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¡Ay que rico! FRESCOS from Puerto Rico

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FRESCOS promises to break the monopoly behind the “who knows who” of art in Puerto Rico

The collection was launched today at 9 a.m. in the Bass Museum in Miami, Florida, as part of the satellite events of the Miami Art Basel. Celina Nogueras, editor of this publication that showcases the best of Puerto Rican contemporary art, talks about the importance of this book and what it promises for the new generations of artists.

“Democratization of the Arts”

“Contemporary art was not very prominent in Puerto Rico, so at the beginning it was difficult to promote it since people were usually focused on traditional art.” Nogueras explains that Circa, Puerto Rico’s international contemporary art fair, was able to generate a community of artists and galleries interested in this type of art. It set the stage for something that was already taking place in the island.

“I wanted to make my own book to help artists gain a following; it is a democratization of the arts,” she says when asked how the idea of the book began. “People from abroad that were interested in Puerto Rican art would go to Puerto Rico and only get to know a couple of people who in turn would present to them only the artists that they wanted them to meet. The book is a way for people in the local and international arts community to get to know the work of 50 Puerto Rican artists without intermediaries. Eighty per cent of the artists featured in the book are not involved with a gallery. In a way, this complements what we wanted to do with Circa. It is the intention of creating an international art scene in Puerto Rico, but this time through a book.”

The Importance of Art Publications

Nogueras affirms the importance of cultural publications. “It is very difficult to understand the work of an artist without a publication. Every country needs to have publications dedicated to the arts.” She chose a committee of ten curators —five from Puerto Rico and five from abroad— with different tastes in aesthetics to choose the artists featured in the book. This allowed for a diverse selection of artists, styles, ages, and techniques. The collection features emerging artists as well as those with an established reputation in Puerto Rico. “The importance of this project is that it allows for the democratization of the arts. It is a bilingual project that gives the public access to Puerto Rican art,” she adds.

“When I first came up with the idea of the book, I chose an age limit of 35 years of age for the artists to be included in the book. I wasn’t sure why I chose that specific age. Later, one of the collectors told me the book should’ve been called ‘Younger Than Me’, because I am 35. Regardless of the humor behind this statement, it revealed to me how much I wanted to help my generation.”

A New Generation, with a New Attitude

“When I started the research, I noticed a big difference in the attitudes between the generation of artists from 35 to 40 years old in Puerto Rico and those of the new generation. I think the present artistic generation is the real international generation of Puerto Rican artists. They are moving faster, with more security, and more empowerment than the previous generations. They don’t seem to have a fixed mentality or aesthetic regarding Puerto Rico. They are developing a very different vocabulary, but at the same time it is very strong. They have a fearless attitude and are more connected with what is happening in the global art world.”

Nogueras explains the idea behind the graphic design of the book. “It is a statement. The cover’s work of art pops out like a sort of optical illusion. This is the aesthetics of FRESCOS: it is risky, it is bold. There is a saying that says that if you’re Puerto Rican, you have the ‘plantain stain’ (la mancha de plátano). The plantain and the banana are related. The plaintain represents tradition. Now we are in the domain of the banana generation; the realm of the new artists.”

The curators that participated in the evaluation committee for the book are: Elvis Fuentes (Museo del Barrio in New York), Cheryl Hartup (Ponce Museum of Art), Paul León De La Barra (independent curator in London), Silvia Karman Cubiñá (Director of the Bass Museum in Miami), Juan Carlos López (Puerto Rico’s Museum of Art), Marysol Nieves (independent curator in New York), Paco Barragán (independent curator in Spain), Marimar Benítez (Director of Puerto Rico’s School of Visual Arts), Marianne Ramírez (Director of the Museum of Contemporary Art of Puerto Rico), and Celina Nogueras Cuevas.

Artists and Curators talk about FRESCOS

Francisco “Tito” Rovira, gallery owner and participating curator in the book, comments: “For such a small island, there is a lot of activity going on and a lot of talent that needs to be compiled in one place to people can understand. This book serves as a necessary platform of information. New artists bring a wide scope of trends and styles; there isa very mature scene going on in Puerto Rico.”

“Its very fresh! People will gain an awareness of what is going on in the art scene in Puerto Rico. This is IT; this is what is going on!” says Mónica Félix, one of the artists featured in FRESCOS, when asked what she thought about the collection and being part of it. “As an emerging artist, I’m honored to be featured alongside Quintín Rivera, and other renowned artists from Puerto Rico.” Other featured artists share their thoughts as well. “This is the documentation of the new generation of art in Puerto Rico,” comments Melvin Martínez. Maritza Castillo agrees, “It’s a great platform to expose our artwork.”

*Interviews and photos by Michael Hinton

About Sheyla Rivera

Sheyla Rivera has written 36 post in this blog.

Escritora, músico y gestora cultural. Nació en Puerto Rico en la década de los 80s, entre el campo y la urbe. Completó un bachillerato doble en Psicología y Sociología en la Universidad de Puerto Rico, recinto de Río Piedras, y cursó la maestría en Medios y Cultura Contemporánea de la Universidad del Sagrado Corazón. Se destaca en el manejo de organizaciones artísticas sin fines de lucro, cultura visual japonesa, estudios de género y teoría cultural.

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