Friday, October 16, 2009


jeffery mcnary

Central to the art of Josue Pellot is, “Questioning cultural structures would be overall. Then, focusing on political and familial experiences,” he says. This is confidently rolled out in his exhibition of “New Works”, currently in the Michigan Avenue Galleries of the Chicago Cultural Center. Here, the artist utilizes an array of mediums and formats, establishing a kind of ‘ethnic modernism’ and delineating linkages often overlooked. A Chicago artist with Puerto Rican roots, he has clearly found ways, through these works, to connect figuratively and creatively his heritage and the American experience, with both pop culture and consumerism.

Pellot’s installation, “Detail of 1493”, uses neon and argon lights to present a three panel historical tale. It begins with a Taino Indian, an indigenous figure, standing on the shore viewing the arrival of three sailing vessels, and concludes in the third panel with a conquistador thrusting his sword into a prostrate Taino figure. “The neon pieces were fully realized and produced after I re-encountered the facade of a Liquor store (styled like a Spanish fortress)”, he explains. “Each sign hung on its own window at the store next to big orange signs that read things like 'Milk 2.99', RC cola .99, eggs, etc.” One sees more than the obvious in what he refers to as an, “index to a story”. Why the neon? “I thought neon would be a great medium to talk about a consumed history, and when the liquor store came in to play it was a must,” he shares.

Another such “index” emerges in,‘Temporary Allegiance’, an amalgamation of U.S. and Puerto Rican flags almost creeping from a large plastic garbage bag. “The floor piece is the end result of a site specific installation project. The 15x25 foot flag was hung on 70 feet high on a light post that divided the highway in Puerto Rico. It lasted about 12 hours before city officials castrated the seam of the flag and put a few extra holes in it for me,” says Pellot. “I waited every day at city officials offices till I finally got the flag back, cut up and stuffed into a black trash bag. And the castrated seam now wraps around that post to this date.” Both installations secrete the artist’s aesthetic argument inviting the viewer to digest the connections of colonialism and consumerism as being more than just inconsequential. A story is being told here.

Pellot’s oeuvre has been influenced by that of Felix Gonzalez Torres, David Hammons and Tom Friedman. “These would be 3 artists who have had an impacted on me. A mixture of humor, politics and unquestionable creativity,” he says.

In his large photograph, ‘Dama a Caballo’, the artist demonstrates his broad range of skills and technique. Here he builds upon a classical work of another Puerto Rican artist, Jose Campeche. Yet true to his internal coherence, Pellot updates his work via a Puerto Rican background rather than the European landscape of the original.

How then, does an artist with such deep political convictions brace for the difficulty of rendering art which does more than lecture? Does the ‘work’ fight back? “More often than not I run with a 'bad' piece to the end. I've spent hours on pieces that will decorate my studio”, he says. Concluding, “The end result can either surprise me or lead to work that does feel right.”

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