Santurce es Ley, an independent union of galleries and artists, inaugurated last Thursday the first of what’s to become a series of art events in Santurce (Puerto Rico) meant to revitalize and reactivate the local artistic community. The event took place between Cerra Street and Ernesto Cerra Street, a neglected part of Santurce that far from hosting commercial art galleries, has some very enticing artist-run spaces and studios. For this event, they all opened their doors for a night of art and music that drew quite a crowd. And the best part was… the vibes were extremely good, a definite must in an island that sometimes seems to be plagued by conflicting ideologies and artistic rivalries.
At Cerra Street, 787Studios, a space run by artist Angel Alexis Bousquet, presented works by Celso González, Tristán Reyes, Nepo and El Corográfico. Inside, Nepo graffitied a mural of an octopus whose hand went ‘into the ground’ and reappeared outside in front of an abandoned building, to converge with another mural by the graffiti collective El Corográfico. Another interesting work was a large-scale sculpture made of cardboard and newspaper of a dog peeing by Celso González titled Marcando Territorio (Marking Territory); a thought that seems to resonate with Santurce es Ley, as artists with different styles seem to be leaving their mark and claiming Santurce as the heart of contemporary art on the island.
Right next door, artist Jason Mena lent his studio to RICA Gallery, providing the space for a very conceptual group show, showcasing works by Omar Velázquez, Karlo Andrei Ibarra, Jorge Díaz-Torres, Roberto Márquez, Jonathan Torres and Alex Rodríguez. Out of the bunch, Alex Rodríguez’s hyperrealist ‘ArtForum paintings’ from the series Limited Editions were hard to miss. The pieces are small-format oil painting on canvas made to mimic the celebrated ArtForum magazine right down to the pricing details. Just like any other magazine or book, the works were placed on shelves by the door, which added to the confusion of some viewers who thought they could place their drinks on top of them… not so good for the paintings, but a flattering gesture I suppose for the artist.
Across the street, in the Circa Labs truck, Galería Yemayá presented an action painting by Radamés “Juni” Figueroa made with the shooting sprays of opened graffiti cans. Also, a powerful work was offered by artist Carolina Caycedo, who presented a projection on an adjoining wall that read “La crisis es una manera de gobernar” (The crisis is a way of governing), a message that seems purposely aimed at the island’s politicians and at the recent upheavel at the University of Puerto Rico, where student strikes have paralyzed university precincts across the island. Along with the show, a Rumba band complete with dancers provided some folklore to the scene and artist Yoyo added the electronic soundtrack to keep visitors around, while artist’s Alberto “Beto” Torrens and Edgardo Larregui offered an ongoing spectacle by graffitiing on site.
On Ernesto Cerra Street, La15, a contemporary art space run by artist José Jorge Román, displayed works on paper and paintings by Cuban artist Kcho. While in the same street, La Corporación Artist Studios invaded a truck also showing works on paper that included artists Grimaldi Báez and Rogelio Báez.
It was a pleasant surprise to find a good number of collectors supporting the event, and those who thought they would never come to this barrio and acquire works were soon proved wrong. That said, some things can be improved for next time around. For example, although the music was definitely a plus, it sounded more like noise when electronic music and rumba played at the same time. My only wish is that this event doesn’t quickly evanesce like similar ones. For this to happen, it seems important to keep it low-key while working closely with the community remembering lessons learned from Old San Juan’s ‘gallery nights,’ which nearing its end boasted an absence of galleries and a long trail of drunken mayhem. But in keeping with the ambiance, I believe it’s a good way to welcome a resurgence of emerging contemporary art in Santurce.
Images by DaWire Team