[Many thanks to Peter Jordens for bringing this item to our attention.] A new mural titled “Pacificaribbean,” by internationally-recognized Puerto Rican artist Juan Alberto Negroni, is now being painted on the walls of the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art (SLOMA). “Pacificaribbean” should be complete by Sunday, January 10, 2021. According to Glen Starkey (New Times) “the public is welcome see the mural’s progress, and after the project is complete, a time-lapse video will be posted at sloma.org/exhibition/pacificaribbean.” Starkey reports:
Something bright and tropical is blooming in downtown SLO—a new mural currently being painted on four outside walls of the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art at the corner of Broad and Monterey streets. Designed by internationally recognized artist Juan Alberto Negroni and titled Pacificaribbean, the mural should be complete by Sunday, Jan. 10. The public is welcome to come by and see the mural as it progresses, and a time-lapse video will be posted on SLOMA’s website once the project is complete.
“I am from Puerto Rico, and I have been trying to translate into a visual language what it means to come from Puerto Rico,” Negroni explained outside the SLOMA on Sunday, Jan. 3, during a break from painting the mural.
After earning a Bachelor of Arts with a concentration in printmaking from the Puerto Rico School of Fine Arts and then a Master of Arts in Education in art history and museum studies, he left Puerto Rico to move to Texas, where he received his Master of Fine Arts in studio arts from Southern Methodist University in Dallas. He’s had five solo shows.
He’s frequently asked where he’s from, why he moved to Dallas, and how Puerto Rico compares to Texas, and though he’s happy to speak to Puerto Rico’s political, religious, and cultural history, he notes that sometimes words fail where visual arts can succeed in communicating the complex and nuanced ideas.
“I’m the guest curator for the project, and the idea is to every year have a new guest curator for a new mural,” explained Emma Saperstein, who was also on hand Jan. 3. She noted that Negroni was being aided by a group of Cuesta College art students. “It’s a work experience class credit and comes with a small stipend.”
How does Negroni feel about the temporary nature of this mural?
“Everything is temporary,” Negroni asserted, “whether it lasts 20 years or one year, it doesn’t matter. As an artist, you learn to deal with loss. Sometimes you sell a painting and it’s gone. I often paint over paintings if I become dissatisfied. I just wish while it’s here that the community enjoys it, that they have a conversation about it, that it connects with the community.”
“It will live on in one way,” Saperstein noted. “There will be a catalog with commissioned essays from four curators about the diaspora of Caribbean art and culture, which will serve as a long-term documentation of the project and Caribbean art in general, commenting on the connection between San Luis Obispo and Puerto Rico.”
According to press materials, the mural’s concept “is inspired by Juan’s upbringing in the city of Bayamón near San Juan. His father worked at the Caribe-Hilton Hotel, a beautiful resort hotel that emulates the complex relationship between Puerto Rico’s people and the economic and social influence of Western tourism. As a child, Juan and his siblings would sneak into some of the amenities of the hotel they were prevented from accessing, such as the private beach, the pool, and most memorable for Juan, the private gardens.
“In Juan’s work, representations of the luscious local ecology of Puerto Rico capture a resilience of nature that beckons us to bravely encounter and embrace the unknown. For Juan, this work both hearkens to a nuanced nostalgia of the past and a longing to preserve the memories and experiences of our youth. For those of us who reside on the Central Coast of California, Pacificaribbean asks us to consider the safety, challenge, and longing of this moment and the memories of youth that connect us to each other and to our home.” [. . .]