Featuring both individual and collaborative works, Josué Pellot and Héctor Arce-Espasas play upon their shared heritage with a critique of tourism’s myth of Paradise. The artists reach beyond simple autobiography by embodying histories of art, family, commerce, heritage, and nationalism in a rich visual experience in Galleries 2.5 and 3. Illuminated pineapples become the embodiment of culture, transubstantiating the subject’s body into that of a delectable fruit. Both artists struggle with the alchemy responsible for transforming culture into consumable tourist objects. Their photographs, paintings, and installations express a desire to unravel the meaning of cultural objects and the dissemination of those meanings throughout the global marketplace.
In one of two collaborative projects represented in the exhibition, Pellot submits his Woman on a Horse diptych to Arce-Espasas to further an historic narrative. Pellot’s photographs are choreographed re-enactments of paintings by José Campeche y Jordan (1752-1809). Campeche, a Puerto Rican Baroque painter who remained on the island throughout his lifetime, gained knowledge of the Baroque from Luis Paret, a Spanish court painter also living in Puerto Rico. Pellot’s figures sit astride standing horses within urban environs, far removed from Campeche’s rural scenery. Religious figures, domestic fowl, and other fictive elements concoct a magical realism with history as its guise. Arce-Espasas layers neon-hued graffiti palm fronds and pineapples upon Pellot’s provocatively posed Latinas, embellishing sexuality with the heat of an equatorial paradise.
With tempered humor, Héctor Arce-Espasas comments on paradise and art as reproduction and commodity. Citing an historic narrative of paradise that utilizes palm trees and deserted islands as its iconography, Arce-Espasas depicts a painted reproduction of a tropical painting by Peter Doig flying through the air in P.D. Come Fly with Me. Arce-Espasas has photographed his painting as it is flung into the air and remains suspended in the blue sky above numerous palm trees. Printed on fabric, the photograph has been mounted to create a marching banner that balances precariously against the wall with one broken support. You can almost hear Frank Sinatra’s crooning voice intoning: “Once I get you up there where the air is rarified, we’ll just glide, starry-eyed….” One wonders whether Arce-Espasas’s commentary is as hopeful as Sinatra’s lyric or more disastrous as the painting inevitably must succumb to gravity and return crashing to Earth.
In a multi-tiered installation, Pellot distills the ubiquitous Puerto Rican beverage, Malta El Sol, into color blocks and planes. Use of a brilliant orange parachute entices a further interaction of color, form, and balance, accentuating the repetition. The object suggests a celestial cargo drop that has been staged to land in proximity to a ceramic replica of the artist’s Great Aunt (Monserate Rios). The talc-colored maternal imitation, stares across the gallery floor, away from the island created by the blocks of stacked color.
Josué Pellot received his MA from Northwestern University and his BFA from the University of Illinois at Chicago. He has received attention through a number of solo exhibitions, among them: Universidad Catolica De Puerto Rico, Ponce, Puerto Rico; Museo de Arte de Caguas, Caguas, Puerto Rico; Chicago Cultural Center; and Hyde Park Art Center, Chicago. His work has been included in group exhibitions at: Museo de Arte Contemporaneo, San Juan, Puerto Rico; Contemporary Art Society, London; Vane Contemporary, Newcastle, England; and National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago.
Héctor Arce-Espasas currently lives and works in New York. He received his MFA from Hunter College and his BFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Arce-Espasas had his first solo exhibition at Lloyd Dobler Gallery, Chicago. His work has been included in exhibitions at: Don’t Projects, Paris; Vane Contemporary, Newcastle, England; Museu da Cidade, Lisbon; Contemporary Art Society, London; Galeria Candela, San Juan, Puerto Rico; The Swiss Institute, New York; and Betty Rymer Gallery, Chicago.
- Josue Pellot at the Chicago Cultural Center
- Josué Pellot: Colonialism and the Politics of Cultural Consumption
- Transgressions on an Artbook: Hector Falcón