The Longwood Art Gallery @ Hostos is once again hosting a terrific exhibit, the 5th Bronx Latin American Art Bienal/Biennial. Featuring about 20 works by artists from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Cuba,Venezuela and Peru, this compact show offers a variety of styles and media. Let me give you a few of my favorites:
Sandra Mack-Valencia, who hails from Colombia, has three paintings on wood panels which revolve around the theme of “home”, especially the American dream of home ownership vs. the reality, so in all three pieces you’ll find homes floating in a cloud-like atmosphere. In the foreground of The Dog House, a stack of gold and red houses run up the middle – underneath the top house, there’s a small picture of an elderly couple – and in the background small doghouses are scattered about. While the painting could be a riff on the expression, “to be in the doghouse” the artist told me that perhaps something else is going on – she wants the viewer to make their own interpretation.
Freddy Rodriguez, who hails from the Dominican Republic, is showing two pieces, both acrylic on canvas. In El Creador, vibrant patches of bright aqua, yellow and white burst from a black background, on which he’s painted, in Spanish, a quote from the Argentinean writer Julio Cortazar (Hopscotch) “The Creator is always forging himself” which mirrors Rodriguez’ own philosophy that work always needs to change, whether in technique or subject matter. “And,” Freddy added, “it should have a sense of humor”.
Theories of Freedom: Golden Landscape by Scherezade Garcia (Dominican Republic) is a powerful wall installation composed of inner tubes painted gold and blue, some bearing airline luggage identification tags (often decorated with an image of the Statue of Liberty) and tied together with plastic safety ties, that speaks clearly to migration – both historic and current – by those fortunate enough to fly and those forced to flee on rubber rafts, as well as the enslaved people who were bound and forced to migrate.
The rear space of the gallery is given over to Puerto Rican artist Jose Morales’ commanding installation, Puente/Socorro (which means Bridge/Help), which is in two parts: the above structure and…
on the walls, a series of cross-hatched panels, each with one letter of the word Socorro inscribed on their surface, recalling the scratches that prisoners leave on their cell walls.