Friday, April 24, 2009

Letter from San Juan

Dear friends:
I traveled to Puerto Rico for the opening of the
II Trienal Poli/gráfica de San Juan (I was part of the curatorial team of the first Trienal in 2004) as a gesture of support for a project similar to Philagrafika, and with the intention of reporting for this blog. The second incarnation of this important event was supposed to happen in 2007, but there were several problems regarding the funding, and this event, which was much-awaited by the local artistic community, finally happened after almost five years. There is a website with the curatorial statement and general information:

(some of the links to the works might not be active yet)

The artistic director of the
II Trienal was Brazilian curator Adriano Pedrosa, who chose to work with Jens Hoffmann, Director of the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts
in San Francisco, and Julieta González, who was recently appointed Associate Curator of Latin American Art at the Tate Modern in London. Pedrosa also included Puerto Rican artist and curator Beatriz Santiago as guest curator.

Pedrosa and his team chose to explore in depth one line of action among the many that the
Trienal opened up: that of artist’s editions and publications. Indeed, this Triennial consisted almost exclusively of printed matter, with the inclusion of a few sculptural pieces and a video. It read as a cleverly curated show, not exactly as a Biennial-type event (in the sense that it was housed in one relatively small space) and, in my opinion it was successful in that it managed to include many outstanding artists with strong works around a very specific subject.

Perhaps one of the most important features of the
Trienal is something that cannot be seen: the grants they awarded to established but struggling art magazines -which enabled them to carry on with their editing business- and the production money that they gave to twenty artists for the edition of specially commissioned artist books. The Trienal also commissioned posters from several artists/designers, which were mailed in advance to museums and curators all over to spread the word about the event and create a buzz. The Trienal published a magazine, titled Número Cero, which was guest-edited by artists and curators like María Inés Rodríguez, Jennifer Allora, and Guillermo Calzadilla with Charles Juhasz, Magalí Arriola, and Carla Zaccagnini, among others. This magazine was also mailed in advance, and served to create a critical context leading to the Trienal.

Gabrel Sierra´s reading room

All the publications, including the artist books, posters, magazines, and other ephemera were displayed in a reading room designed by Colombian artist and designer Gabriel Sierra, whose credits include the overall design of the Casa del Encuentro for the
Encuentro de Medellín MDE07 and the furniture for the 28th Sao Paulo Bienal. Sierra opted for a labyrinthine maze-like structure made with raw plywood, with nooks and alcoves where the viewer can sit and read in relative isolation. There are racks and shelves for the take-away publications as well as a small video room.

In addition to the publications, the curators put together five thematic shows, all but one of them dealing with different manifestations of printed matter: money, journals, books, archives, and flags. Some of the curated shows felt a little repetitive since the subject matter tended to give the shows (most of them comprising strong pieces by very interesting artists) a uniform look. Also, on some occasions, even though printed matter was the visual reference, the actual work was not a print but a drawing, as was the case with Mateo López’ bills, or Johanna Calle’s newspapers.

Some viewers complained that the decision to limit the entire
Trienal to the Arsenal de la Puntilla (just one of the 13 venues that were used by the first Trienal -and not even in its entirety) ended up in a show that lacks in ambition what it has in coherence. Another part that was absent in this version are the monographic shows, which would have given the II Tienal a platform to fund research into the subject of the expanded field of contemporary graphics, as was the case in the first Trienal with the guest-curated shows of Antonio Berni at the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico and Beatriz González at the Universidad de Puerto Rico museum, and the very important exhibition curated by Margarita Fernández Zavala, Inscritos & Proscritos, shown at the Museo de las Américas, which presented a historical overview of radical approaches to printmaking in Puerto Rican art.

Jose Carlos Martinat

But overall, the Trienal felt coherent and tightly curated, and included some outstanding works: José Carlos Martinat’s installation, which featured palm trees with tiny printers connected to a software that gleaned information from the web and printed small receipt-like notes that fell from the top like falling leaves; Miler Lagos’ tree stumps, done with reproductions of legendary Puerto Rican printer Rafael Tufiño’s images; Runo Lagomarsino’s sun-printed texts (a "tropical" clin d’oeil to Duchamp’s Elevages de Poussiére); Satch Hoyt’s Say It Loud!, a pedestal made of books where the public is encouraged to speak out; and some classic works not previously seen in Puerto Rico like Brazilian artist Cildo Meireles’ Insertions in Ideological Circuits (subversive slogans stamped on bills to bypass censorship and ensure distribution), Jorge Macchi’s cut-out newspapers, and the posters and flyers of the now-defunct Taller Popular de Serigrafía from Argentina, to mention but a few.

J. Roca.

Miler Lagos

Taller Popular de Serigrafía

Jorge Macchi

Satch Hoyt

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ustedes lo cocinan y ustedes se lo comen.

Espera la real reseña de la Trienal Berezdivin aqui: