Omar Velázquez: Desde la Cuneta

There can be no doubt of my admiration for Omar's work, I even own Polizontes, a very impressive woodcut he made nearly three years ago. Back then I felt Omar was probably the most relevant "visual" artist of our little colony, his use of printmaking techniques and socio- political imagery on recycled materials has always been right on target. But, his recent show (Desde la cuneta...) I could not grasp. To be honest, some images that have been published online so far look much better than the actual show. The main problem is how uncomfortably crammed everything is the tiny space of Galería Guatibiri. During opening night it was difficult to tell whether the stench coming from the oversized and seemingly improvised shelter-installation was intentional, a byproduct of the reuse of found materials or if it was just B.O. of sweaty spectators in a typical humid Caribbean evening. Works on paper are powerful yet somewhat unresolved due to the uneven interplay among scale, medium and splatter. The outcome is familiar and ambivalent. Not to say the resulting aesthetic is unacceptable or inappropriate to the subject matter, but there was a real cardboard shelter in the street a couple of steps from the gallery-- mattress included-- and having seen it on my way to the gallery downplayed Velázquez intentions. Even more so when the title of the show, no pun intended, includes the word cuneta (gutter or cradle). Other objects in the installation include a flickering television and a dirty lamb carpet—the colony’s emblematic animal in its coat of arms—that looks like a caricature of infantile commodity for viewers to step on. A life - size Puertorican flag made with recycled plastic cups —in a “country of litterers—is overkill and almost impossible to look at; once again, blame it on scale in relation to the exhibition space. 

At times Desde la Cuneta feels too theatrical, dramatic and disjointed for my taste. To the socially alienated though, the experience of seeing the edible bread-man installation, along with a makeshift shelter, might be overwhelming. On the positive side, the artist successfully presents the new Puertorican reality with a crude discourse. Velázquez not only positions himself at the forefront of printmaking in the island, he kidnaps its mummified remains from the frozen cultural discourse of museums and cultural institutions and crashes it deep into the gutter, drags it along piss and junk, and leaves it tainted with the stench of dried up beer. Fitting enough to what Puerto Rico has become. Desde la cuneta is a powerful show in the wrong exhibition space.

Observations on Desde la Cuneta by Omar Velázquez at Galería Guatibiri (a production of The Store House Group)   
Javier Román is an artist, architect and editor of Entorno
more images at Repuesto

related links: Papel y Ciudad en el  MUAC    La incoherencia de lo Coherente en Prinardi