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Beyond the Canvas: Contemporary Art from Puerto Rico

Apr 26, 2017 – Jul 9, 2017
Coinciding with the 100th anniversary of Puerto Ricans’ U.S. citizenship and the impending referendum on political status, Beyond the Canvas: Contemporary Art from Puerto Rico showcases the work of Zilia Sánchez (b.1926), Julio Suárez (b.1947), Arnaldo Roche Rabell (b.1955), Pedro Vélez (b.1971), and Elsa María Meléndez (b.1974).

Spanning several generations, these five artists challenge the notion of the canvas as a flat surface for painted images. Through tension-based strategies applied on the fabric—whether pulling, rubbing, folding, slashing, ripping, sewing, or warping—they lend their works a distinctive three-dimensionality. Their provocative treatments allude to the island’s current socioeconomic crisis in works that suggest rupture, tension, and escape.

Beyond the Canvas is accompanied by a smaller exhibition envisioned, curated, and designed by Tulane students from “Women, Community and Art in Latin America: Puerto Rico.” Co-taught by Edith Wolfe, Assistant Director of the Stone Center for Latin American Studies, and museum Director Monica Ramirez-Montagut, the class—which traveled to the island in March 2017—asks how Puerto Rican socially engaged activists and artists address problems of gender, food access, blight, loss of traditions, and other issues affecting their communities.

The student-curated show Culture, Community, and Civic Imagination in Greater San Juan documents how community-based projects in San Juan and adjacent areas are changing the narrative of place and redefining the nature of citizenship. Examples include Patio Taller, a performance space and grass-roots educational center in the industrial zone of San Antón that organizes a “theater of the oppressed” to address issues affecting their community; the collective transformation of the hillside town of El Cerro, Naranjito into a living mural that is socially and artistically charged; intergenerational workshops known as Escuelas Oficios (Trade Schools) that are recuperating artisanal traditions threatened by modernization and colonialism, such as weaving, lace making, and basketry; the revitalization of blighted properties and neighborhoods through participatory urban design of community centers, public parks, urban gardens, and food cooperatives; and the aesthetic and physical reclaiming of public space through movement by artist Noemí Segarra. These projects underscore the critical role of women—as activists, artists, and community leaders—in the cultural and political mobilization in response to crisis.

For more information, please visit the Beyond the Canvas website

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