Author Archives: Manuel Rodriguez

Frances Gallardo: The politics of weather.

Manuel Rodríguez-Delgado


Contemporary Art Seminar

Prof. Shane Campbell


Frances Gallardo: The politics of weather.

Review of Watchtower, Lexus Scholarships for Emerging Artists, San Juan, PR.


While in Puerto Rico during the holiday break I took a moment to see the last edition of the Lexus Fellowships for emerging artist’s exhibition. As a former recipient of this fellowship program not only did  I felt a strong responsibility to visit it,  also, Frances Gallardo, one of the most promising artists of my generation was selected as one of this last year’s recipients. Frances Gallardo’s work is heavily grounded in what I could best describe as Hispanic matriarchal dynamics. From sewing, to cooking, to giant paper cutouts that resemble traditional embroidery, her work constantly harkens activities commonly understood as feminine, while engaging greater social political issues proper to Puerto Rico.

Her Showcase at the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico (MAPR) consisted of a Potemkin sized wall assembly composed of 16 4’x4’ frames saturated with graphic information. A whirlwind of cutout paper propels itself from the lower regions of the assembly and gradually seems to engulf a structure that resembles both a parking lot and a public housing complex. In Puerto Rico, most of the parking lots & public housing complexes were built during the 1950’ under operation Bootstrap, the United State’s Federal Government initiative for the rapid industrialization of the island.  Both the housing project & parking lot could be seen as perhaps the most relevant metaphor concerning the current political reality of the island. The parking lot as the container structure for a decaying suburban paradigm born in a foreign postwar economy. And the housing project as a twisted reflection of the Commonwealth status of the island, as the interim solution that gradually became a greater ill that the one it was meant to treat.

While looking at the project I could not get a song out of my head: Temporal, which translated to English loosely means cyclone or hurricane. It is an old Bomba song which is part of a grater style of Puertorrican Afro-Caribbean music. The song goes:


“Temporal, temporal, allá viene el temporal.

Temporal, temporal, allá viene el temporal.

Qué será de mi Borinquen, cuando llegue el temporal.

Qué será de Puerto Rico, cuando llegue el temporal.”  


“Hurricane, hurricane, there comes the hurricane.

Hurricane, hurricane, here comes the hurricane.

What will become of our Island when the hurricane comes?

What will become of our Island when the hurricane comes?” 


This style of music was born in the mid 19th century. Given its humble origins it is unclear who wrote it, but it is known that it came from Loiza, a traditionally Afro-Hispanic region of the island. The song was most likely written in 1899 in the aftermath of the San Ciriaco Hurricane, which devastated the island. At the time the island was a poor spoil of war of the US, with a delicate agrarian economy that was devastated by the hurricane. Under this light, the symbolic content of Watchtower becomes available. The icons of Puertorrican social and economic stagnation are not being devoured by the hurricane; rather, they are the hurricane. A hurricane of economic debt and crime within an ever-present political limbo.

Given the seriousness of the subject matter, it is in my opinion that perhaps the artist should have made a better choice of materials. While the cutout that comprises the main body of the whirlwind is lovely crafted, I cannot help but consider it a trivial choice. Also, the mosaic quality of the project can be visually disruptive, and it is more than obvious that the artist chose a modular configuration out of convenience rather than critical judgment.

The politics of weather take shape when the memory of a natural disaster intercepts an ongoing man made one that gradually took shape over the course of 60 years. Frances work is ultimately a statement than a conjecture, and as such it operated in a very sublime way.

Photo courtesy of the artist

365 Days in the Tropical Forest (2013), by Chemi Rosado-Seijo

Chemi Rosado, one of the most respected Puerto Rican contemporary artists

Jesus Bubu Negron at Roberto Paradise- Dec 18- Feb 30



Alex Chitty: The computer monitor showed a turquoise swatch beside a pink seahorse

Alex Chitty:

The computer monitor showed a turquoise swatch beside a pink seahorse.

How did you know you wanted to be an artist?

I didn’t know right away, as a child I always drew, as I guess every child does. Coming of age I never saw it as a career in the conventional sense, it was never presented to me as such, but I still kept on drawing and messing around with materials. Now I can say that I always saw the world thru the eyes of the artist, even though my education was in science.

I was always curious about stuff, the inner workings of things. I take science to be perhaps the most pragmatic means to approach true understanding of things; yet, it is such a lonely field, lonely and rigid. I guess I wanted a place of speculation, that why I never made a decision about being an artist until 2004.


What happened in 2004?

While I was stationed in the Pacific, studying sea horse populations, I got a call and was told that one of my best friends died of a cocaine overdose. He was the kind of guy that everyone liked, very popular, charming and friendly. At the moment I had been out of college for three years. I thought that my friend died, he was so young. What about t all he wanted? All he desired? He didn’t get much time, all he was went with him, so I thought maybe I should try this art thing, see where it takes me. At the time I had only three months before most MFA deadlines, so I just applied, and waited.

Are there more artists in your family?

Wow, I had never thought about that…

Coming to think about it, yes. You see, my family came from Great Britain, my grandmother was a potter during the arts and crafts movement, and my grandfather was a woodworker. He owned a furniture factory that was pressed into service during the Second World War. He made propellers for military aircraft.

Does your background in science play a role in your work?

Both art and science are similar processes.  I would say that science takes more creativity that most scientists would admit to. The both deal with things not readily available, which is that which cannot be seen, grasped. Yet, science is kind of rigid

I probably came to science because I was always curious about the world. As a child, my family and me used to spend a lot of time outside. I was always curious about things, about the phenomena I saw. I wanted to understand it, I wanted to find out why things where the way they are. That’s what brought me to science, until I found out that I could harness art in a similar way.


What is a favorite color?

Right now, I would say it is a sort of faded turquoise, as if it had been sitting on the sun for decades.



Looking at your work, it seems to me that it thrives in contrast / eclecticism, found material and intervention. Would this be the right assumption?

The thing for me is that even if the material choice “found objects” seems arbitrary, once I arrange them they seem to have always belonged together, as if by this point they belonged to greater collective system of signifiers. I get satisfaction from fitting together objects that were not meant to be, and in the process discover that maybe, they do. So, in a way it’s about display and archetypes. I find interesting how things are displayed in stores, museums, etc.And how we come to expect certain objects to be displayed.


 How would you describe your creative process?

I start out with an “umbrella” idea, and from the process of making, other ideas unfold. It sort of feels like an essay, it’s a very dynamic process, like placing one sentence after the other. It doesn’t necessarily have to make sense; yet, every part is apiece of the whole.

What role does the image play in the Cutoutseries? Do you have a method for selecting them?

I am constantly collecting images from old books and magazines, as well as pictures from my cellphone and stages images. The picture, in a sort of question-answer relationship, formulates the way I cut these images. I am interested in how much of the image can be taken away without loosing meaning. Yet, the patterns in the cutouts are informed by the image, so in a way I want to create a device for the disclosing of images thru patterns.

In the Plant Drawings you are painting over book images. The way you do this seems very precise, in some of them it even seems as if you were revealing something by covering it. Would you talk more about this?


When you look at the history of photography, for a while the only way you could generate an image was by removing most of the background in such a way as to accentuate the subject. So I would say that disclosure by concealment is not a new device, but it is one I am very interested in.Concealment also acts as a lure, for example, you never seem to noticegraffiti until another artist paints over it, or the city covers it up. So, in a way I am interested in the way we approach images as graphic information, and how we process that information.

Abstraction attempted to remove the representational image, by condensing the subject. Can I condense the subject by hiding it? Can I remove the image from itself? These are the sorts of things going thru my head. I intend to manipulate in such a way as to transform it into something else, into another self.


I am interested in the way we approach images as graphic information, and how we process that information.


What are your influences? References?

Photoshop, Google image search, how images are developed and disseminated. The Arts and Crafts Movement and non-fiction literature.

Any plans for the future?

I have a show in January at Level 3 Gallery. I want to keep teaching but not teach too much, Iwant to live in the desert, I want to raise goats. I really don’t have specific plans right now; it is a moment of transition. But as far as the art world is concerned, I have a show in January.








Alexandra Chitty is a Chicago Based artist and faculty member at the Print Media Department in The School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Manuel Rodríguez-Delgado 2332374

Prof. Shane Campbell

Zoe Leonard: Midas middle finger.





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I wonder if success in the art world buys the artist the freedom to do whatever. Perhaps, once an artist is minted onto the art world, validated by Biennials, and consumed by big names, a sort of Midas effect takes place, in which anything produced by the later is considered intellectual product, no matter how barren it may be.

I consider Zoe Leonard’s presentation at the AIC to be offensive. Mainly because I do not need to be lectured on the working mechanics of a Camera Obscura. As I understand it, the optical phenomenon taking place within it is the same regardless if it executed in Paris or NY. I also question both her capacity and authenticity as an artist with this project. In her lecture, she described how her work took a turn when she started “experimenting” with pinhole projections, and how the space becomes “…a device for the temporal perceptive manipulation” and “a social gathering place”. If the artist is being genuine about these statements, and I hope not, I wonder if she even considered how painfully silly and ingenuous this train of thought is, especially in today’s day and age.

Attached is a web page containing the work of fellow artist and photographer, Herminio Rodriguez. We used to share a studio space back in my country. He decided, out of fun, to convert his studio into a camera obscura. The projection on the walls was that of the low income housing project directly in front of us. I remember during the opening, how the people of the housing project flocked the studio, amazed by the projections. It was a beautiful moment; these people never had a proper school education, didn’t understand the optical mechanics at work, and waited in lines to see the buildings they lived in projected in walls. If Zoe truly wanted to generate a gathering space of dialog, my former studio partner achieved it for real, for a humble studio in front of a low income housing project in Puerto Rico is not the same as a high end gallery in Paris.