Raquel Torres Arzola at AREA

vista+parcial+1 Raquel Torres Arzola at AREA

Installation View. The Thousand and One Nights.

There are times when unexpectedly an artist breaks away from a trend. Puerto Rico, an island with many creative minds but few institutional frameworks to support them, has been recently the site for works that either confront its ambiguous political situation, rather directly and simplistically, or limit themselves to trivial representations of tropical clichés and its derivative forms. It is precisely in these characteristics that this exhibition stands out. Currently an MFA candidate at the San Francisco Art Institute, Raquel Torres-Arzola, who has been working under the tutelage of her advisor artist Victor Vázquez, has put together a thought provoking and intelligent exhibition at AREA that addresses domestic as well as dogmatic power structures, but also posits sculpture as a formal and conceptual language of materials by which the intangible is materialized.

portada en el suelo Raquel Torres Arzola at AREA

Detail. The Thousand and One Nights.

this+is+not+an+altar Raquel Torres Arzola at AREA

Installation view. This is not an altar.

AREA, a project space and residency program founded by collector José Hernández Castrodad, which for the past 7 years has been a consistent site for the production and promotion of engaging works by young and emerging artists, is the context for the exhibition This is not an altar, Identity, Devotions and Disorders, and The Thousand and One Nights by Raquel Torres-Arzola, three distinct but complementary projects that anticipate a mature and promising artist. This is not an altar is an installation comprised of 4 sculptures that examines our relationship to spirituality, whereas Identity, Devotions and Disorders, an installation of 3 sculptures which contains the same formal composition as the former, presents the formation of identity as a process by which globalization and consumerism play a vital role. In both projects, the artist has reclaimed the pedestal not as a support but as a conceptual strategy essential to the work’s interpretation. Although This is not an altar implies the literal negation of an altar, it nonetheless suggests the symbolic relationships between materials, their support and its conceptual underpinnings. Comprised of a pedestal, an offering, and an artificial light, each material offering is a symbolic rendering of the ways we are consumers of spirituality as well as identity.

land detail Raquel Torres Arzola at AREA

Detail. This is not an altar.

marron+web Raquel Torres Arzola at AREA

The Thousand and One Nights.

Meanwhile, in The Thousand and One Nights gender relationships are scrutinized through works that present a subversion of the hegemonic power structures of the domestic space. The project is comprised of 5 different works, 4 sculptural installations that simulate a domestic setting and a video titled Se me llena la casa de agua. Here, the viewer is initially faced with a pyramidal structure comprised of the island’s most widely circulated newspaper, where the artist has devised a faux front page that features a headline of Sheherezade, the narrator of The Thousand and One Nights, alongside an image of a neatly folded white collar dress shit burnt by an iron. Besides representing a hierarchical power structure through its pyramid-like form, the work also constitutes a wall that may well stand for the confined space of the domestic sphere. Opposite this structure, a sledgehammer covered with vintage wedding photographs is positioned upright against a pillow, where a palpable yet subdued violence is evidenced. One of the most arresting works of the project is a dismembered and broken bedroom, which surprisingly incorporates a performative element. The artist’s body here is present, privately imprinted on the sheets that hang in tension among what remains of a set of vintage bed pillars. On the floor, scattered shards of glass accompany the work and add a sense of chaotic violence. These works, minimal yet forceful, remind us that visual art, and particularly sculpture, has the potential to be an open source of ideas, content and consciousness.

- Carla Acevedo-Yates

las mil y una noches cama web Raquel Torres Arzola at AREA

The Thousand and One Nights.

las mil y una noches botas Raquel Torres Arzola at AREA

The Thousand and One Nights.

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