CARIBBEAN TRILOGY 

TRILOGIA DEL CARIBE

SEPT 15, – FEB 04, 2024

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 Rafael Villamil
CARIBBEAN TRILOGY / TRILOGIA DEL CARIBE
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 Rafael Villamil
CARIBBEAN TRILOGY / TRILOGIA DEL CARIBE
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 Rafael Villamil
CARIBBEAN TRILOGY / TRILOGIA DEL CARIBE
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 Rafael Villamil
CARIBBEAN TRILOGY / TRILOGIA DEL CARIBE
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Shadow

Curated by Andres Villamil & Nitza Tufiño

Rafael Villamil is one of the grand masters of Puerto Rican art. Today, he is virtually unknown. In Puerto Rico, if you ask around informally among people about his work, the responses are practically the same: most have not even heard of him. Older people may remember the exhibition that caused a considerable stir in 1961. And that’s it. So the collection at the Museo de Arte Contemporaneo of the last twenty-five years of Villamil’s work opened the box of surprises that held the mysticism of a significant national and international career. 

Rebirth of a Legend after the Electric Chair of Censorship / READ MORE

The immense silence surrounding this work is only comparable to the circumspect career of a ground-breaking artist who has been mindful of an essential aesthetic, formally and philosophically, while paying no mind to the vagaries of the market. We are in the presence of an artist with fifty years of history who continues to work tirelessly, creating art that is profound in all its facets. How could Villamil have gone unnoticed for so long, even by those who follow art more closely? A chain of acts of censorship sent the artist first into exile and then into ascetic reclusion, and the consequence has been our ignorance of Villamil’s vibrantly vital work.

Rafael Villamil’s first work dates from 1954—that it sprang from the deity’s brow is confirmed by Villamil’s direct insertion in the Avant-Garde. The intellectual proclivities of the then-young Villamil led him to devour the Avant-Garde of the time. While he studied architecture at the Georgia Institute of Technology, besides acquiring a thorough knowledge of the latest trends in his field, Villamil cultivated his pictorial work not as a pastime but as an expressive need parallel to his architectural activity. In 1957 he was already attaching objects to his paintings and using industrial materials such as car paint, wrought iron, ornamental millwork, and plastic resin.
In 1961 Villamil, along with his friend and fellow artist Rafael Ferrer, had his first show at the Museum of Art, Anthropology, and History at the University of Puerto Rico. The exhibition was titled “Two Painters,” it turned out to be the most disquieting exhibition of the 1960s in Puerto Rico. There were protests before the museum, and the event moved from the art pages to the headlines of the day’s newspapers.
This exhibition was seminal in more ways than one. The simple title was a kind of morsel thrown out to make spectators pause to think about the forms used in the exhibition since the show included painting, “picto-sculpture,” and sculpture. Besides, the paintings and sculptures were placed on or between greased wood frames in a labyrinth designed by Villamil. The viewer was forced to address questions such as what is and is not painting, what is art, and what kind of society produced this art. Did not arranging these works in this aggressive and greasy environment presage the installations to come on the scene in the mid-1960s? Villlamil’s work had the air of a surrealist nightmare, with a gestural composition akin to the most corrosive expressionism. And as a crowning touch, aside from these two razor-edged tendencies, industrial materials dealt a final blow to the generally accepted notion of what was permissible as art in Puerto Rico in those years. A case in point is El Rey y sus
siete reinas [The King and his Seven Queens] (1957), which, although not part of the exhibition, is perhaps the most emblematic of those aspects during the period. In this work, we are faced with a fearsome image, a kind of monstrous anthropomorphic figure with a Kafkaesque insect face, holding photographs of sexual content in one of its’ sketchy arms. This image would provoke total censorship in an exhibition in Washington. The baroque accumulation of sinuous textural ornamentation creates a hallucinating topography that intentionally intensifies the feeling of distastefulness in the spectator.
This critical vein in Villamil’s work has persisted in different ways. It can be seen in development in the results of those earlier years, such as A-1-3, also exhibited at the University in 1961, and in later works such as Bonaparte in Action (1964) or Go Join Othello in Venice (1965), among many others.
The result of Villamil and Ferrer’s show for the viewers at that time was what could be expected: total revulsion and no earlier referents on the island. It should be borne in mind that the Avant-Garde was a tiny minority. If to this day, there has not been a thorough study of surrealism in the likes of Julio Tomas Martinez, beginning as early as 1910, or the flat painting, cubist in origin, of Narciso Dobal around 1930, and the cubism and abstraction of Rene Golman Trujillo, also in 1930, Villamil and Ferrer were much less palatable for the public of 1961, even though other artists had been cultivating tendencies such as abstract expressionism from the late 1940s, among them Olga Albizu and Julio Rosado Del Valle, and the unleash surrealism of the fifties, with the Mirador Azul group, inspired by Eugenio Fernandez Granell. Possibly the only artist besides Villamil and Ferrer who attached objects to his works then was Roberto Alberty, known as Boquio. For the bourgeois spectator of the time, it was unthinkable to acquire a Ferrer sculpture, welded out of automotive junk, or a Villamil “picto-sculpture”, with balustrade posts or parts of furniture or other recontextualized discarded paraphernalia, which represented a critical questioning of what materials could be used in a work of art.

EL MUSEO DEL BARRIO:  September 12, 2020 – January 17, 2021

TALLER BORICUA: A POLITICAL PRINTSHOP IN NEW YORK
*Online Exhibition*

Taller Boricua Gallery

1680 Lexington Ave.

New York, NewYork, 10029

RT Printmakers Studio

Visits  by Appointment 121 East 106 Street

212-831-4333

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Taller Boricua Board of  Directors

Marcos Dimas

Executive Director

Dan Comas

Chairman of the Board

Nitza Tufiño

Secretary

Jose Carrero

Treasurer

Ethan Casey

Humberto Cintron

William Cruz Colon

Roger Hernanadez

Hiram Vidal, Esq.

All programs are made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, the NYC Department of Youth & Community Development, UMEZ Cultural Aid Fund, the NYC Council Deputy Speaker, Hon. Diana Ayala and the Puerto Rican Workshop Inc..