Ricanstructions conditions that exist – The Brooklyn Rail


In view

Modern & Contemporary Hutchinson
Juan Sanchez: Ricaninstructions conditions that exist
September 1 – November 4, 2022
New York

The expression “Primero soy Boricua” resounds in the personal exhibition of Juan Sánchez Ricaninstructions conditions that exist at Hutchinson Modern. Twenty-four collage, painting, printmaking and mixed media works, spanning from the 1980s to his most recent output in 2022, provide insight into the artist’s trajectory, including his activism, political views and his lived experience as a Brooklyn-born Boricua. Sánchez borrowed the term “ricanstructions” from jazz and salsa musician Ray Barretto’s 1979 album Rican/Structure to refer to existing conditions that inform identity such as history, social and political experiences, and Sánchez’s process of adopting continental American influences as Nuyorican.

by Sanchez Ricarinstructions configure multi-layered images as a deconstruction of the Latin American sense of incompleteness due to economic and socio-political struggle. With humor and irony, Sánchez’s aesthetic embraces various elements to push the boundaries of politics by positioning Puerto Rico and Latin America at the center of the conversation. He strives to create a paradox between economic disparity, colonialism and decolonization, revealing the deeply rooted Catholicism intrinsic to his work.

Entering the gallery creates the feeling of being surrounded by Catholic altarpieces due to the large-scale paintings, Christian iconography, and the segmental arch of the wooden panels. One could feel the artist’s meditative process through the musical lyrics and spontaneous poetry written on the fresh paint of each canvas, while his collages allow us to observe the deconstruction of Catholic, Taino and African symbols and cultural traditions. through their juxtaposition with comic book and television characters.

One of the central paintings titled confused paradise (1995), is a word game that turns dice life into a game, both played and wagered. Following the structure of a cross made from New York City subway maps, the painting features two wrestlers resembling El Santo, the iconic Mexican wrestler of the 1970s, carrying the flag of Puerto Rico during the Puerto Rican Day Parade. At the top of the painting, the portrait of Jesus Christ appears on a twenty dollar bill surrounded by several Mickey Mouse characters, who also appear at the bottom. The contiguity of these religious and popular icons problematizes oppressive and inhumane practices such as movable slavery. In the center, an upside-down palm tree stands out against a landscape of Taino symbols representing Puerto Rico’s endless cycle of dependence on the United States. The golden surface represents the limb of reality and the reconstruction of reality once learned and constantly reconfigured.

Yo soy lo that soy (1996) is an autobiographical painting in which Astro Boy, a Japanese manga character from the late 1950s, appears flying through space surrounded by shells representing stars. The fierce eyes of this character symbolize the alter ego of the artist who carries the Puerto Rican flag. In the repeated portrait, the artist was four years old and wore a costume to a toddler’s first birthday party. In each image, the artist has circled himself to emphasize his innocence and shyness in an existential moment where Sánchez reaffirms his identity by creating a hypertext of his origin story.

Like a mix of salsa and jazz, the exhibition invites us to observe the musicality of Sánchez’s visual compositions through their whispered memories beneath layers of color, gesture and hypertext. Located in the back room of the gallery, you have to strive to discover Young Warrior Lords (2009). This archival pigment print on watercolor paper delicately reveals the image of Pablo “Yoruba” Guzmán, Juan González and Iris Morales, former members of the Young Lords, which was a national political and civil rights organization focused on fighting for neighborhood empowerment and empowerment. determination for Puerto Ricans in the United States. The ideology of the Young Lords is visible through the superimposed layers depicting socialist iconography as a tribute to their resistance and solidarity.

More salsa music influences are emerging in By Tito Puente (2001–02). You can almost hear the luminous ostinato patterns of the timpani resonate through the repeating images of Saint Martin de Porres, patron saint of social justice, placed on a grid and crowned by the mirror image of Tito Puente. Between the image of Puente there is a rosary made of cowries and beads in the colors of the Puerto Rican flag. The painting, however, diverges into a circle divided by four double-pointed arrows, a Santería symbol representing the intersecting worlds and the possibility of going in different directions as a sudden and strong rimshot, a commentary on the complexity of the two worlds and identities commonly observed among immigrants and their future generations.

Hutchinson Modern presents Juan Sánchez’s first solo exhibition in a private Upper East Side gallery, which creates an intimate and emotionally charged space exploring Sánchez’s political history and his commitment to the sovereignty of Puerto Rico and the civil rights in general. Throughout his career, Sánchez has composed a visual melody that asks us to reassess our common notions and understanding of the multiplicity of Latin American identity.

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