Puerto Rico is a complex collection of people and ideas thriving in and out of the island. High on the list of components of the Puerto Rican concept is arts and culture: undeniably rich, prolific, diverse and with a global reach.
This coming Friday, November 16th at 7:30 p.m. -- and until December 3rd -- New Yorkers and visitors have the chance to experience the now emblematic Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center yearly show: "Borimix," featuring the resident artists of the institution. The exhibition is presented by the Sociedad Educativa de las Artes (SEA) under the name of "Index" for the 2012 edition.
The Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center is a Puerto Rican and Latino cultural institution that has demonstrated a broad-minded cultural vision and a collaborative philosophy. While the Clemente's mission is focused on the cultivation, presentation and preservation of Puerto Rican and Latino culture, it is equally determined to operate in a multi-cultural and inclusive manner, housing and promoting artists and performance events that fully reflect the cultural diversity of the Lower East Side and the city as a whole.
Miguel Trelles -- a prolific and talented painter who is also one of the resident artists of the center -- explains how the initiative was born:
When Manuel Morán asked me to come up with a title for a potential festival of Puerto Rican arts and culture to be launched from the Clemente I baptized it "Borimix." Manuel and I agreed it should telescope Puerto Rican culture to both initiated and uninitiated New Yorkers. As Borimix visual art curator over these past seven years, I have sought to invite Caribbean, Latin American, North American and New York artists from the world over to explore diverse facets of Puerto Rican culture, enriching it with their diverse vantage points. The mix has been exhilarating, and the shows have reflected some of the eclecticism characteristic of the Lower East Side.
"This year," he adds, "we asked the building artists to join us in order to celebrate the remarkable renovation of the Clemente carried out by the city of New York. We all would like to thank the city and the Lower East Side Community in which we work for their faith in our future and their continued support of our artistic endeavors."
Edwin Ramoran, the curator of the exhibition, is particularly proud of the work done this year because it was literally achieved against all odds.
On October 28th., as Hurricane Sandy was about to hit the Northeast Coast of the United States, various resident artists at the Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center in the Lower East Side of New York City had nervously agreed to stay around a little longer so I could finish selecting work for this index exhibition. We were all well aware the subways would close around 7 p.m., and there was an eerie feeling of uneasiness due to the impending storm about to ravage the Northeast, especially New Jersey and New York. My uneasiness also had something to do with the long vertical banners announcing the Killers Haunted House, violently flailing in the wind as I entered The Clemente.
Upon entering the first artist studio, the sanctity of that room eased my apprehension, piquing my curiosity about the stored pieces, engrossing me with the work on view. Artists unconsciously turn their shops into reflections of their individuality. Sometimes these ateliers are spare, but more often than not they tend to be cluttered. Art materials, hardware, books and papers are strewn about. A studio is a locus for musing, looking, thinking, and creating. In it ideas are born, their virulence sustained over time (sometimes during brief spurts, sometimes during prolonged periods), literally the time it takes for work to take conceptual, virtual or physical shape.
Many studios at the Clemente are shared among several artists. These communal spaces foster micro-communities. Soon, neighbors were at the door, taking in our critical dialog quietly, patiently waiting to be invited in, or simply hoping they would be next (subways will stop running, your know). As I quickened my pace from studio visit to studio visit I started thinking this was a treasure trove for visitors, guests such as myself who will find their selves going from one personal universe to another, engaged, challenged or simply, overwhelmed. What some see as order can be perceived by others as chaos or vice versa. In that regard an index might appear to be a useful tool or perhaps it is just more of a devotional aid, something to restore order in the face of chaos (or vice versa). In this show it is both a tool and a devotional aid. Primarily it has been my attempt at ordering my experience of visiting the studios, labeled by room number and name, of the Clemente resident artists and respecting their individuality by not allowing it to become an undifferentiated image stream.
And yet, as I knew without being able to see it that the Killers banner was still flailing due to Sandy's approach, it was clear to me that a list, alphabetical at that and accompanied by page numbers, -- an index -- would constitute somewhat of a creed.
"This index respectfully acknowledges the individual agency of the Clemente resident artist who insists in creating and sharing his or her personal vision in the face of mass produced visions aimed at mass consumption. This exhibition also celebrates that New York can still boast having artists working in the City. Ultimately, if individual universes such as the ones spun by the Clemente resident artists can coexist in one building in that Lower East Side, it is plausible, possible and even probable that New York can still be a viable index of extremely diverse communities/universes that live and learn with each other, patiently waiting to be each other guests, hoping they don't have to rush the invitation (subways should be running again, you know).
Index artists, in alphabetical order, are: Vincenzo Amato, Isabel Bigelow, Douglas Blanchard, Bryan Buckley, Linda Byrne, Natalia de Campos, Pamela Cardwell, Luis Carle, Paul Clay, Susana Coffey, Silvio de la Cruz,David k. Friedman, Robert Grant, Linda Griggs, Allen Anthony Hansen, Lisa Hanson, Kylie Heidenheimer, Jonás Hidalgo, Tine Kinderman, Lisa Lebofsky, Chang-Jin Lee, Bill Massey, Horacio Molina, Bill Mutter, Alexis Neider, Selime Okuyan, Nicole Parcher, Mark Power, Maya Punchkoff, Julia Schwadron, PC Smith, Flavia Souza, Sherman Sussman, Thiago Szmrecsany, Miguel Trelles, Raphael Tufinyo, Suzanne Varni, Rafael Vélez, Melanie Vote, Amy Westpfahl and Sher Wouters.
The exhibition will take place at the "Abrazo Interno Gallery" (second floor) and the LES Gallery (fround floor). The Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural and Educational Center is located at 107 Suffolk Street, Lower East Side, New York City. www.csvcenter.org
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