Muestra Nacional de Arte de Puerto Rico-09

Instituto de Cultura Puerorriqueña, Arsenal de la Puntilla, Viejo San Juan

By Manuel Álvarez Lezama | April 08, 2010

Although presented with great irregularity, the Muestra Nacional de Arte de Puerto Rico (National Art Exhibition of Puerto Rico) is an event that is enthusiastically awaited and welcomed by the lovers of the visual arts of this island, since it gives them an idea − sometimes whimsical − of what is taking place in those complex and always changing/controversial creative spaces. For a national art exhibition to be good, it must reflect not only what is happening in the field of the visual arts of a country, but also the best, the most original, the most provocative aspects of its society at that precise moment. There can be no «sacred cows», there can be no whims or favoritisms. It must be an honest X-ray of reality that may clarify where we are standing by comparison with what is being done in other parts of this globalized planet. If we base our judgment on this premise, what was exhibited in the National Art Exhibition of Puerto Rico-09 was quite good.

Elsa María Meléndez. De la memoria: la quimera de un despojo, 2008. Instalación/Installation.

Although the event was quite disorganized and the judges were not conspicuous by their expertise or their importance within the world of the visual arts, the presentation of works − ranging from extremely boring and outdated videos, inferior beginners’ photographs that could contribute nothing new, to «little toy dolls» that manage to sneak into each fair and esch biennial as unpleasant plagues of mediocrity, shameful abstract paintings to truly excellent and challenging works, which have succeeded in incentivating clever viewers to dare construct their own readings and engage in interesting dialogues with present-day aestheticas and ethics − was good. More than 350 artists responded to the call for participation. Of these, 111 were selected.

Besides some excellent established figures − Domingo Izquierdo, Elizam Escobar, Sylvia Blanco, Carmelo Fontanez, Dhara Rivera, Rafael Trelles, Héctor Mendez Caratini, Julio Suárez, Fernando Colón, Frances Pico, Carmelo Sobrino, Aarón Salabarrias, Ada Bobonis, Carlos Rivera Villafañe, Néstor Otero/Annex Burgos y Charles Juhazs −, the best works/proposals, due to their streng- th, excellence, originality and provocative power, were those featured by Aby Ruiz (painting), Jason Mena (photography), Iván Girona (painting), Cristina Córdova (sculpture), Bobby Cruz (painting), Rogelio Báez (painting), Martín García (xylography), Carlos Gil Rivera (sculpture), Edgardo Larregui (painting/colla- ge), Karlo Ibarra (video), Sofia Maldonado (mixed media), Ramón Miranda Beltrán ( photographic fresco), Marta Mabel Pérez (photography), Isabel Ramírez (installation), Brian Rivera (painting), Quintín Rivera (photogra- phy), Christopher Rivera (xylography), Jaime Rodríguez Crespo (installa- tion), Manuel Rodríguez (model/installation), Garvin Sierra (xylography/installa- tion), Omar Velásquez (xylo- graphy) Radares Figueroa (painting) and Chezelle Torres (sculpture).

We hope the new 2009 edition of the Exhibition may teach the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture to correct its mistakes. Things cannot be left to the last minute. It made the same mistake with the San Juan Poly/Graphic triennial. A suggestion: I think that the fact that the Visual Arts Director, who promotes the National Art Exhibition of Puerto Rico, is at the same time a member of the jury, implies a huge conflict of interests.