This year's Whitney Biennial lands at a controversial time in the US. Occupy Museums, a group borne out of the Occupy Wall Street decided to focus on debt as a theme this biennial. They had a call for Debt Fair art submissions that culminated in choosing 30 artists to exhibit at the Whitney Biennial. Included in their debt theme was a special call for Puerto Rican artists affected by the Puerto Rican debt crisis. The selected artists were:
Occupy Museums's mission is to call out economic and social injustice propagated by institutions of art and culture. They aim to reinforce the idea that art is not a luxury. The 2016 announcement of Puerto Rico's inability to pay back it's debt was not a total surprise, as unemployment and foreclosures had been rising on the Island. However, the citizens are left with most of the consequences for the debt. For the Debt Fair, Occupy Museums talks about the number of American artists who gradate from MFA programs in debt and what that means for the future of art. To learn more about the artists included, check out their links above. For further information about the Puerto Rican Debt Crisis this Huffington Post article is a good place to start.
Jose Luis Vargas is a Puerto Rican artist who creates with the supernatural in mind. We recently got to stretch one of his massive early works and the results were eerily outstanding. The canvas, dated and signed in 2001, was so huge that it would not fit in our workshop! We ended up building the custom hardwood stretcher and stretching the canvas outside before it was delivered by Art Delivery Van.
Vargas's career began at the Art Students League in Old San Juan. After completing two years of study there, he attended Pratt Institute, graduating with a BA in Painting. Subsequently, he attended the Royal College of London earning an MA. He has taught workshops all over the US, England and Puerto Rico throughout his career. Since 2000, he's taken a serious interest in community radio and continues to contribute to the art space in the audio medium. Vargas's radio interests also led him to Mexico City to study sound art. Besides teaching classes at the School of Visual Arts in New York City and the University of Puerto Rico-Río Piedras, he also founded The Museum of Supernatural History. The Museum of Supernatural History is a multi-genre performance project that brings together artists of different disciplines.
Some distinguishing features of Vargas's artwork include humor and allusions to the supernatural. He frequently uses comic book inspired dialogue bubbles to convey light messages from the monsters that frequently grace his work. “In mythology, monsters rise when there’s a crisis." Vargas stated in a 2015 interview. His work is full of monstrous creatures with mythological overtones and mysterious suggestions. He utilizes strong storytelling and fantastical allusions to convey his views with an accessibility that is hard to find. We were excited to stretch this Jose Luis Vargas canvas and hope to do more in the future. Currently he is represented by Roberto Paradise. To see more of his work, check out his page on Roberto Paradise's website. For our day to day happenings and to see what we're framing next, follow us on Instagram. For a quote or to check out our framing selection, stop by the workshop for a visit!
Another original Jose Luis Vargas print.