Gallery of Contemporary Art to Exhibit Caribbean and Latin American Works

News Story: August 1, 2010
"Do not think, Do not give any opinions"
Alicia Candiani
Mixed media, lithograph, chine collé & watercolor
30” x 23”

Juxtapositions: The Collector, The Art and the Collection, the first exhibit of the academic year at the Gallery of Contemporary Art at Sacred Heart University, opens on Sunday, September 12, with a reception for 1 - 3:30 PM.  The exhibit will run through November 3.  It is free and open to the public.  The exhibit, from the collection of Ben Ortiz, includes works from 34 Latin American and Caribbean artists. 

This exhibition focuses on a collection and the passion of its collector. “The collector has as many reasons for collecting as there are items to collect; for pleasure, for prestige, for monetary gain, for knowledge, for posterity or for any combination of the above.  Collections fascinate, often reflecting as much about the collector as they do about the intrinsic value as works of art.,” said Contemporary Gallery of Art Director Sophia Gevas.  Ben Ortiz has chosen to collect these works as a living document of the Latin American and Caribbean cultures at a particular time.  He has stated that his goals as a collector are to preserve the works and he intends, at some point, to donate these works to a public institution.

“Choosing from Ortiz’s approximately 1,100 works was difficult,” curator Gevas noted.  “The majority of the selections in this exhibition are works on paper, including drawings, prints of all kinds, and one oil painting, from such countries as Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Uruguay and Mexico.

“Dominonation #1”
Ernesto Lopez
Mixed media on black & silver paper
48” x 35”

Gustavo Valdés, who wrote the essay for the exhibition, states: “As an adolescent, Ben Ortiz spotted and later bought his first acquisition, an oil painting by Puerto Rican master Don Miguel Pons. For nearly four decades, Ortiz has been a passionate and dedicated collector, focusing predominantly on the richness of figurative art depicted by Latin American and Caribbean artists.  As the son of Puerto Rican immigrants, the people depicted in the art that Ortiz collects bring him somewhat closer to the personal stories and realities which have connections to his own story.  Ortiz has spent his adult life searching out and scrutinizing works, researching and developing his knowledge of the artists and their art.”

Old Masters such as José Clemente Orozco, Roberto Matta, Alberto Solari and Wifredo Lam, to name just a few, are juxtaposed with younger-generation artists who are considered the inheritors of their traditions. The list of artists also includes Pavel Acosta, Juan Carlos Alom, Cundo Bermúdez, Mario Carreño, Mario Martín del Campo, Polibio Díaz, Francisco Dosamantes, Ofill Echevarría, José Ney Milá Espinosa, Víctor Gómez, Leandro Joo, Leopoldo Méndez, José M. Mijares, Pablo OHiggens, José Clemente Orozco, Emilio Ortíz, Julio César Peña Peralta, William Pérez, Sandra Ramos, Daniel Serra-Badué and Luis Stand.

Some of the media may be new to the audience, such as the “paño” (Spanish for cloth, and the media of these works.)  These works, intricate ink drawings, are executed on handkerchiefs by Chicano men while in prison and are both self-portraits and a kind of homage to their roots.  “These two paños bring together a myriad of symbols—religious icons mixed with indigenous, autochthonous fauna and bejeweled, sensuous women. These capricious compositions, generally associated with the art of tattooing, are similar to the images and themes found in the contemporary applied and fine arts of Latin America and the Caribbean,” Valdés explains.

Another important presence in the exhibit is the works by Puerto Rican-born Imna Arroyo, Argentinean Alicia Candiani and Dominican Belkis Ramirez. These artists deal with the theme of women in society and their historic delegation to a position of inferiority.

"Breaking the Net"
Imna Arroyo
Seven color lithograph
30” x 22”

Some of the featured artists are living and working in the area, including Juan Sanchez, (NYC), Andres Serrano (NYC), Rodriguez Calero (NYC), Imna Arroyo (Willimantic, CT), and Yolanda Vasquez Pertrocelli (Bridgeport, CT), whose emblematic portrait of a youth holding a picture of the Virgin of Guadalupe reveals her proud Mexican origins. Ernesto Lopez’s, “Dominonation #1,” (Waterbury, CT) a work containing numerous dominos with unidentified pictures of people taken at the Puerto Rican Day Parade inserted into the white chips, “are presented as a genealogical tree, representative of the essentials at the core of being Latino. Lopez’s chips, with the numerous faces he collected for his piece, are encased in the same fashion that natural history museums everywhere display rare species, in sublime butterfly-boxes,” according to Valdés.  “Rather than segregate the chips (us) into categories, he groups us in a unique mix, foretelling a story of common identity and collectiveness despite our own marked differences. By precisely juxtaposing all accents and voices, skin colors, creeds, beliefs, customs, traditions, histories and realities, he manages to shape us into an upward, yet familiar, pyramidal form that looks and feels a lot like Latin America. “

A panel discussion that focuses on collecting art is planned for October.