictured above: Two of the La 187 paintings, Juni working on a La 187 painting, Juni with friends at Embajada gallery opening

Embajada gallery was profiled in our previous post here ...

Embajada has been giving deserved attention to Juni's art for a number of years. In 2015 we wrote about a two person exhibition they hosted featuring Juni's work in conjunction with Bubu Negron. You can read that article here ...

You can connect to Embajada gallery via their website:; on Instagram: @Embajadada and on Facebook: @embajadada

In closing, we will refer to these remarks about art, the art scene and associated energies attributed to the late Andy Warhol:
“I always say, one's company, two's a crowd, and three's a party.”

EMBAJADA: an art outpost, whose propriators are emissaries for contemporary art

Dispatch: November 5, 2022
San Juan, Puerto Rico

We were there (Fuimos alla)
by Jan Galligan

Christopher Rivera and Manuela Paz, can be thought of as San Juan's answer to the storied New York art couple Leo Castelli and Ileana Sonnebend, who founded the Leo Castelli Gallery in the 1960s.

Like many enterprises here on the island, owing to covid and especially a succession of tropical storms, Embajada closed their storefront gallery in Hato Rey a while back. But unlike many, they continued operations by way of something they called La Oficina de Embajada doing popup exhibitions, exploring the emerging market for NFTs, collaborating with galleries outside of Puerto Rico and participating in international art fairs.

At the same time they searched for a new headquarters in which to continue those activities and which would be their base of operations. They found their answer in an old mansion in the heart of San Juan's Hato Rey financial district, which they have refurbished and where they are now celebrating their reopening with an exhibition titled Tamo aquí (We are here). They describe it as: a group exhibition marking the launch of our new location on the occasion of the gallery’s seventh anniversary. On view November 5–January 15, 2023, this exhibition includes over 40 artists working in multiple mediums, including sites-specific works which respond to the building's architecture.

By now, twelve years into our residence here on the island, we are quite familiar with the Hato Rey business district which includes my favorite stop on the Bayamon to San Juan inter-urban train, the Roosevelt Station, a favorite because it houses a world-class work of art. The rail line was constructed in 2004 and shortly after, each of the 16 stations received art works under a program called Arte Publico de Puerto Rico. Roosevelt station is graced by Sobre la traducción: El Tren Urbano an installation by Antonio Muntadas, an artist originally from Barcelona, now living in New York. This work is his contemporary homage to the historic photographs of the now defunct San Juan to Ponce railroad line, originally made by Jack Delano. Here, Muntadas presents Delano's photos as huge murals hanging from the ceiling at the entrance to the station, along with kiosk-size photos presented as backlit transparencies in the same manner as the advertising kiosks found in other stations along the line.

The Hato Rey, Roosevelt station is located around the corner from Embajada, a perfect conjunction for me as I now anticipate traveling to the gallery by way of the train, admiring the Muntadas/Delano photographs, then checking in on what is new at Embajada. There is also a resonance between the Muntadas work and what is to be found at the gallery: interesting, serious contemporary art, exactly what you might hope to find when making a creative excursion.

None the less, this time we came by car, and when Lillian and I arrived just a few hours after they had opened for business, we were struck by the look of the residence that houses the gallery. A bit unassuming from the outside, located directly beside a tall new office building, Embajada does in fact look like an embassy. Dating probably from the 1920s, this small building still commands a presence in the neighborhood. Two stories with a flat roof projecting on all sides, the top floor is open to the air, as is typical here on the island. The ground floor which has been designed as the gallery space, can be entered either by way of an arched doorway or via a side portico which previously functioned as the “garage” for the owner's automobile.

Embajada gallery, 354 calle Fernado Primero, Hato Rey, San Juan, PR

A quick note on typical island architecture. It is common that older buildings are open to the air for both practical and aesthetic reasons. There is always a breeze to cool the interior, so there is no need for the glass typically found in residental windows. Instead, windows have metal louvers than can be closed in case of a storm. This is true of our small house located in the countryside south of Bayamon. It is necessary to have plenty of shade around a building, thus porticos, verandas, and other areas that are open to the weather but protected from the sun. This is especially true here at the Embassy and this provides an interesting, possibly challenging venue for displaying art. For the inaugural exhibition they have given some artists the opportunity to make use of spaces for site-specific installations. They are able to do this since their building has been cleaned up but not completely restored. Raw space is ideal for presenting experimental artworks.

In the back of the house is a small room which probably served as a child's bedroom or maid's quarters. This room has been left untouched, a truly raw space. On the floor in a tiny closet Claudio Pena Salinas has installed a sculpture titled KAN. It comprises a four foot neon tube connected to a 12 inch brass carving that appears to be the Aztec head of a figurine, likely a snake. That is exactly what it looks like, an electric snake depicting Kukulkan (the amazing Serpent) a deity worshipped by the Mayans.

Dominating the room is an installation by Guadalupe Maravilla. Mounted on the wall is a large flatscreen TV showing her video entitled Una limpia a I.C.E. (Getting cleaned by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in English). The room has been left darkened and the video soundtrack has been turned up to maximum volume.

On the floor of the room is what appears to be a homemade projector consisting of, in order: a light source, lens, a transparency sandwitched between glass, and three glass lenses – all mounted on a six inch wide four foot long plank. Together they project an image of a strange totem-like structure onto the adjoining wall.

In the narrow hallway leading to that backroom are two large works hanging on the wall across from each other: a painting by Rademes Juni Figuroa, titled El Chivo Pepe de Ponce, un alcholico querido por todos visitando la barra “El Progreso del Jibarito” junto a Hector Lavoe (in English: El Chivo Pepe of Ponce, an alcoholic loved by all, visiting the bar "El Progreso del Jibarito" with Hector Lavoe) which is exactly as described by the title (Hector Lavoe being one of Puerto Rico's most famous and beloved bolero and salsa singers from the 60s to the 90s, Lavoe meaning “the voice”). El Chivo is a self-portrait of Figuroa, while Lavoe is seen feeding a bottle of rum to a nearby goat.

Hanging on the opposite wall is one of Chemi Rosado Seijo's skateboard paintings, made by laying giant sheets of gessoed plywood on the ground and skateboarding across the surface many times, in different directions. A veritable action painting. Seijo is also known for the skateboard bowls he has constructed, here on the island and elsewhere. One example is found in La Perla on the outskirts of Old San Juan. In that case the bowl serves for both skateboarding, and when filled with water on especially hot days, a swimming pool.

Hallway with paintings by Chemi Rosado Seijo and Rademes Juni Figuroa.

El Diario: a composite showing: a view of the landscape near our home in Santa Olaya, and an overview of our inaugural visit to the Embajadada art gallery on the occassion of the grand opening exhibition and celebration.

In all, it was a very interesting and succesful event toasting Embajada, their new gallery space and the numerous artists on exhibit, and it bodes well for the future. As ambassadors for the artists of Puerto Rico and for a broader group of associated artists, we can look forward to more interesting events and exhibitions hosted by Embajada.

In the meantime you can connect to the gallery via their website: ; Instagram: @Embajadada and on Facebook: embajadada.

Be sure to stay tuned for updates on all their various upcoming activities


Wall mural ARS LONGA VITA BREVIS by Alexis Bousquet, calle Cerra in Santurce arts district 

by Jan Galligan
Santa Olaya, PR 
May 18, 2022

Checking our archive of articles we've written about art here on the island since our first in the summer of 2011, we find that the most recent dates from November 2021, although it concerns art installed by Allora & Calzadilla in a cave on the southwest coast in 2015. Our most current article detailing work seen in galleries in the Santurce art district was published in April 2019. We knew it had been a long time since we had gotten out to look at art and organize our opinions, we just did not realize it had been that long, and we began to get a sense of the toll that Covid has wrought since the beginning of 2020.

While there were not the outward signs of physical devastation seen in 2017 after hurricane Maria, Covid occured around the time the island was beginning to emerge from the effects of that storm. Galleries and art spaces had closed, artists had left the island temporarily or long term, and the repercussions were still being felt. Art activity had slowed dramatically, and then came Covid.

Speaking personally, we experienced an especially devastating effect of the pandemic in the loss of three important artists with whom we shared a kinship: Adal Maldonado, Elizam Escobar, and Esteban Valdes all of whom died in 2020. Covid, played a part, and their passing has left a large hole in the current art community. Thankfully their work lives on, and our memories of each artist is intact.

This past weekend, emerging from a lengthy forced isolation, we found galleries, museums and art spaces again presenting exhibitions, and people have begun returning, however warily, to explore what is on display. Lillian and I were joined by two friends, Betty and Nerieda as we took a brief tour of the galleries km 0.2 and Galeria Agustina Ferreyra both in Santurce.

km 0.2 a non-profit space since 2015, is located on the second floor at 619 calle Cerra and run by artists Karlo Andrei Ibarra and Yiyo Tirado Rivera. Their mission statement says: “Our vision is to expand links and collaborations with other independent art projects in the Caribbean and Latin America, focusing on the production of contemporary artistic practices, while expanding the visibility of art practice in Puerto Rico.”

Agustina Ferreyra's gallery, in operation since 2013, was especially affected by hurricane Maria. Forced to close, she moved to Mexico City, continuing her operations there until this past year when she returned to San Juan and reopened in an expanded, elegant new space at 1412 Avenida Fernández Juncos. Our first visit to the gallery was to see her second exhibition. The first featured Cuban artist Dalton Gata who presented eight large paintings and one very large sculpture. You can view that exhibition here.

Argentine artist Tobias Dirty was born in 1990 and presented his first exhibition in Buenos Aires in 2017. His inaugural exhibition here, Siempre estoy dado vuelta (I am always upside down) includes four large paintings, several small sized canvases and a large wooden rocking chair with a bright yellow papier-mache bust resting on the seat. Three small, similarly made sculptures are displayed on wooden boxes mounted at eye level on the wall, much as you would hang a painting. The subject of these works is the house and its various parts, about which Dirty says: “No matter how safe the house, all the doors have a peephole, just in case, as a precaution. Meanwhile the nose is close to the gas pipes to detect a leak. The floors are my hands, which support me by being the ceiling, because I am turned upside down, I am always upside down, pointing to the stars.” We did our best to stay upright while viewing this work.

We were drawn to km 0.2, located nearby, in order to acquire a t-shirt produced in memory of artist Esteban Valdes. Printed in white, on a black shirt is his neologism from the 1970s, PUERTO RICO PARA LOS PUERTORRISUENOS, which we interpret as "Puerto Rico for those who dream". Here, the shirt serves as a slogan for this exhibition of twenty-four works by eighteen artists. Titled GO HOME, it casts a wry but wary eye on what has long been condemned as imperialist practices, first by the Spanish conquistadors and then the USA, which acquired the island as a spoil in 1898 at the end of the Spanish-American war. Having now suffered over 500 years of colonialism, Puerto Rico, labeled a territory, remains subserviant to the aims and whims of the US government. As the (translated) gallery brochure states, “GO HOME is a multigenerational group of artists whose attitude lies in their radicalization of content and in a total repudiation of colonial laws that merely grant us the freedom to sell our country and our homeland to the highest bidder. In short, this exhibit is a banner of resistance.”

While feeling solidarity with this position, it was difficult not to feel implicated by the explicit message of some of the works. “We thought we were home,” we mused, taking some small comfort in realizing that many of these works are aimed at the practices of tourists and weekend visitors. For instance, the painting by Saki Sacarello shows a couple of female tourists walking down the street. A local asks, “Why are you here wearing loincloths?” The tourists reply, “Oh no, not us, we are your compatriots.” Well, at least we're not tourists, we ruminated.

Another anti-salubrious view of the tourist is presented in Aaron Salabarrias Valle's mini-sculpture titled Turistas-5, mounted on the wall on a small shelf in front of a bright yellow sun. “Don't get burnt,” we thought. Finally we were met with two framed photographs by Ricardo Alcaraz made during the aggressive protests that began in 1999 against the US Navy on Vieques, the small sister island to the southeast of the main island. This resulted in the expulsion of the Navy in 2003. One photograph titled Pescadores viequenses durante una manifestacion de desobediencia civil en contra de la presencia en Vieques de la Marina de Guerra estadounidense. La protesta se llevaba a cabo en una de las playas que usaba la Marina para sus practicas de guerra. Al fondo pasa un buque de guerra de la Marina, depicts two protesting local fishermen on their boat blocking off a Navy destroyer in the background from entering the area where they normally fish. The other photo, Grafitti que hizo Tito Kayak en un buque de la Marina en el area de los muelles en San Juan, durante una protesta que se llevaba a cabo, shows the US Navy ship Yorktown with the phrase BIEQUE O MUERTE (Vieques or Death) spray painted by Tito Kayak on the ship's rear quarter. Taped to the wall just below each 16 x 20 framed photo, is the same picture as a 4x6 postcard, the type a tourist might normally buy at a local CVS.

It was an interesting afternoon, back on the street, looking at art, and we went home talking and thinking about what we had seen, while looking forward to the next opportunity to see more art, and maybe, get lunch and a beer.   

T.S. Eliot, 1915

Non torno vivo alcun, s’i’odo il vero,
Senza tema d’infamia ti rispondo.
(If I don't come back alive, I hear the truth,
Without fear of infamy, I will answer you.)

Let us go then, you and I,
And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:
Streets that follow like a tedious argument
Of insidious intent

To lead you to an overwhelming question ...
Oh, do not ask, “What is it?”
Let us go and make our visit.
In the room the women come and go
Speaking of Michelangelo.

"SKETCHBOOK" : ART by Allen Grindle, WORDS by Joseph Dane

(person who reacts quickly or positively to stimulus)
by Jan Galligan
Santa Olaya, PR

Mar 17, 2022

It was with surprise that we retrieved from our Post Office box a package the other day sent by our long time Albany artist friend, Allen Grindle, mailed from his studio where he has lived since we first met him, over 40 years ago. That's a long time to live/work in one place. You can imagine our delight when we discovered an eight by eight inch, softbound book entitled SKETCHBOOK, with art by Grindle and words by Joseph Dane. Dane we did not know, but Grindle's art we know well, and as we thumbed through the 130 pages, we saw many works that we had already encounted, either in exhibitions, during visits to his studio, or via the nearly annual holiday mailings received from Grindle and his partner Wendy Williams. Many of those works have been framed and displayed to our ongoing delight. For nearly thirty years, before we moved from Albany to Puerto Rico, Grindle's large woodcut print hung over the fireplace in our downtown home @75Grand.

A quick tour of the book showed us many Grindle works that we had not seen before: drawings, paintings, sculptures, linocuts, gravure and more. We did know that his studio is a treasure trove, packed with an ever increasing legacy of his art production, so much so, that you'd sometimes wonder how he found the space to make new works. 

Interspersed among numerous carefully lit, museum quality illustrations of Grindle's work, made by Albany photographer Joe Purtock, are more casual photos of the crowded studio which Grindle took, that clearly demonstrate just how much art he has created and the processes involved. A further surprise was finding what seemed to be a story wending its way from start to finish. Careful inspection proved this to be true. Normally when opening a new book, the first step is to look at the Colophon: publisher, date, credits, ISBN. Then Contents: chapters, titles, etc. Finally, the Index, just to see what extra might exist. 

Contents tells us that Dane has written a story with a Prelude of three sections, the first part of part one immediately caught our eye: The Artist-Dominatrix. O.K., we thought, this is going to be interesting. The other parts of the Prelude include: It was an Accident, she said; and Class Notes: The Ballad of Eloise. We couldn't wait to find out more about Eloise. Is she the Artist-Dominatrix?

Section two is titled Interludium Pastorale, and also has three parts: Road Trip, Docents in the Gallery, and Curtain Call. 

Over these many years we did not recall Grindle mentioning Joseph Dane, so we were curious to know more about him. A quick trip to the Authors pages at the end of the book helped. Dane's brief auto-bio says that he and Grindle were high school friends and that over the years he too, has acquired a number of Grindle's art works which he too, treasures. Apparently Dane taught at the University of Southern California and is now emeritus. He says he imagined that constructing the book with Grindle would be a struggle, but in the end found that his words and Grindle's images complement and support each other, almost as if on their own, without authors' interventions. Grindle in his bio, says that Dane approached him with the initial idea of making a book, and as is his wont, he meant to tell Dane, “No, absolutely not.” That sounds like the Grindle we know. However he ended up saying he'd “think about it,” and now he has a pile of books to add to the accumulata of his shrinking studio space.

Back to the story. Who is this Eloise? Why is she a dominatrix? What kind of artist is she? What was the accident? What was that class where the notes were being taken? Where did the road trip take her? Who were those docents in the gallery? And what happended at the curtain call?

To answer those questions, let's begin at the end, on page 124. 

“The cupped applause of the audience, perhaps the listeners, polite as they are trained to be, echoes in the upper galleries.” 

To give you any more of the story, would be to give too much away. Buy this book. Read Dane's full story for yourself. Look at all of Purtock's images, which are like a studio visit in themselves. Study closely the individual works by Grindle, carefully annotated with date, title, medium and size.

You can purchase a copy of the book from Amazon by following the link below
(click on book title or the book cover image)

SKETCHBOOK by Allen Grindle and Joseph Dane  ISBN 979864660004

As Grindle himself says at the end of his bio, “The words and the images speak back-and-forth as they should. A good balance. A good book. I can almost hear the applause coming from the upper balcony.”

Allora & Calzadilla, and Dan Flavin (context is everything)

Allora & Calzadilla, and Dan Flavin (context is everything) 2015
by Jan Galligan & Lillian Mulero, Santa Olaya, PR

“Let me read your horoscope,” says Lillian. 

I was born on the cusp of Aries and Pisces, so Lillian starts with Aries, my dominant sign. “The strong energy of the sun will help you accept a new reality and launch on a new adventure without restrictions or fear.” Lillian and I are realists. Objective in our thinking and not given to the supernatural. None the less, we often consult astrology regarding the day's prospects. “Don't put all your hope at the mercy of a person you have just met,” she continues, with Pisces. “You give yourself too freely, and they can take advantage of your candor.” As usual, it's a mixed message, a contradictory metaphor. 

We are on our way to see Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla's presentation of a repurpossed fluorescent-tube light sculpture which they have installed deep inside a limestone cave on the south side of the island. Their project, Puerto Rican Light (Cueva Vientos), employs Dan Flavin's 1965 minimalist work which he titled Puerto Rican Light (to Jeanie Blake). This is not the first time they have used Flavin's sculpture. They presented it in 2003, first at the Americas Society in New York City, then at the Tate Modern in London. Allora & Calzadilla powered Flavin's sculpture employing a bank of storage batteries which had been previously charged using solar panels they had installed on the grounds of the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo here in San Juan. The solar panels collected Puerto Rican light and the energized batteries were shipped from Puerto Rico to each exhibition.

Puerto Rican Light (1998/2003) installed in Tate Modern, London. Photo: Allora & Calzadilla 

As an artist, I am post-conceptual. I subscribe to the tenets of minimalism, an objective interpretation that places the object at the center of the art equation. A discipline where the object is the art – simply and directly. I follow the catechism propounded in 1969 by Sol Lewitt in his thirty-five Sentences on Conceptual Art. For example:

18. One usually understands the art of the past by applying the convention of the present, thus misunderstanding the art of the past.

23. The artist may misperceive (understand it differently from the artist) a work of art but still be set off in his own chain of thought by that misconstrual.

26. An artist may perceive the art of others better than his own.

Lillian and I believe in the power of objects. In fact we believe in power objects. Scale is not an important factor for an object to have a commanding presence. Richard Tuttle's one-inch piece of rope nailed to a gallery wall has a power equal to Jeff Koons' enormous Puppy sitting outside the Guggenheim in Bilbao.  

Arriving at El Convento Cave System in Peñuelas we are met by a representative of Para La Naturaleza, a  private non-profit conservation organization which administers this protected site, and along with the Dia Art Foundation, is a co-sponsor of Allora & Calzadilla's project.  Signing in, we are given hard hats and hiking sticks, and told we will be making an unguided two mile hike of moderate difficulty, up hill and through the woods to reach the cave where the sculpture is installed. Reaching the last part of our ascent, I realize why we have hiking sticks. Although there are steps carved into the rock and wooden hand rails, it is a steep climb to reach the mouth of Cueva Vientos where Allora & Calzadilla have installed Flavin's fluorescent tubes. 

It's nearly unprecedented for two artists to employ the work of another artist for their own purpose. Only a few examples come to mind. Picasso and Braque worked together on a few cubist collages. Marcel Duchamp took credit for baroness Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven's urinal, now known as Fountain.  The only similar example we know is quite contemporary and close to home. In 2005, Spanish conceptual artist Antoni Muntadas was commissioned to create a public art project for the Roosevelt station of el Tren Urbano. His work is titled On Translation: El Tren Urbano. It features photographs from two books by photographer Jack Delano: pictures from Puerto Rico Mio, which contrast 1940s Puerto Rico with a series of 1980s photos; and De San Juan a Ponce en el Tren, 1940s photographs taken along the rail line that ran from San Juan to Ponce. Muntadas reproduces Delano's photographs exactly, but has enlarged them to enormous, 20 x 30 foot, back-lit transparencies.   

The installation and operation of Allora & Calzadilla's project is complex and delicate, from both an art and environmental perspective. The artwork must be protected from the environment, while the environment must be protected from any undue influence by the art object. The sculpture has been installed inside a specially made, hermetically sealed, glass box, invisible to the eye from any normal viewing distance. A set of hinged metal doors enclose the sculpture when it is not in use. A strict ritual is followed. Daily at 10AM, two attendants bring a full battery from the charging station which holds a bank of solar panels. The battery is driven in a small cart to Cueva Convento, and from there the forty pound unit is hand carried to its location in the upper chamber of Cueva Vientos. The sculpture is plugged into the battery, the metal doors are opened and a switch is thrown, lighting the sculpture. 

Using a broom made from a bundle of fronds, the attendants sweep the floor of the cave, removing any footprints or other stray markings, taking care not to disturb long lines of guano, dropped by bats when they exit the cave at night. 

At 3PM, the ritual is repeated, in reverse. The attendants turn off the sculpture and close the doors, sealing it in for the night. They unplug and remove the battery, carrying it to the entrance. Again, they sweep up. The battery is hand carried – arduous because of the weight – back down to Cueva Convento, then driven back to the charging station. It's hard not to think of Flavin as a high priest of minimalism, and Allora & Calzadilla as art missionaries. 

In 2008, Philippe Vergne, then curator at Dia Art Foundation, invited Allora & Calzadilla to create a long term project and they proposed the idea for Puerto Rican Light. It took seven years, but now Puerto Rican Light (Cueva Vientos) will remain until the autumn equinox, September 23, 2017, unless – following dystopian thinking – the apocalypse intervenes with a meltdown of the power grid. Even then, Puerto Rican Light (Cueva Vientos) could continue to function. Imagine a lone attendant, now promoted to acolyte, carrying on the daily ritual of bringing power to the sculpture. Bats would continue to fly in and out of the cave and Puerto Rican Light (to Jeanie Blake) would continue to glow – red, yellow and pink – at least until the bulbs burn out.

Allora & Caldazilla, Puerto Rican Light (Cueva Vientos), 2015. Guayanilla-Penuelas, Puerto Rico. © Allora & Caldazilla. Photo of two openings at top of cave by Myritza Castillo. Courtesy Dia Art Foundation, New York

Woodstock was a music festival held August 15–18, 1969 near Bethel, NY

Richard Prince

It's a Free Concert from Now on Woodstock 1969, 2004

Ektacolor print

76 x 85 cm.



Interview magazine 2008

Richard Prince: We go down to Woodstock like once every two months. It’s pretty near where we live. I’ve always wanted to go back to the field where the original festival took place in Bethel [New York], Max Yasgur’s farm. Apparently they have a marker there now and it’s a public space. I always wanted to go back there. I wanted to go back to that field and take a photograph of it. The same place where I took my one photograph of Woodstock.

Glenn O'Brien: With the one frame that you had left in your camera.

RP: You don’t believe that, do you?

GO: After all these years, there are a couple of things that I’m still not quite sure about...

San Juan Art Diary -- Spring 2019

Jan & Lillian at opening reception for PLASTIC RAW BAR, an exhibition of new sculpture by Jaime Rodriguez Crespo now on view at his gallery Recinto Cerra located at 619 Calle Cerra in Santurce. 

"I've prepared a sculptural 'raw bar' (with oysters, clams and mussels) based on the fact that these mollusks feed on the impurities in the water and those microplastics confuse them and do not let them reproduce. As this ocean pollution proliferates, we will eventually be left without these foods," the artist explained in an interview with San Juan newspaper El Nuevo Dia.

Photos by Javier Rosado.

We also attended I'M NOT DRUNK, a group exhibition curated by artist Radames Juni Figueroa, presented by gallery KM 0.2  located on the second floor, rear entrance of the same 619 Calle Cerra building. The most interesting piece for us was a sculpture by Mariela Pabón Navedo which uses a small sized thermal receipt printer to print-out a series of her captioned drawings at the push of a button. We collected three of those drawings then bought a frame and mounted the drawings together with the KMart receipt for the frame.


KM 0.2

San Juan Art Diary: Winter, 2019 -- "The Joke's on You"

by Jan Galligan and Lillian Mulero
Santa Olaya, PR

“A college professor, a businessman, and a janitor are in the forest where they discover a magic fairy,” says Lillian.

“What happens?” I ask.

The fairy says, “I will give you what you most desire if you do someone else's job for a day.”

The professor says, “I'll be a kindergarden teacher. What can be so hard about that?” So he is teleported into a classroom. After a few minutes, all the kids are screaming. He tosses all their supplies aside and gives up.

“I'll be a waiter,” says the businessman. “All you do is carry food back and forth.” He is teleported to a restaurant. After an hour, the annoying customers drive him crazy. He smashes all the tableware and gives up.

The janitor says, “I'll be an artist,” and he is teleported to an art studio. He quickly glues the classroom supplies and shattered plates to a canvas and sells it for a million dollars. The fairy asks the janitor how he was so clever.

The janitor replies, “Easy. Years ago I got a masters degree in art.”

We're standing in the middle of the Embajada gallery in Hato Rey where they are showing work by eight artists and one video collective in an exhibition titled, The Joke is on You, presented as “an homage to humor where the works don't just laugh by themselves, but laugh with each other.”

The piece that seems to laugh loudest is the video installation by Basica TV, a transgender art collective who, costumed as giant stork-like birds, are chasing each other around an artist's studio while squawking and flapping their wings. The sounds of their squawking reverberates off the gallery walls.

The video is surrounded by a group of paintings: Roadside Attractor, a small oil on linen of a woman's head by Emily Davidson; Applause by Tess Bilhartz, a collage of watercolor and photograph mounted on plexiglass depicting a close up view of a woman's torso wearing a dress that appears to be a landscape with another woman standing amid the trees; and an oil on canvas by Jonathan Torres, titled Falling which shows two figures falling from the ceiling towards a third figure lying on the floor. Interestingly, these paintings have been hung from 2x4 planks erected from floor to ceiling, allowing you to see both the front and back of each canvas while they appear to float in the middle of the room. A very large wall mounted canvas that combines acrylic paint and silkscreened images, has been left untitled by artist Fernando Pintado. Other works in the exhibition are by Sam Borstein, Matteo Callegari, Stuart Lorimer and Elsa Maria Melendez.

A second companion exhibit is installed in an adjoining room. Two long tables are covered with a large collection of objects collected on the Playa Limones and Bahia de Jobos beaches in Guayama by Javier Orfon as part of a project he has worked on since 2007, which he calls Pozuelo. These objects include fragments of coral, rocks worn smooth by the sea, small pieces of tile and other construction materials that were found near the ruins of Central Aguirre and the long abandoned power plant. A few of the rocks and coral forms have been decorated with carefully painted landscapes or portraits of people. Orfon considers his project a kind of topofilia, which Allen Watts described in his autobiography In My Own Way, as a special love for peculiar places. Aguirre certainly fits this definition as it has a tragic history while remaining very scenic and, despite it present state of ruin, maintains some deep local pride and even patriotism by those who, like Orfon, might consider it a sacred space worthy of what he calls “amor a la tierra” a love of the land.

Lorenzo Homer, Turistas, 1953 (detail)

Acting like a couple of art tourists, we next found ourselves at Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico in Santurce where we'd come to see Repatriacion, billed as a cultural exchange between this museum and the National Museum of Puerto Rican Arts and Culture in Chicago. Having been an art student in Chicago many years ago, I was especially interested in this collaboration which features ten artists who live and work in Chicago. All are part of the diaspora, maintaining family or other ties to Puerto Rico.

Billy Ocasio, director of the National museum, initially planned to bring the work of a group of island artists to Chicago, but after hurricane Maria, decided instead to bring artists from Chicago to exhibit here in Puerto Rico as a gesture of solidarity soon after the storm.

Josue Pellot, born 1979 in Mayaguez, is represented by a very large photograph of El Morro which he has modified by adding signs and storefronts to the facade, turning the fortress into a gigantic shopping mall, as a kind of fantasy post-hurricane reconstructive bid for increased tourism.

Jose Lerma, born in Spain in 1971, has maintained close ties to the island. He is represented in the Museum's permanent collection and has shown regularly with the Roberto Paradise gallery. Working in the more traditional vein of acrylic on canvas, here he presents two of his signature paintings of noses, one large, the other small. The large painting is called El Huelebicho (The Douchebag). For those unfamiliar with the term, the Urban Dictionary says a douchebag is a man with an inflated sense of self worth, who thinks he is a ladies man, but is a joke to all but the most naive observers, while he remains an arrogant phony.

In a display case, a group of small ceramic models of typical suburban homes, stand next to series of documentary photographs of similar houses, distinguished by the fact that the second story of each house remains unfinished. Concrete block walls jut upwards from the flat roofs as a testament to the unrealized hopes and dreams of the occupants. Javier Bosques, born 1985 in San Juan, calls these works Family Extensions, and in an interesting twist, he has created the ceramic models in collaboration with his mother Elba Melendez.

Born on the island in 1971, Edra Soto has been in Chicago since she was 27. Widely exhibited and in numerous museum collections, her work in this exhibition presents a large group of empty liquor bottles that she collected over a two year period from the streets near her art studio in the Garfield Park area of west Chicago, a low income neighborhood with a reputation for gang activity and violence. After collecting many discarded cognac bottles, itself an act of litter control, Soto carefully washed and cleaned them to a like-new appearance, then organizing them in various still life arrangements, she photographed them as if they were an advertisement for themselves. Here she presents a grouping of the actual bottles mounted on a shelf, along with a set of the preliminary photographs and one large format, billboard sized final photo, which she has titled, Open 24 Hours: Cognac (Remy Martin, Courvoisier V.S., D'Ussel, Hennessy) in tribute to the various brand names of the bottles collected.

Other work in this exhibition curated by Bianca Ortiz Declet of MAPR, include paintings and installations by Bibliana Suarez, Candida Alvarez, Luis Rodriguez, Nora Maite Nieves, Omar Velazquez and Oscar Martinez.

Before we left the museum, we looked at a large collection of silkscreen posters from the 1970s that included this striking work by Carmelo Sobrino, titled Paz, paz, paz … un dia de estos, carajo (Peace, peace, peace, one of these god-damned days) as well as another collection of black and white woodblock and linoleum prints by Lorenzo Homar, Rafael Trufino and others, truly one high-point of the island's fine art heritage.

Carmelo Sobrino, Paz, paz, paz..., 1970

“I've got another story for you,” says Lillian. “It goes like this ...”

While working in his studio, an artist gets a phone call from his dealer. “I've got good news and bad news,” says the dealer.

“Give me the good news,” replies the artist.

“A client asked me if the value of your work would increase when you're dead.”

“Of course,” says the artist.

“That's what I told him, and he bought ten paintings.”

“What's the bad news?” asks the artist.

“He's your doctor.”

382 Calle Cesar Gonzalez, Hato Rey

Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico
299 Avenida de Diego, Santurce

The distorted visions of Louise Lawler

Deconstructing Louise Lawler's “distorted for these times” pictures
by Jan Galligan & Lillian Mulero, Santa Olaya, PR

When the May 2017 issue of Modern Painters art magazine arrived in our mailbox, the first thing that caught our attention was a series of photographs by Louise Lawler. described as “a portfolio of new images … twisted versions of the originals, evoking our current landscape of 'alternative facts'.” Lillian was especially taken by the cover image, Modern Painting, (adjusted to fit), distorted for the times, 2003/2017.

Modern Painters, May 2017 magazine cover, showing Louise Lawler's 2016 distorted version of her 2003 Mondern Painting photograph, resized to fit the magazine.

Lillian was not so intrigued by the distorted image, but wondered about the cloud-like pattern on the wall, puzzling over whether it was evidence of workmen repairing the room, or if it was some unexplained artifact of the photographic distortion process.

In a brief essay accompanying nine pages of images, the magazine's new editor in chief, Rachell Corbett says, “Lawler … developed (this) exclusive portfolio for Modern Painters. The twisted and warped images in these pages build upon Lawler's long tradition of photographic manipulations, such as her 'adjusted to fit' series in which she stretches images to fit their display space, and her 'tracings,' which turn photographs into colorless outlines.”

We were aware of Lawler's 2017 retrospective “Why Pictures Now” at MoMA and a quick Google search produced reviews by Roberta Smith and Peter Schjeldahl, plus a link to a short essay by MoMA curator Roxana Marcoci along with three videos in which Marcoci discusses and explains Lawler's work, especially these newest photographs.

The pictures in Modern Painters magazine are the same pictures on display at MoMA, with the exception of the magazine cover photograph. Those photographs have been re-proportioned to fit the pages of Modern Painters, hence their “exclusivity.” They have been 'adjusted to fit' the exact size of one page or a two page spread – a task made easy using a page layout/design software or Photoshop. In this instance, it's all in the numbers. Take the dimension of the original photo, then re-size it to the new dimensions of the display space.

For example, Lawler's 1992 photo Salon Hodler, made in an edition of five, one of which is in the Whitney Museum collection, can be resized to fit the cover of Modern Painters by simply replacing the rectangular dimensions of the original photo (119.7 x 144 cm) with the square dimensions of the magazine cover (26.49 x 26.49 cm)

Regarding the distortions applied to her photographs, as presented in Modern Painters and at the MoMA exhibition, we refer to this example, Pollyanna, 2007, original format (left) and distorted (right).

This distortion is the result of applying Photoshop's Distort/Twirl filter, three times, using the default setting of 50, as shown here ...

Another distortion is somewhat more complex as shown by the example of her 2003 photograph, Still Life (Candle), original (left) and stretched and distorted (right).

In this instance, the photo was distorted using five applications of the Photoshop Distort/Twirl filter, with the default setting of 50. Then the image was stretched to fit the space of a double page spread of Modern Painters magazine.

Which brings us back to the Modern Painters magazine cover image. It took a bit of advanced Google to find the original of Lawler's image Modern Painting, 2003, as there are no immediately available online images of this photo, but in the September 2009 issue of Visual Studies, the article Photography and painting in multi-mediating pictures by Hilde Van Gelder and Helen Westgeest uses Modern Painting, 2003 to expound on their thesis that some artworks, because they contain elements of photography and painting, should be labeled “multi-mediating pictures.” Regarding Modern Painting they say, “Lawler’s photograph shows a painting by Anselm Kiefer hanging on the wall of a living room. Kiefer's painting is a black-and-white photograph of a landscape, manipulated with paint, and combined with corroded lead plates. So the only ‘real painting’ is (that) created by the indefinable brushstrokes on the wall...” (those brushstrokes made by workmen making repairs to the room [ed.]).  

Lawler's Modern Painting as published on the cover of Modern Painters magazine was distorted using one application of the Photoshop Distort/Twirl filter, changing the default setting from 50 to a new value of -160.

Lillian's perceptions were accurate. The cloud-like pattern is the result of an unfinished project by workmen patching and repairing the wall where the Kiefer painting is hanging, distorted nearly beyond recognition by the application of the Photoshop Distort/Twirl filter.

Regarding Lawler's “tracings” also mentioned in the Modern Painters article, the MoMA exhibition includes examples of her traced photographs, including Salon Hodler, 1992/1993/2013.

Our initial speculation was that the tracings were made using a combination of Adobe's Photoshop and Illustrator software. A further Google search for Lawler's NO DRONES project (her title for a series of these traced artworks first exhibited at Ludwig Museum in 2013) revealed that the tracings of her photographs were created by Jon Buller, best known as an illustrator of children's books. When contacted, Buller explained his process for producing the tracings as follows: Working with high resolution files of Lawler's original photographs, Buller adjusted the images in Photoshop for more contrast; then he made 16 x 24 in. prints which were then traced by hand using a lightbox, tracing paper and Pigma Micron pens. Those tracings were scanned; the bitmap scanned image files were edited in Photoshop, then final edited and converted to vector in Illustrator; the Illustrator files were used to make the final prints for exhibition.

About the process, Buller says, “I had always thought that Louise's idea to base her own art on the artwork of other artists – seen in such a way as to provide a sort of deadpan commentary on the social function of these works – was a clever one. But doing these tracings and spending more time with her photographs, gave me an increased appreciation of the photographs as photographs ... (and) it gave me an increased respect for Louise's work.”

Buller's insight is telling. We have been familiar with Lawler's work since her 1978 exhibition at Artists Space of a found painting, and her early 1980s exhibitions of her signature work – photographs of other artists' work in art galleries, museums, auction houses, and the homes of collectors. Those photographs are indeed deadpan comments on contemporary art and its milieu. These newest works, distortions and adjustments of her own early photographs, including the tracings made by Buller, extend that deadpan quality into both a comment on the artworld and comment on the world at large, especially (based on her titles) the contemporary political sphere. The drawings however suggest a dichotomy. Where the adjusted and distorted photographs are created by employing default settings of the software used in their production, they can be seen as mechanical reproductions (in the Walter Benjamin sense) and devoid of the human touch. The drawings on the other hand, with their quirks and imperfections, immediately impress us with their humanity. One can only speculate why this choice was made by Lawler, but following from her titles, these photos have been distorted “to fit the times” and adjusted “to fit the situation,” both rather inhuman impositions on the human condition. The drawings, under the label NO DRONES, seem to be a human reaction to an inhumane military mechanism. The presentation of these works as enlargements on a grand scale (some as large as 20 x 30 feet) and in a temporary format (vinyl prints mounted directly on the wall) both confirms and contradicts the idea of things being “blown all out of proportion” in this era of alternative facts and deliberate distortions of events and the facts therein.


Vision Doble (Double Vision) is an online journal sponsored by the University of Puerto Rico, covering art and artists on the island where we have just published our review, in English and Spanish, of an exhibition based on an homage and response to Marcel Duchamp.

Artist Baruch Vergara and son Bruno playing chess with Cheap Trick chessboard, by Omar Velázquez (Puerto Rico), 2017. Photo: Jan Galligan.

Given: 1. The Readymade Found Object, Fountain; 2. The Multiple, in seventeen variations.

Returning to Santa Olaya from a visit to Mayagüez to see an art exhibition based on Marcel Duchamp, we were pleased to find in our mailbox a new book of interviews with Duchamp conducted by Calvin Tomkins. Produced by artist Paul Chan’s new venture Badlands Unlimited, The Afternoon Interviews features previously unpublished conversations conducted in 1965. In the introduction, Chan asks Tomkins, fifty years after those interviews, “What do you think is Duchamp’s legacy today?” Tompkins replies, “His need, his passion to question everything, even the very nature of art. The real point of (his) Readymades was to deny the possibility of defining art. Art can be anything.”


Dados: 1. El readymade Fountain, un objeto encontrado; 2. El múltiple, en diecisiete variaciones

Regresando a Santa Olaya de hacer una visita a una exhibición sobre Marcel Duchamp, en Mayagüez, fue un placer encontrar en nuestro buzón un nuevo libro de entrevistas con Duchamp, dirigido por Calvin Tomkins. Producida por la nueva aventura empresarial, Badlands Unlimited, del artista Paul Chan, The Afternoon Interviews, presenta conversaciones que se dieron en 1965, no publicadas anteriormente. En la introducción, Chan le pregunta a Tomkins, cincuenta años después de aquellas entrevistas: “¿Cuál es el legado de Duchamp en la actualidad? Tomkins respondió: “Su necesidad, su pasión por cuestionarlo todo, incluso la misma naturaleza del arte. La verdadera clave de (sus) readymades fue negar la posibilidad de definir el arte. El arte puede ser cualquier cosa”.


Jan Galligan, Baruch Vergara, Lillian Mulero, photo by Bruno Vergara