COLLECTIVE MEMORIES/
PERSONAL CARTOGRAPHIES:
PRINTS BY DIOGENES BALLESTER,
JUAN SANCHEZ, AND JULIO VALDEZ

Co-Sponsored by the Black & Hispanic Studies Department
February 6 to March 4, 2004

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The work of artists Diogenes Ballester, Juan Sanchez and Julio Valdez, each a product of New York City’s Caribbean diaspora, explores issues of identity and memory associated with personal journeys and transplanted cultures. Drawing on a lively printmaking tradition that flourishes in Puerto Rico, these artists expand and embellish the printmakers’ art, creating layered, textured images that draw on island symbols, folkloric motifs, and Christian iconography. Within this heady mix, they incorporate fragments of discordant urban images to produce a new and vibrant vocabulary spanning their individual and collective experiences.

Collective Memories/Personal Cartographies: Prints by Diogenes Ballester, Juan Sanchez, and Julio Valdez will be at the Mishkin Gallery from Friday, February 6 through Thursday, March 4, 2004. Opening Reception Thursday, February 5, 6 to 8 pm.

Julio Valdez, who was born in the Dominican Republic, explicitly aligns himself with his island home, often depicting the shape of a body or a head superimposed on a map of the Dominican Republic. The crying baby of The Grey Echo IV, 2003 rests on a splattered outline of the island, suggesting both trauma and new beginnings. In Valdez’s paintings the primordial island is further evoked through its birds and lizards, the indigenous flora and fauna, while a recurrent motif of thorns suggests both religious sacrifice and the pain of slavery.

Diogenes Ballester’s works here include  Fertility Series, an installation of small, unprinted wood blocks laid out in the shape of a cross. Bypassing the printing process, Ballester colors these wood surfaces with charcoal and wax. The artist’s recent work also includes inkjet prints of Paris, where he lived and worked for a time before returning to his studio in Spanish Harlem.

Juan Sanchez, honors his dual Puerto Rican/American identity by naming his works: “Ricanstructions.” Large and luscious, Sanchez’ prints pay homage to Puerto Rico’s past as well as the artist’s present life in New York City (he teaches at Hunter College) through the use of upside down images of palm trees, family photographs, feathers, and paint. In Victoria de Samatracia, Sanchez takes a classical Greek theme and reworks it with a Caribbean flair and sensibility. Sanchez frequently splices documentary images with spiral patterns and other Taino symbols that convey a sense of historical continuity.

The work of all three artists has been widely exhibited in the United States, in Central and South America, as well as in Italy, France and Bulgaria and the Netherlands. All three are exponents of art that bridges “high art” and folkloric traditions with ease and grace.

The Mishkin Gallery is located at Baruch College, 135 E. 22nd Street, New York City. Gallery hours are Monday – Friday, Noon to 5 pm; Thursday, Noon to 7 pm.

All shows are free and open to the public.


Zane Berzins
News Manager