Conditions of post-colonialism, inherited and passed through generations, oral stories, traditions, and the fabrication of objects are invoked by each of the six artists in the show as a means to reclaim their particular cultural heritage. According to the late poet, writer and theorist Edouard Glissant, culture is never a finished product, referring to syncretism as a blend or attempted combination of different religions, cultures or school of thought.
Through mapping, documenting and employing artisanal techniques, Jorge González’s ongoing pedagogical research serves as a platform for the recuperation of marginalized vernacular culture in an attempt to produce new narratives incorporating the indigenous and the modern. These projects exist as a mobile program through conversations, workshops, exhibitions, and publications such as the inaugural release of the Herramientos Generosas, vol 3, a collaborative publication between González, editor Michy Marchaux, and designer Olga Casellas, exploring gaps in local historical and cultural narratives.
Working across sculpture, installation and site-specific interventions, Engel Leonardo addresses issues related to climate, nature, traditional crafts, architecture and popular culture of the Caribbean. Of particular interest in his work is the production of objects, and their embedded psychological and sociological functions. The series of sculptures, made with local mud and guayacán, refer to icons from the Dominican Republic – faceless dolls created in the Higüerito region by a community of artisans in the 1970s.
For the past several years, Claudia Peña Salinas has been doing research about Tlaloc and Chalchiuhtlicue, the male and female Aztec deities of rain and fertility, in an ongoing body of work composed of sculpture, images, installation, and video. Her practice is centered on visits to Mexico, where she was born and raised; through the process of travel, documentation, research and collection of ephemera, Peña Salinas constructs a poetic narrative, which is at the same time personal and political.
Mapas del Cerro continues Chemi Rosado-Seijo’s long-term collaboration with El Cerro, a rural community embedded in the mountains of Naranjito, Puerto Rico. Initiated in 2002, through negotiation and collaboration the residents painted the exteriors of homes in different shades of green, paying homage to the way the community has built in harmony with the topography of the mountains where it stands. In preparing the surface of the walls they scratched and peeled off layers of paint from years of accumulation, which were later brought into the studio to be examined and repurposed.
Beau Dick was an artist who took much of his inspiration and technique from Kwakwaka’wakw traditions embracing contemporary influences into his sculptures. Beau was born and raised in a small village in Canada’s northwest coast which, because of its geographic isolation, became a sanctuary from the federal government’s ban on indigenous Potlatch customs, in place until 1951. Tapping into the collective memory of his community, Beau actively perpetuated ceremonial traditions, creating transformative masks of mythical Kwakwaka’wakw folklore. Carving and ceremony were both equal parts of his practice, the masks becoming evidence of ongoing and living cultural practices.
Clement Siatous was forcibly displaced, along with the entire population of the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean, by the UK Government to make way for a US military base where it remains today. In order to politically support the eviction, both governments involved created a fiction that an indigenous population had never existed. Siatous renders a counterpoint to official and traditional modes of record in direct response to this continued government denial. Depicting narrative scenes from memory Siatous constructs a comprehensive chronicle of life on the islands. Through his practice he reclaims ownership of his own history, while becoming a voice for his community in defying their culture’s eradication.
Embajada is a gallery and curatorial project founded in 2015 by Christopher Rivera and Manuela Paz, located in the neighborhood of Hato Rey in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Inspired by the idea to exist as a diplomatic mission, the project aims to create a political context through the use of aesthetic information and driven by collaborative spirit.
Claudia Peña Salinas