24 April 2013

Poster Child

© Brandon Queen, 2013
If you  thought  the concept of the Renaissance man was dead, you have not heard of Antonio Martorell. He is an artist who has produced not only visual art, but has also written extensively and worked in theatre. The image accompanying this entry is of a poster he created for an academic conference in 1996 and I came across it in the Department of Translation at the University of Puerto Rico - Río Piedras (a campus where art is everywhere - and quality).

Martorell is one of many very, very talented poster artists that have worked - and are still working - in Puerto Rico. Aside from representing the tradition of the cultured gentleman that the island still maintains  to some extent, as a graphic artist Martorell is also a standard-bearer for what can arguably be called the country's national art form. Serigraphy has a long history here and the medium has been worked from every possible angle and then some. So integral is poster art to Puerto Rico's artistic heritage that the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico has dedicated an entire wing of its current survey exhibition of national art to the medium. It's the really the kind of stuff theses are made of (for all of you art history researchers looking for a topic) and Mr. Martorell even has an extensive archive to help you along the way.

For a wider look at his oeuvre, there is an exhibit opening on Wednesday, April 24th and running until June 29th at the Universidad de Sagrado Corazón.

17 April 2013

It's the law.

© Brandon Queen, 2013
Santurce, Santurce es ley. This street-art festival took place in what is certainly San Juan's hippest neighbourhood (an area complete with cafe book-signings and (a) chic Indian restaurant(s)): Santurce. The area has been getting a lot of press for its extremely high concentration of artists, designers, and general manifestations of the hipster ideal. At any rate, it is the perfect location for a street-art festival that brings together musicians, artists, museums, and galleries to both showcase and revitalize this particular barrio.

I have to admit that I was too busy with textual analyses and the finer points of Spanish syntactic conventions to make it out - obscene, I know, but  the work is still up and there is always next year. However, I can say that street-art is a particular gem among the city's artistic offerings. The work seen on walls in this city is the most vibrant I've seen yet (even compared to New York, Montreal, or Los Angeles!); it is of a quality and, above all, ubiquity that so far I haven't noted anywhere else I've lived. Even before the festival (and continuing now) there are new murals going up all over the place, in every neighbourhood. There is enough very good work to merit a blog - or even a fancy Taschen/Phaidon publication - all its own. There also appears to be a consensus among Sanjuaneros that this is a vital part of the city's civic life, much to the benefit of the seeing public.

It would be remiss not to mention that at least one writer took issue with how this event, in its fourth edition, took form this year. Apparently that old trope of a disadvantaged neighbourhood at the mercy of a hipster invasion is rearing its head, as outlined in this article from El Post Antillano. Essentially, the writer says the artists (an admittedly well-off bunch) just kind of went in, cans ablaze, and did not really involve the area's residents, who are primarily immigrants and not financially privileged. A valid complaint, if it is actually true.

Whatever the case, I think this festival is a good reason in and of itself for anyone to visit Puerto Rico - the work is that good! Before long this is going to get the kind of attention that drives up the cost of real estate and hotel rates, so book your tickets in advance.

9 April 2013

Comic del arte

© Brandon Queen, 2013
Complete with a quote from Buddha (Siddharta Gautama -the original) and a recreation of a Christian witchcraft altar (designated in this way to prevent religious mislabelling), this exhibit of Sergio Vázquez's work is a nice blend of pop culture, Freud, and Joseph Campbell. Entitled Santos, Deidades y Titanes (Saints, Gods, and Titans) the pieces do not create the kind of dark mood this combination could otherwise produce and end up being very light and funny, albeit in a very gothic way. Overall Vázquez demonstrates amazing technical skill, as these are paintings on wood panels that have been carefully pieced together and sanded down; they actually remind me of the wood panels depicting the Passion of Christ in many churches, which intensifies the mystical theme of the exhibit. It is refreshing to see this kind of style executed without recourse to digital techniques and goes a long way to complementing the primal nature of the subject matter.

The gallery hosting the show is Galería Candela, located in Old San Juan (110 Calle San Sebastián - blink and you miss it, so look carefully). The space is amazing; the exhibition space is on the second floor and spread across three rooms. While the exhibit is up you have the chance to buy the Vázquez's comic and some t-shirts that he designed. This art and design initiative is part of a series of exhibits of similar work from an independent publishing house called Pernicious Press, who also have a host of other creative projects going on.

Santos, Deidades y Titanes runs until April 11th - and I believe there is a closing party.