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December 7 - January 27, 2007
Miguel Luciano's work addresses the playful and painful exchanges between Puerto Rico and the United States, questioning the efficacy of a colonial relationship that continues to exist today. In his first solo exhibition in New York, the artist reorganizes religious, popular and commercial iconographic imagery into fluctuating new hierarchies, as a means of re-examining the portrayal of Puerto Rican identity in popular culture from a site of resistance. (right: Plátano Pride, 2006, Digital C-print, 40 x 30 inches, Edition of 5)
The over ten recently completed paintings and works on paper on view feature appropriated popular imagery ranging from cereal boxes and children's books, to vintage consumer product and packaging labels, and contemporary Japanese manga illustrations. By reconfiguring these supposedly benign forms of cultural nostalgia in conceptually provocative ways, he exposes and subverts the messages of racism, demoralization, and alienation buried within their branding. He reinvents the images of our youth, and by telling alternative stories, he challenges the viewer to see them in a new context. In Luciano's visually arresting compositions, familiar characters are locked into unfamiliar relationships. Tainos (the indigenous people of Puerto Rico) are transformed into cosmic travelers, a normally innocuous Ronald McDonald becomes a violent Conquistador, and generic manga characters, whose strength and superiority are usually referenced by the adoption of Aryan features, turn into superheroes emboldened with special plátano powers. These syncretic depictions are layered with subtle doses of irony that often blur the fine line between humor and rage.
Recent works on view also include selections from the Pure Plantainum project, the artist's ongoing commemoration of the plátano as both a stereotypical -yet-iconic Puerto Rican and Caribbean symbol. Envisioned as both a celebration and a lament, this series of sculptures and photographs features actual green plantains plated in pure platinum. By emphasizing the pristine exterior, Luciano alludes in part to the reckless pursuit of material pleasure, while subtlety referencing the duality of outward vs. inward character, and the pre-eminence of pride over shame.
In an effort to expand critical consciousness regarding Puerto Rican identity, Luciano challenges the persistence of racial hierarchies and stereotypes as by-products of colonialism. He undermines these constructs by depicting the hybridized nature of contemporary belief systems and in doing so, expands the dialogue to include larger, transnational issues related to commodification of culture and colonial dependency.
Miguel Luciano was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1972.
He received his BFA from the New World School of the Arts, in Miami, FL
and an MFA from the University of Florida at Gainesville, FL. His work has
been exhibited internationally at The Ljubljana Biennial, Slovenia; The
San Juan Triennial, Puerto Rico; and Zverev Center for Contemporary Art,
Moscow, and nationally at The Newark Museum, NJ; Jersey City Museum, NJ;
El Museo del Barrio, NY; Bronx Museum of Art, NY; Exit Art, NY; Ronald
Feldman Fine Arts, Inc., NY and The Chelsea Art Museum, NY. Solo exhibitions
include the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture in San Juan, Puerto Rico;
Real Art Ways, Hartford, CT; and Galería Tinta Roja, Chicago, IL.
Luciano has participated in the LMCC/Workspace 120 Broadway Artist Residency,
the Bronx Museum of Art Artists in the Marketplace (AIM) program, and the
Kitchen's Music Image Sound Text in Community (MISTIC) Residency. He has
received a NYFA award for painting and two Artists and Communities Grants
from the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation (MAAF). His work is featured in the
permanent collections of El Museo del Barrio, NY and the Newark Museum,
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