In his 2010 work, “Que Se Conformen Con Lo Que Sobre”;, artist Jose Buscaglia lampoons the greed of Puerto Rico’s ruling class.

Jose Buscaglia’s work critiques island’s political elite

A new exhibition at Longwood Art Gallery on the campus of Hostos Community College is showcasing the work of controversial Puerto Rican artist Jose Buscaglia.

Buscaglia, a nationalist, said his art challenges the prevailing political culture in Puerto Rico.

“The party in power desires full assimilation into the U.S., and are militaristic in this desire,” Buscaglia said. “My work is the opposite, it’s a very direct statement on the unique history and culture of Puerto Rico.”

A version of his monumental work, “La Plaza de Identidad,” commissioned in 2003 by the Puerto Rican legislature but put in storage by the pro-statehood New Progressive Party, which found it too nationalistic for public display, will be given its own room at the exhibit, “Puerto Rico in its Labyrinth: Chronicles of a Country and a World in Crisis,” which opened Monday.

The exhibit spans 40 years of work and features paintings, sculptures and texts by Buscaglia, that, according to the official exhibition postcard, “comment on the legacy of colonialism and the history of oppression in the Caribbean, the Americas and Africa in the midst of global crisis and change.”

“This is an important exhibition,” said Juanita Lanzo, head curator and director of the gallery. “The work echoes the struggles of many countries in the face of injustice and intolerance.”

Each piece of art will come with an essay explaining its significance and its relation to the exhibit as a whole. Buscaglia said the essays aim to help the audience understand the wide swath of historical and cultural references included in the exhibition.

“The audience must think about many things,” he said. “Each piece represents an intellectual challenge and a set of ideas.”

The Puerto Rican government has recently agreed to display “La Plaza de Identidad,” but has installed it on the south side of its Capitol building below the Paseo de los Presidentes, of American presidents who have visited Puerto Rico, instead of on a promontory north of the capitol as was originally intended.

Buscaglia said he is wary of his country’s future under the New Progressive Party.

“The government is more radical than it has been in the past,” Buscaglia said. “In terms of economic policies, they are sort of a Caribbean version of the Tea Party.”

One work that reflects Buscaglia’s distaste with the current regime, entitled “The Metamorphosis of a Pitiyanqui,” depicts a graphic Kafkaesque transformation of a “Pitiyanqui”, a derogatory term for a Puerto Rican who desires complete American assimilation.

The gallery will hold a public reception on Wednesday, Oct. 3, with the artist present.

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