Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing us “9 Highlights from the MECA Art Fair in San Juan,” by Osman Can Yerebakan (Interior Design), a curator and art writer based in New York. The curator reviewed Rafael Delacruz at Reyes / Finn; Carlos Reyes at Bodega; Adriano Costa at Mendes Wood DM; Sarah Zapata at Deli Gallery; Blanco y Negro at Embajada; Clotilde Jimenez and Florine Démosthène at Mariane Ibrahim; Akira Ikezoe, Jorge de León, and Radamés “Juni” Figueroa at Proyectos Ultravioleta; Plataforma ArtBase; and anonymous. Here are excerpts (I have highlighted Caribbean artists):
The third edition of MECA (short for Mercado Caribeño), held November 21-24, drew crowds to Antiguo Arsenal de la Marina Española in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico. An international exhibitor list—featuring galleries from Detroit, Mexico City, Tokyo, and New York, in addition to the Caribbean—marked the fair’s growing global profile and proved the island’s ongoing restoration efforts after Hurricane Maria’s devastating impact on tourism and local businesses in September 2017.
MECA’s second iteration in 2018, which opened just over a year after Maria, raised hopes for a steady art market in the Caribbean. This year, the region’s largest art fair presented an expanded and more inclusive program, including the inaugural Mecansimos [sic, Mecanismos] section dedicated to emerging artists from the Americas who started their careers after 2010. Danny Baez, the fair’s co-founder and galleries and external affairs director, was satisfied after a successful edition, which drew larger crowds than previous years. He told Interior Design that MECA will continue to be an influential force in promotion of contemporary art in the Caribbean. Here are nine highlights from the fair.
[. . .] One of the strongest statements in this year’s fair came from, a San Juan-based Embajada, a gallery known for fostering contemporary art from the Caribbean in the global arena. True to the gallery’s network of local and international artists, Embajada’s booth brought together black-and-white art by 39 artists under an aptly titled theme: Blanco y Negro. The concept—to orchestrate works from Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Iran, Argentina, Italy, Mexico, Uruguay, and Cuba within one booth and two fundamental colors—was birthed from struggles around corruption and disenfranchisement; however, gallery co-founder Manuela Paz noted that “they are not after making overt political statements, but rather suggest a point of inspiration.” The expansive list of contributors included Rebecca Adorno, Hector Arce-Espasas, Emilio Bianchic, Sam Borstein, Matteo Callegari, Guanina Cotto, Austin Eddy, Maggie Ellis, Mahsa Fard, Juan Fernández, Gabriella Torres Ferrer, Peter Fend, Radames Juni Figueroa, Leo Fitzpatrick, Franco Frontera, Marlene Frontera, Giovanni Fenech-García, and Desirée Garcés.
[. . .] Among the fair’s newcomers was Mariane Ibrahim, a Chicago-based gallery known for a roster that champions emerging artists of African descent in the U.S. and abroad. The gallery’s two-artist booth juxtaposed paintings by Mexico City-based artist Clotilde Jimenez and Haitian artist Florine Démosthène, who both utilize performativity and space to comment on the Black bodies’ socio-political presence in public and private.
[. . .] For MECA, the gallery presented Japanese artist Akira Ikezoe next to Puerto Rican Radamés “Juni” Figueroa and Guatemalan Jorge de León to orchestrate an interdisciplinary, cross-Atlantic statement on materials and objects. Figueroa’s utilization of discarded objects, such as a light box that reads “Puerto Rico Traction Tires Manufacturers Inc” or heating grills, transformed into sculptural paintings were paired with Ikezoe and Leon’smodest-size paintings of individuals interacting with their surroundings in as disparate situations as street protests and nature. [. . .]
Puebla-based art platform Plataforma ArtBase was among the initiatives to join Mecansimos [sic, Mecanismos] with a booth dedicated to four emerging talents from Puerto Rico, Denmark, and Mexico, using humor, tragedy and poetry within a diverse range of materials. [. . .]
[Shown above: Florine Démosthène’s “Wounds #3,” 2018.]