Just a quick review of a show with some of the imagery that the press talked about.
Summer Show in Summit features painters, photographers, sculptor
Friday, August 08, 2008
BY DAN BISCHOFF
'We've reached the point now in the United States where Latino artists demonstrate a kind of layering about identity and culture that meshes into the dominant society, but with a distinct twist,' says Alejandro Anreus, former curator at the Jersey City Museum, now associate professor of art history and Latin American studies at William Paterson University.
This month, he's curating 'Repeating Islands: 6 New Jersey Latino Artists,' the Summer Show 2008 at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey in Summit, which illustrates his argument with three painters, two photographers and a sculptor.
'Take map artist Lisette Morel (of Nutley),' Anreus says.
'She uses the formal language of the white art world -- you know, abstraction and repetitive mark-making -- and turns it into something else, something more immediate. She takes red, white and blue dots of acrylic or soft pastel, which happen to be the colors of both the Dominican Republic and the American flag, and transforms maps of New Jersey and her island of origin into roughly indistinguishable smears of color. She shows New Jersey becoming the Dominican Republic and the Dominican Republic becoming New Jersey. It's a Modern sensibility, but synthesized with a deeper range of meaning.'
All the artists share a common ancestry in the Spanish-speaking Caribbean, either born in or descended from people who emigrated from Puerto Rico, Cuba or the Dominican Republic. They share the same Roman Catholic visual culture, with its hierarchic and narrative impulses.
That could not be clearer than it is in Union City artist Rodríguez Calero's 'acrollages' (collaged images on canvas), which take Catholic iconography -- one work is titled 'La Madonna Negra,' another 'St. Sebastian'-- and update it with a kind of contemporary photographic realism. (Calero is Puerto Rican). Verona's Raúl Villarreal, a Cuban-American, does something similar in three easel paintings that combine backgrounds taken from the news media, like the burning oil fields of Kuwait or smoking glass high-rises, with figures drawn from commercial advertising. Each one is provided with a little street jewelry that spells out a theme (like, 'Soberbia' or 'Emigrante' or 'WMD' -- Villarreal calls this his 'Bling-Bling Boom-Boom' series).
Bloomfield sculptor David Medina, a Dominican-American, uses the visual heritage of African and native Taino cultures to make figures of metal and glass. Three cast-glass statuettes are dedicated to Yoruban gods (all of them featured prominently in the Newark Museum's 'Embodying the Sacred in Yoruban Art,' still up through Aug. 24). Even more interesting are bronze and blown-glass representations of a three-horned god that can look both classical and drive-in movie alien (one sculpture's glass head is filled with Christmas tree lights).
But you really get a sense of the multiple scrims of meaning Latino art embodies with the photographers in this show. New Brunswick-based Julio Nazario, a Puerto Rican born in New York, is showing digital photos of clouds inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner and the photos of Alfred Stieglitz. They reprise the Catholic iconography of the heavens, blotting the sun or making palpable the touch of its rays.
Dan Bischoff may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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