Puerto Rico Museum of Art
For a city of about 400 thousand, San Juan has an impressive line up of museums and art galleries. First stop was the Puerto Rico Museum of Art. It proved to be a perfect introduction to fine arts of the region.
Pan Nuestro (Our Daily Bread) 1905 – Ramon Frade
There were numerous interpretations and appropriations of this powerful painting by Ramon Frade, Puerto Rico’s renowned painter and architect. Frade, and the painting, are icons of Puerto Rico. The piece informs the work of many artists, and their search and affirmation for a national identity.
The original piece is in the National Gallery in Old San Juan which I visited the following day. It keeps company there with hundreds of other masterworks of Puerto Rican art.
Our Daily Bread, 1998. Victor Vazquez’ interpretation. The hand painted silver gelatin print with wax (48 x 48″) again presents the human form with plantains, an important crop and staple food of the region.
Four in a series of twelve mixed media drawings by Luis Hernandez titled A Story of Passion. Stretched along a hallway between galleries, they told an alluring story. Each measured about 22 x 28″. I liked seeing this big abstract series with a strong visual narrative.
Puerto Rico has a long history of printmaking through government sponsorship. The results of this legacy were in abundant evidence in the Museum, with one room devoted to Lootings: An Anthology of Cultural Production. This unique and quirky edition of 1000 handmade books by 52 artists and 24 authors was curated by Professor Dorian Lugo Bertran. All profits from the sale of the books went to charity.
No Crying in the Barbershop, 1994, Pepin Osorio.
This fantastic and celebratory installation speaks volumes about Puerto Rican culture and the values that inform many of its artists’ work.