Material: A chromatic and a diaspora experience

Material is a curatorial project organized by Martin Albarrán, director of La Productora, an alternative exhibit space located in Santurce, Puerto Rico. This edition of Material has been co-curated by Bianca Ortiz Declet. This exhibition brings together a group of renowned contemporary Puerto Rican artists established and working in different media (traditional and non traditional) derived from painting expanding to three-dimensional pieces through sculpture and installation. It brings together their artistic cultural heritage and represents the contemporary environment of their surroundings.

This collective of artists is originally from Puerto Rico and has been immersed in the diaspora experience. This transition serves as a self-adaptation process in a creative approach where climate becomes a metaphor. In this practice, the artist finds himself in a stage where he is trying to blend in and see what is missing at the same time. The first glance of the saturation of colors, textures and materials used, talk mostly about that transition influenced by another environment and the reaction to it as some kind of self-preservation process. In Material, memories become present, revisiting a place of origin, or indoor details of living spaces and the reaction to the tropical environment and the urban experience. On the other hand, the imagery of ghostly creatures reminds us the passing of time and the transitions of the seasons. Vertiginous patterns and humor are present as well and used to depict a state of stress, anxiety, imbalance and simultaneously revelry and cheer. At the same time there is an exploration of new materials through painting as a study of new aesthetic possibilities.

A practice that is very common between emerging artists in Puerto Rico is the studio dynamic to work as a collective. This dynamic takes place either through sharing studio ­­­­space, working on a project together or just debating together in improvised critique sessions to discuss one another’s artwork. These collaborative practices are very important for artists in the Island, in which the sense of community is so relevant.

Casually, most of the artists in this collective have either shared a studio space or have worked or exhibited together in some way within different time frames. They are original from Puerto Rico and have moved towards artistic and professional growth into the diaspora, or even work between “here and there”, as we say when we refer to our place of origin when we are abroad. Excluding Bobby Cruz, who is a local Puerto Rican artist graduated from the School of Visual Arts in San Juan, PR; most of them live in the diaspora pursuing their artist careers between New York, Chicago and Florida. Hector Madera and Jonathan Torres are graduates from Brooklyn College and live and work between New York City/ Puerto Rico. Omar Velázquez and Luis Rodríguez are graduates from the MFA program of the School of the Art Institute, live and work in Chicago. Nora Nieves is also a graduate from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, resided in Chicago for seven years and currently lives and works in New York City. Roberto Marquez-Jorge is a graduate from University of South Florida and is also a professor in this institution. Sebastián Vallejo is a graduate from School of the Art Institute Chicago and currently lives and works in New York.