Art is much like a mirror, where we can see, with all of our senses and with visual intensity, our innermost self. Art can reminds us of what used to be, but mostly points at our immediate reality and can even signal at what will be. The use of mirrors in contemporary art can signify many things. For artist Samuel Toro Rosa, the mirror not only reflects ourselves, but also the absurdity, controversy and banality of the art world. By working with text, the artist is able to make statements that seem to go fast from the critical to the self-referential.
The artist uses the phrase A mediocre nation deserves mediocre art in various of his works. He employs it to point his finger at someone or something, but at whom and for what? As part of his artistic expression, Samuel Toro Rosa performed an action during opening night at the National Art Exhibit in San Juan, Puerto Rico that caused quite a stir. It seems that the artist’s intention was not only to criticize this particular exhibit, but also to point-out how the local institutions, such as museums and cultural centers, assume that they have the ability to validate artists and their work. Samuel’s catch phrase is an anti-institutional gesture that offers more than pointing; it seems more like the artist is giving them the middle finger, if this might be said.
In Realism/Hyperrealism, two wall-mounted round mirrors, the ones used for personal grooming, are set side by side. In one mirror, the word realism is written; the other mirror has the words hyperrealism written on its borders, where the word realism from the other mirror is reflected. From the realist to the hyperrealist, the mirror image serves to see what cannot be seen, but also to magnify and distort what already is. The optical effect stemming from the use of mirrors with text is appropriate to the artist’s critical wit, as we see and read ourselves through a distorted reflection.
Samuel Toro Rosa received a Bachelors in Science from the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez Campus and an MFA from Hunter College. He was short-listed for the 2008 Castellón Painting Prize and recently had a solo show at the Caguas Art Museum. He lives and works in Bayamon, Puerto Rico.
Images provided by the artist