Fifth Biennial features artists from five countries and Puerto Rico
The fifth annual Bronx Latin American Art Biennial opened on September 9th at BronxArtSpace on East 140th Street in Mott Haven, featuring 12 artists from Latin America and the Bronx. The event’s curators, Luis Stephenberg and Alexis Mendoza, decided on this year’s theme, “I am one of those people that…,” to focus on the way each of the artists conceives their art.
The exhibit, which was launched in 2008, invites artists from across Latin America and the Bronx to submit their work.
“We are not seeking every artwork to be a portrait or self-portraits, rather to be a self-representation of the artist’s way of thinking,” Mendoza said. This year’s show, Mendoza pointed out, attracted more submissions than in any of the previous four years, drawing entries from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and Chile.
Juanita Lara, a grantwriter at the ID Studio Theater, which is located next door to the gallery, liked one physical art piece called, “Come Sit at My Kitchen Table,” by local artist Stephanie Mota.
“It reminds me of waking up really early and picking the beans and working in the field,” said Lara, who grew up in California working long days helping her family.
One of the artists, Carlos Mateu, is the muse of one of his own paintings called, “Blessing.” He chose the name, he said, because, it aptly describes his own life.
“I smile all the time, even when I’m struggling,” said Mateu, who lives in Brooklyn. He portrayed himself nude, to show he has nothing to hide. “I have a lot of things protecting me,” he said. He recalled that as a child growing up in Cuba, he traded his drawings for snacks. Mateu’s painting style is comprised in large part of straight lines, which lend his pieces a mechanical quality he calls “geometric pop.” After 40 years creating art, Mateu said he receives signals from the universe that appear to him as symbols of occurrences from his lifetime.
“A tarot card reader told me that my doors are open,” he said. In the “Blessing” painting, golden keys float across the sky. “I just have to choose the key to lead me to the door I want.”
Local artist SashaLynillo said she sketches her subjects at events and public venues. “It can be as complicated as drawing a protest, or someone sleeping on the train,” she said. She used a marker and notepad to draw one of her pieces during a Black Lives Matter protest. She says she aims to put those who view her art into the moment. “Capturing the best of that moment is important,” she said. “If I have to take a picture, it’s only for reference.”
The Occupy Wall Street protests inspired her next piece, which shows a crowd of masked protestors, one of whom is holding a sign that reads, “I did not go to college to be on food stamps.”
Her “The Financial Bull” is a sketch inspired by the famous sculpture of a charging bull near Wall Street, by Arturo di Monica, which has come to symbolize the financial sector’s power. The man in her piece wears a suit and a bull mask, she said, to represent Wall Street workers. Her bull places money into a piggy bank, which can be for savings or investments. Some may interpret that as a comment on greed, she said, but insists it is open to interpretation.
The Bronx Latin American Art Biennial will be shown at BronxArtSpace at 305 E. 140 St. through October 8.