Puerto Rico Comes To London In New Group Exhibition
ArtLyst Review By Sharon Strom
We know London summers leave much to be desired weather-wise. Why else would Londoners flock en masse to sunnier climates during the warmest months of the year? But, if like many, you find your purse strings tightly cinched up, you can find relief from the wind and rain more locally, just behind the doors of Josh Lilley Gallery tucked in the heart of Fitzrovia, where an unexpectedly warm breeze is blowing.
Summer months on the art calendar in London are notorious for their group exhibitions. They often revolve around an over-simplified theme such as “Art and Architecture” or assemble artworks under an umbrella term like “New Paintings”. The 2012 summer has especially seen the obvious themes of “The Olympics” or “This is London” encompassing and labelling artistic talent. However, Josh Lilley Gallery offers something a bit different from the rest, doing their group exhibition on a level much more captivating.
For their 25th exhibition, Josh Lilley Gallery has invited the Roberto Paradise Gallery from San Juan, Puerto Rico to curate an entire exhibition of their artists in the London space. Gallery director Francisco Rovira Rullán has brought works by seven lively artists from his representation, including Jose Lerma, Hector Madera, Jesus ‘Bubu’ Negron, Jonathan Torres, Fernando Pintado, Chaveli Sifre, and Juni Figueroa. With objects ranging from sculpture to painting to sound works to digital photographs, there is certainly something here for everyone.
Upon entering on opening night, this Noho gallery somehow seemed less static and more carefree than usual. Visual references to warmer seas in a turquoise blue canvas and an anchor weighing down a painting mirrored across the upper gallery transport viewers to a warmer climate with images of sun and palm trees. You can almost smell the sea air on the artists as they drift about the room with more than unnatural bounce in their step.
Embracing the tropical mood, private viewers partook in a fruit pyramid-turned-fountain that pumped a dangerously strong concoction of rum punch, that alone would make you forget the dreary London streets outside and drift off to a beach holiday daydream. As an artwork constructed on site, Londoners were surprised to find such a variety of fresh melon was available at a moment’s notice.
Though colourful and often light-hearted, the artworks still held their weight in relevance. In the lower gallery, artist Jesús ‘Bubu’ Negrón presents a cartooned pin-up girl in enamel on wood, a work called Chica Cherry Master (2012), which remarks on the “processes of legitimization” artists must go through to become successful and recognized. His series of digital prints on an adjacent wall weave a narrative of the artist’s practice, his personal story of a place and its people displayed conveniently in “travel sized” images.
Also in the lower gallery, who could miss the extraordinary blow-up bust of famous boxer Emanuel Augustus wedged between floor and ceiling? Clearly, this bulbous structure made from paper and balloons could only have been constructed on site. Or what can we make of Jonathan Torres’s odd multicoloured feline creatures that swing from the rafters? And how about Chaveli Sifre’s trashcan filled with discarded fresh flowers that strangely seems to be making noise? These artists’ creative humour is endearing, and moreover, welcome.
With this exhibition, Josh Lilley Gallery takes a progressive leap across the Atlantic pond, to shake hands with a vibrant group of artists. The gallery sets a precedent for artistic exchange, and brings a much-needed breath of fresh air to the London art scene. In light of the Olympic Games around the corner, an art exhibition such as this seems a good way to jump-start the cultural exchange bound to happen over the coming weeks. For Josh Lilley, the exchange certainly doesn’t end there, with the London gallery making an appearance at Roberto Paradise in San Juan in 2013.
Words Sharon Strom © ArtLyst 2012
Roberto Paradise: An exhibition from San Juan, Puerto Rico runs from 13th July – 11th August 2012.