In these turbulent and uncertain times, many of us may feel the need to seek a haven of calm and peace.
The Contemporary Art Museum of Puerto Rico (MAC for its Spanish acronym) is one such haven, where art lovers can appreciate modern art with a Puerto Rican and Latin American flair that is relevant, thought-provoking and accessible.
“We are a community-based organization, active in our local communities. We are providing a different content of contemporary art in Puerto Rico,” said Marianne Ramírez Aponte, executive director of MAC.
“We offer multi-disciplinary works in the visual arts, even sometimes performance art, that reflect the realities of the modern world in Puerto Rico,” she added.
During an interview with THE WEEKLY JOURNAL, she emphasized the museum’s focus on being inclusive and its efforts on attracting a wide audience, especially those who would not normally visit an art museum.
“We also see ourselves as a creative, productive space, where the community can engage with artists through the various workshops that we offer. Through these workshops, visitors can see art in the making, not just the final piece itself. In contemporary art, the process is sometimes more important than the end product,” Ramírez said.
MAC, founded in 1984 and located at the historic Labra building in Santurce, offers visitors modern art from the mid-20th century onwards, from Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, Latin America, and artists from these areas who have migrated to the mainland U.S. and other areas.
The museum’s open-air environment, with a brick façade and an interior courtyard with glass ceilings, allows visitors to enjoy the natural light and the artwork in a spacious setting.
Among the museum’s rich and diverse offerings are paintings, drawings, sculptures made of wood, rocks and other materials, video content and photography. Some are even interactive, helping visitors to engage with the art, rather than just seeing it passively.
Permanent collection highlights
The permanent collection includes artists such as Myrna Báez, Noemí Ruiz, Olga Albizu and Julio Rosado del Valle, all from Puerto Rico; Joscelyn Gardner, Rosa Irigoyen, Zilia Sánchez and Silvano Lora from the Caribbean; and Elías Adasme, Ismael Frigerio, Mathias Goeritz and Carlos Mérida from Latin America.
THE WEEKLY JOURNAL went for a quick walkabout with Ramírez around the museum and your correspondent was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the works and how accessible they are for visitors. As someone who is not well-versed in Puerto Rico, Caribbean and Latin American art—your correspondent is much more knowledgeable about classical art and Western European art—there was much to enjoy and appreciate at the MAC.
“Domineichon Milenium Edichion” (2000), a painting by Puerto Rican artist Nora Rodríguez Vallés, stops visitors in their tracks. Looking very much like a child’s notebook, the text in broken English, floating above a peaceful landscape, belies the satire of the words: “domineichon is in fact el lleneral stroctiur of pauer…” The original text was written by French philosopher Michel Foucault, who studied power and how human beings were made subject. The power of language is evident in the painting, as the child is clearly not understanding English and perhaps is receiving a poor education, and yet, is dominated by what is now the global lingua franca.
“Sweet Dreams are Made of This” (2004), also the title of the Eurythmics hit song in the 1980s, is a sculpture by Puerto Rican artist Jeannette Betancourt. Made from recycled rubber and tires, the piece of black, intertwined balls, reminds one at first of a beautiful necklace—until the realization sinks in that the material is toxic. Thus, the contradiction between the title and the work. Many of us aspire to have material comfort and luxuries, but we are doing so at our own peril and the planet’s.
Carlos Raquel Rivera’s work, “Hurricane from the North” (1955), is one of the Puerto Rican artist’s most well-known prints, depicting hurricane winds blowing people away. But, with the face of Death, there can be seen the rich; figures wearing sunglasses and carrying briefcases, who seem to be smiling. The Caribbean has been living with the motif of the hurricane as the harbinger of death and destruction since pre-Columbian times. Clearly, the “Hurricane of the North” is the U.S. and could the rich be those from the mainland U.S. or are they Puerto Rico’s own? This work is as relevant today as it was nearly 65 years ago.
Come to MAC and experience the art for yourselves.
Puerto Rico Contemporary Art Museum
Parada 18, Santurce
Corner of Ponce de Leon and Todd avenues
Tel: 787 977 4030
For more information, log on www.mac-pr.org