[Many thanks to Veerle Poupeye for bringing this item to our attention via Critical.Caribbean.Art.] Mariela Fullana Acosta (El Nuevo Día) writes about Puerto Rican artist Víctor Vázquez, whose latest exhibition “invites us to reflect on our historical memory.” The exhibition—“Ciudad sobre ruinas: Memoria y la metafísica de la presencia y el yo” [“City over Ruins: Memory and the Metaphysics of Presence and the Self ”]—opened on Thursday, May 20, at the Delta de Picó Gallery, located at Liga de Arte in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rican artist Víctor Vázquez opens the massive wooden door of the Liga de Arte [Art League] in Old San Juan and invites us to enter. He is wearing a mask with a “Superman” design as a symbol of this pandemic era that has made each one of us a survivor of chaos. There are hardly any people in the Art League and it feels strange because this is a living space, always full of students and teachers building other worlds with their own hands. But we are still in a pandemic and the physical emptiness is the starkest reminder.
We go through the beautiful and cozy interior garden until we reach the open Delta de Picó Gallery, where Víctor shows us his new installation “Ciudad sobre ruina. Memoria y la metafísica de la presencia y el yo,” which he inaugurates this Thursday, May 20, starting at 9:00 a.m., with a limited audience.
Objects have always been the artist’s obsession. He scavenges and pours through the debris of others to turn the ordinary into a work of art. This time, it is no different. Upon entering the gallery, small brick pieces stand out, like stalagmites, sprouting from the ground, forming a kind of ruined city.
Each unit is listed as a file and contains diverse information: some have important dates of Puerto Rican political history, others have quotes by Lolita Lebrón, Pedro Albizu Campos, and Ramón Emeterio Betances, some hold up objects such as shoes, coffee makers, plastic animal figurines, pens, stones, and books. There is one that says “Calle de la Resistencia” [street of resistance] as Fortaleza Street was baptized during the Summer of 2019 when the people took to the streets demanding the resignation of governor Ricardo Rosselló. There are other objects displaced around the room, which can be appreciated while passing through this [new] city built through words, objects, and language.
Through these elements, the artist invites us to reflect on how reality is constructed, which sometimes “has nothing to do with what is out there.” Víctor Vázquez began working on this facility in 2019 as a result of another project that he presented in 2013, titled “No vamos a llegar, pero vamos a ir” [We are not going to get there, but we are going to go] for which he worked with ruins for two years.
At first he thought of using those same remnants for this project, but one day, he saw that near his house they were restoring a building and they were throwing bricks into a truck. Suddenly, the idea took another direction. Thus, he decided to build a “city” with broken blocks, to which he added other elements because “in a ruin you may find objects, you may find a lot of things,” he adds.
In this way, the artist creates almost archaeological pieces that inevitably make us think about memory, a recurring theme in his work. “In a way, I am always working on that relationship between memory, language, and the word. Memory as a construction and reality as a construction, as an invention. There is a constant of my wanting, in some way, to point out that reality is not concrete, that reality is constantly invented by us and invented for convenience, because power generates constructions that legitimize those power structures. For me it is that constant attempt to re-signify, redefine, and recontextualize not only language, but also objects, to speak precisely about that issue,” he explains.
In the installation, for example, several historical dates stand out, such as 1917 (Jones Act), 1950 (the Nationalist Revolt) and 1954 (the attack on the United States Congress), among others, which serve as small nods to our colonial history and resistance to the one that the artist also points to. [. . .]
Excerpts translated by Ivette Romero. For full article (in Spanish), see https://www.elnuevodia.com/entretenimiento/cultura/notas/el-artista-victor-vazquez-invita-a-reflexionar-sobre-nuestra-memoria-historica-en-su-nueva-exhibicion/
[Photo above by Alexis Cedeño.]