I’ve been spending the last few months in San Juan, PR. After going to an exhibit last night called “Las Caritas Lindas” at C787Studios (gallery owner Alexis Bousquet has conspired with Calle 13, Tego Calderon y muchos mas – more on him below) on Calle Cerra in Santurce – which was pretty much a mini-artwalk between there and Galeria 15 – I felt I had enough material to do a lil reportaje.
Understanding that this is just from one outsider soul, feel free to school me on other galleries and artists in the comments – Always keeping an eye out for #InspirationArchives. *EDIT* Also recently found this piece in the NY Times from 2010 about the burgeoning Art District in Santurce – in the Travel section.
Via The Fractal: “Proveniente del artista francés JR, INSIDE OUT es un proyecto global de retratos a gran escala y Santurce es Ley lo presento como una pieza de arte compuesta de imágenes de gestores del arte en conjunto con nativos de la comunidad de Santurce.” The piece highlights the local artists from Santurce and San Juan – I love that. It feels like the epicenter of something happening.
Last week, I went to the Museo Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico (MAC) and caught Sofia Maldonado‘s first solo exhibition: Fever: Nostalgias tropicales y ansiedades urbanas en Sofía Maldonado (Translation: Fever: Tropical Nostalgia and Urban Anxieties). As someone meditating on being an urban mutant, you know I love that title.
I first saw Sofia’s work on this trip at the old Cafe Seda (now called Baldechu) where she has a mural up and then on the way to La Respuesta for Monday nights with Velcro as part of Los Muros Hablan – an international street art festival going on this Fall. The only woman to get a wall at the festival, the San Francisco Bay Guardian wrote a lil piece about it: “It addresses domestic violence in Puerto Rico, showing a bashed-but-not-beaten beauty and those fists, which — once properly shaded — were lettered with “basta ya/enough already.” The work’s not soft, despite the bright colors she used to paint it“:
Then, I remembered Sofia’s work in New York City back in 2010. It was quite controversial. I revisited this piece from Remezcla: “Boricua Hipster Romanticizes NY Latinas; (Unsurprisingly) Gets in Trouble” that I think I remember agreeing with quickly off the cuff, but in the context of learning more about her work and lifestyle now (basically she’s a transnational tropi-hip-hop-skate-punk mutant) – when I strip it something simple: I love the colors and the celebration of femininity I see in her work. I don’t look at her works and think “Ugh!” I see it and I think “Beautiful!” I can see someone not liking the aesthetic, but feel free to make a comment and tell me otherwise. Reminds me a lot of why I love Toofly out of NYC!
As a piece in The Root surmised: “But what about a streetwise Latina artist who uses vivid color to make people stop and take a good look at her people, for better or for worse? By giving viewers pause, Sofia Maldonado making them ask themselves questions they’d rather not answer. Is a Boricua popping gum any less worthy of visibility than a sister wearing pearls?” Also here from Terry Ward: “One wouldn’t want morals-police to impose quotas —perhaps that for every three lap-dance-worthy buxom babes painted there must be one stout office worker plotting a spreadsheet on her laptop. It’s so complicated.” Ain’t it?
Peep this piece “Fela Kuti’s Queens” from the MAC exhibition and some other snap shots I took:
Before I left to San Juan, I was lucky enough to meet an amazing artist also from Santurce (now based in Brooklyn, NY), Angel Otero. I love the idea of leaving the works up to the limitations of the material instead of forcing it. He’s sort of the hot shit coming out of the island.
“Otero’s painting process is anything but conventional—he spends as much time working with dried paint as wet. Otero begins by applying layers of oil paints on a piece of glass in reverse order. Once the paint is half-dry he scrapes it off the glass and applies the richly textured oil-skin surface to a canvas. The resulting compositions reveal surprising bursts of color and produce unexpected wrinkles in Otero’s imagery. “I can control about fifty percent of the end result,” Otero says. “But those limitations and the uncertainty are what spark the dialogue that I aim for” …Having honed his technique with confidence, he is able to keep experimenting.”
It’s true, fucking around and gaining the confidence to explore a medium is the key to it all. I can draw parallels from what he does to the work I do and that’s inspiring; to the work that NEEDS to continue happening, really.
Onto an artist I encountered at La Respuesta one music-drunk evening of course with DJ Velcro and DJ Adam curating sounds: Fernando Mora. He was live-painting this shit and then passed me some vibes at 4 AM. Who is winning? What a sweet guy and amazing to see some of his other works are equally incredible and colorfully up my aesthetic-alley.
Fernando More live piece – Photo taken by Nati on October 1, 2012
Osvaldo Vazquez Martinez is an artist I met in Spanish Harlem in the last decade. Between NYC and San Juan, he creates amazing works, recently showing with his sister Gabriela at The Art Room in Hato Rey this month for a show called “ESTO ES UN PESCAO” – #SOFISH.
Back to Alexis Bousquet, gallery owner of C787Studios, who I found this really great interview via Undo Digital:
““Alexis Bousquet” es el director de arte corporative bullshit blah, blah. “Smoke” es el Graffitero cuando decide graffitiar y tiene la lata en la mano y pinta o hace que pinta (rara vez visto). Y “Clandestino” es el concepto dentro de todas a las anteriores.” Some more works here:
On working with Calle 13:
“René y Eduardo son mis hermanos. Los mejores jefes que uno pueda tener. Humildes y con los pies en la tierra todo el tiempo. Nuestra amistad mas allá del trabajo surgió con el mismo trabajo y como persibíamos la puertorriqueñidad. La temática en mis piezas son tan nacionalistas como las líricas de Calle 13. Por eso empatamos tan bien. Ellos me dan toda la libertad del mundo cuando se trata de sus trabajos. Esa es su filosofía con las disqueras y con todo el Mundo. Una filosofía de no interrumpir el proceso creativo en lo absoluto, sin censuras. Calle 13 fue mi primer cliente grande y la razón por la cuál se asocia tanto a ellos mi trabajo.”
If I’m not mistaken, I came across his graf project, Smoke, on a walk to La Placita de Santurce last week. Love the grim but bold characters:
Phew. Fuerte and beautiful, right? I love this island! Thought I would include some scenes and shots I’ve taken too. I don’t know all the artists, but again, feel free to send me a note and school me!!!
Up now at: http://www.la15pr.org
Puerto Rico covered on Fatcap.
So much!!! So much!!!!