In the article “Vibrant Murals Line the Streets of San Juan” (Dallas News), Robin Soslow captures the effervescence and energy of Puerto Rico’s love for art, with examples of artistic production in galleries, office buildings, museums, and on the street.
The typical sightseeing checklist for San Juan includes the colonial district, tropical beaches and local rum. But the most colorful sights in Puerto Rico’s capital are found in the urban neighborhood of Santurce, which has emerged as a vibrant arts district and a global hot spot for street murals. The arts district is an easy walk from the Condado beachfront area. Within a few blocks, arresting panoramas pop up in underpasses, on overpasses and on buildings tall and small.
On De Diego Avenue, I hit the jackpot. A dusky rose-colored chimera, a hybrid of koalas, birds, a whale, maybe a manatee, swims along a wall. The meticulous Chinese ink lines signal the work of Jufe, one-half of La Pandilla, a San Juan duo revered in the urban art world for exquisitely drawn fantastical characters. Perched on a ladder, La Pandilla’s other half, Alexis Diaz, is painting a grinning skull [shown above]. Diaz points me toward a couple dozen fascinating street murals and a club, La Respuesta, that showcases alternative music and artwork. On the club’s live painting nights, urban artists create pieces to the beats.
Along Fernandez Juncos Avenue and its side streets, I encounter a painted menagerie of characters in settings from minidramas to dreamscapes. Subjects span the political, the magical and the macabre. The energy radiated by these murals suggests why more and more cities are giving street artists carte blanche. Serious talents crowd out the vandals, brightening areas without squeezing government budgets. These artists give graffiti a good name.
Santurce’s artscape offers more than murals. The terrific sculpture Niña con Tucán (“Girl with Toucan”) anchors Plaza Ventana al Mar, Condado’s beachfront park. A bronze depicts a gleeful child in Parque Antonia Quiñones. Huge screen-printed panels decorate high-rises. Even businesses support local art. At the San Juan Marriott’s newly renovated Red Coral Lounge, you can sip piña coladas alongside original paintings and an immense reeflike wood carving by Neftali Maldonado.
Santurce is also home to galleries like Espacio 1414, Laboratorio De Artes Binarios and excellent museums. MAC — Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico — fills a reclaimed architectural landmark with works by social activist artists and mixed-media pioneers. The Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico is a wonderland of woodcuts, posters, sculptures and paintings by luminaries such as Ramón Frade, Francisco Oller and Rafael Tufiño. Allow a half-hour for Pepón Osorio’s No Crying in the Barbershop, an amusing, unsettling room-size installation about machismo.
Back on the streets, muralists are using motorized scaffolds to paint multistory buildings for a festival. Any day of the year, you’ll find dazzling views on both sides of Santurce’s walls. [. . .]
Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico: Intriguing works by local artists in all media in galleries surrounding a beautiful courtyard. Open all week. Adults $5. Ponce de Leon and Roberto H. Todd intersection; museocontemporaneopr.org
Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico: Superb artwork, from celebrated paintings to posters to a lush garden with quirky sculptures and lily ponds. Open Tuesday-Sunday. Adults $6. Wed. 2-8 p.m. free. 299 De Diego Ave.; mapr.org