An Uncertain State gathers and weaves the works of a group of artists whose practices meander through territorial retrieval, sensorial awareness and contemporary notions of tropical aesthetics.
The exhibition is imagined as opening a discussion on the idea of what an uncertain state can be — both territorially, in reference to Puerto Rico’s associated relationship to the United States, and somatically, as in a state of being. The title is taken from an article published in 1983 by National Geographic — The Uncertain State of Puerto Rico — which gives a third-worldesque overview of Puerto Rico’s economic and sociopolitical dynamics of the time. Now taken almost forty years after, and in the context of the natural and political disasters that have kept inflicting the island nation in recent years, the notion surfaces that perhaps uncertainty is embraceable, in so far and as long as the opposite — certainty — is colonially defined.
The exhibition aims to rethink the gallery space as a tropical-infused sensorial environment: a microcosm that elicits a state of reception, an anti-productive tropicality, a gateway to kinship and the opening of the senses — all seen here as expanded forms of identity, and of resistance.
Through her scent-driven works, Chaveli Sifre invokes the non-static, permeating power of air and atmosphere — by the agency of aromas, auras, breeze or humidity — as a subtle subversion mechanism informed by ancestral Caribbean care and healing knowledge. Jorge González centers his practice around Boricua (Puerto Rican) folklore and craft, the sharing of know-how, and the act of weaving — that of natural fibers and community — creating an inclusive presence of the indigenous within the modern. The often jaunty works of Radamés “Juni” Figueroa, involving plants, balls, spiked tropical fruit fountains and typical miami style windows are a celebration of tropical living, while also a defiant stance against docility and well-manneredism. The sound works of Joel Rodríguez offer a filtered gaze of paradise, undercoated in political reverberations, mirroring the work of duo Melissa Raymond and René Sandín on the sensorial and geopolitical properties of color through the reproduction of color schemes found along Puerto Rico’s roads and utility poles.
The approach taken here is that of an “aménagement” of CLARK’s gallery — seeking to arrange and inhabit the space with the artworks — invoking a gateway to the Caribbean. By way of juxtaposing the works, allowing them to overlap and come together, the spatial boundaries normally given to artworks are blurred in favor of a communal, compounded perspective and portrayal of the Puerto Rican archipelago. One where the senses are summoned towards an approach to understanding land and identity.
— Melissa Raymond and René Sandín
JORGE GONZÁLEZ SANTOS (b. 1981, San Juan, Puerto Rico)
Jorge González Santos’ practice calls on Borikua (Puerto Rican) material culture to bridge Indigenous and modern ways of living and making. In response to the lack of everyday and academic knowledge and spaces for Borikua practices and history, in 2014 he established Escuela de Oficios, a space for collective learning that advocates and promotes the work of Indigenous knowledge holders of the Borikua archipelago, through convivial and communal forms of production. His work has been exhibited at the Chicago Architecture Biennial, the Whitney Biennial, in Documenta 14, and at Embajada gallery in Puerto Rico. In 2022 he was awarded the United States Artist Fellowship.
CHAVELI SIFRE (b.1987, Würzburg, Germany) (she/they)
Chaveli Sifre’s work centers healing practices, the sense of smell, botany, and the belief systems constructed around them. Interested in intersensorial entanglement as knowledge production, she creates installations, scents, paintings, and performative participatory rituals that recover the long-lost intersections between science, spirituality, perfumery, medicine, magic, and care. Sifre has exhibited in TBA21’s Meandering, Cordova; at Martin Gropius Bau and Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin; Museo de Arte Contemporáneo and Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, in San Juan; at Centro de Desarrollo de las Artes Visuales, in Cuba; Bienal Tropical del Caribe, I &II, Puerto Rico; at LACE, Los Angeles; and through Josh Lilley Gallery, London.
MELISSA RAYMOND (b. 1980, Montreal, Québec) & RENÉ SANDÍN (b. 1980, San Juan, Puerto Rico)
Melissa Raymond and René Sandín have been presenting work as a duo since 2009. Working through processes of encounter, documentation and reproduction, and from the coalescence of backgrounds in urban planning and art conservation, respectively, their artistic practice shows a unique approach to notions of territorial identity and tropicality. In recent years, their work has focused on the presence of color in the municipal landscapes of Puerto Rico, revealing a triangular relationship between land, painting and a sense of Puerto Ricanness. Their work has been presented at the Abrons Arts Center in New York, at VisArts in Maryland, Untitled Art Miami, Projet Casa in Montreal and at the Museo de Arte in Puerto Rico, and through galleries and events including exhibitions with Kilómetro, Embajada and El Lobi, and the 2da Gran Bienal Tropical. They are based in Montreal, Québec.
JOEL RODRÍGUEZ VARGAS (b. 1980, Puerto Rico)
Joel Rodríguez Vargas works mostly with sound through site specific interventions, installation, abstract composition and improvisation using electronic and musique concrete methods in order to explore abstraction, time, memory and space. His work has been presented at Nada House in Governor’s Island and through exhibitions with Embajada gallery in Puerto Rico. Recently he has been presenting sound happenings in natural settings in Puerto Rico.
RADAMÉS “JUNI” FIGUEROA (b. 1982, Puerto Rico)
Radamés “Juni” Figueroa builds systems that evoke and celebrate life and life pondered; life lived and made corporeal through the recurrent markers in his oeuvre – climate, flora, fauna, clothing, canteens. That which marks and permeates all of his works is the idea of things tropical, of life lived in the tropics. Figueroa has created spaces in different parts of the world that promote the ready interaction between the artistic practice and its coexistence with spectators. His work has been presented in institutions and art fairs, including exhibitions at the Whitney Biennial, the High Line and the Sculpture Center in New York. In 2020 he was awarded the Illy Present Future Prize.