Puerto Rican artist Juan Sánchez, whose first solo exhibition “¿What’s The Meaning of This?” was on view until late December at BRIC House Gallery in Brooklyn, is reviewed by Néstor David Pastor for Centro Voices. [Many thanks to Pepón Osorio for bringing this item to our attention.] Here are excerpts of this excellent review:
[. . .] Sánchez’s parents, like many others, left Puerto Rico during the first major wave of immigration to New York City in the 1940s and 50s. This migration and cultural identity eventually found its way into his work, of course, but the trajectory of Juan Sánchez’s career began, like many artists, with several fortuitous childhood events. [. . .] It’s fair to say that Juan Sánchez dealt with issues of intersectionality generations before the concept entered into the mainstream. His identity relies on a diverse background, one that includes black and Puerto Rican influences, among others, which dominated New York City in the 1970s. [. . .]
Speaking of intersectionality, Juan is black, Puerto Rican, Latino, New Yorker, Nuyorican, Brooklynite, and American–all at the same time. So when it came to questions of identity, it was a matter of finding a place for himself. This is another aspect of the Puerto Rican diaspora he has effectively had to navigate. Without sufficient infrastructure during the first wave of immigration during the mid-20th century, the Puerto Rican community essentially remade itself here in the United States, to the point where these early contributions, the proto-Latino identity, became part of the North American narrative. For Sánchez, he describes this process as an amputation. As he sees it, Puerto Rico had severed the phantom limb that constituted the diaspora, provoking the unique, sometimes divisive, relationship between the two sides.
[. . .] He showcases history at its most raw and immediate visual forms, challenging his audience to go down a similar path of reflection, patient research, and latent understanding.
This is a noticeable feature in many of the pieces featured at the BRIC House Gallery exhibition. A picture of Che lying dead in a small hut in Bolivia in one painting conveys a more humanistic portrait in contrast to the iconography we are more familiar with through pop culture. A sickly Pedro Albizu Campos in another painting, just before his death, doesn’t tell the same story as the famous image of him defiantly yelling, blazing with revolutionary passion. The truth is these men suffered a great deal for their convictions, but it is not always inspiring to witness them defeated. This is the sort of nuanced perspective that Sánchez carries with him everywhere he, or rather, his art, goes. [. . .]
Also see http://centropr.hunter.cuny.edu/centrovoices/reviews/juan-s%C3%A1nchez-%E2%80%9C%C2%BFwhat%E2%80%99s-meaning-this%E2%80%9D and http://www.latinpost.com/articles/99374/20151202/juan-s%C3%A1nchez-iconic-nuyorican-artist-presents-solo-exhibition-in-brooklyn.htm
[Image above: Sánchez’s “Albizu, lindo rayos gamma”; below, “Hero.”]