curated by Alexis Mendoza
Afreecan brings to the forefront key historical points that highlight the African influence in art evolution in the past century and more generally, the ‘purity with which all art movements come to be identified by the generations that immediately follow. At its core, the exhibition explores the inter-relationship between Afro-descendant artists from Cuba, Haití, Puerto Rico, and the Dominican Republic. The similitude in ideas, and developmental approaches. All the artists in this project at the moment reside and work outside of their respective countries, but their artworks are rich in Afro identity. The very real myth of the social pariah in this exhibition exploration consciousness is in fact the hidden subject in these artists, has developed their theme with both precision and compassion, to the extent that one sees the works themselves, or more precisely their sources, as exemplifying a closing off of modernist aesthetics to social reality throughout the present century. These artists base their work on ancient practice, but their approach at the same time is very much contemporary, fresh in constant movement and development.
Featured Artists: Imna Arroyo, Diógenes Ballester, Félix Berroa, Mildor Chevalier, Wildriana de Jesús Paulino, Esteban Jiménez Guerra, Michele Klode Garoute, Carlos Mateu.
About the Curator:
Alexis Mendoza is a Cuban artist, writer, and independent curator, based in New York City. His multidisciplinary work focuses on painting, sculpture, printmaking, drawing, and installation. His art explores the transitioning and overlapping of colors as a metaphor for the Afro-Cuban customs, rituals, and traditions. Mendoza was born in Havana City, Cuba. His past education includes the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes San Alejandro (1988), he graduated in Art History from Havana University (1994) and completed an Internship in Fine Art Conservation at the National Museum of Fine Arts of Havana (1992-93). He has lived and worked in New York City since 1995. Mendoza has exhibited his artworks in museums and galleries in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Costa Rica, Cuba, England, France, Germany, Mexico, Netherlands, Peru, Romania, Spain, Switzerland, and United States. Mendoza’s work has been written about in Cuban Art News, Sing For Hope, Artnet, JCAST, HFFNY, and Manhattan Times. He is a co-founder and co-creator of The Bronx Latin American Art Biennial which showcases the works of Latino artists from New York and abroad. In 2019 the art biennial evolved to The New York Latin American Art Triennial which explored issues such as migration, women’s rights, and social justice while celebrating Hispanic heritage. He is the founding member of BxArts Factory and is part of the BX200, a curated selection of artists identified with The Bronx; and Editor of Alteration Blogazine.
For more information on Alexis visit his website here.
About the Artists:
Imna Arroyo was born in Guayama, Puerto Rico. She studied at La Escuela de Artes Plasticas del Instituto de Cultura in San Juan, Puerto Rico, and obtained her BFA from Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York, and her MFA from Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut. She has also studied other printmaking techniques at the Tamarind Institute, New York University Printmaking Studio, the University of Guanajuato, in Mexico, and Non- toxic Printmaking Methods at the Canadian School for Non-Toxic Printmaking, Summer International Printmaking Workshop, Grande Prairie Regional College, Alberta, Canada. Her work is also in numerous collections including the Museum of Modern Art Library/Franklin Furnace Artist Book Collection, Yale Art Gallery, and Schomberg Center for Research and Black Culture. She is an Emeriti Professor of Art at Eastern Connecticut State University where she chaired the Visual Arts Department. Imna Arroyo has been the recipient of numerous awards and grants including several professional development grants. She received the title of 2010 Connecticut State University Professor and 2007 the honorary title of Chief Imna Arroyo/Chief Yeye Agboola of Ido Osun, (Chief Mother of the Garden of Honor) in recognition of selfless service to the upliftment of the Ido-Osun Kingdom conferred by his Royal Majesty Aderemi Adeen Adeniyi-Adedapo, Ido-Osun, Nigeria, West Africa. In 2000 she also received an Excellence Award, in Recognition of Excellence in Creative and Scholarship Activity from Eastern and the 2003 Steinkraus-Cohen Memorial Outstanding Women of Connecticut Award, in recognition of achievements and dedication to public service.
For more information on Imna visit her website here.
Diógenes Ballester is a visual artist, educator, and writer born in Ponce, Puerto Rico. He holds an MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a BFA from the Catholic University of Puerto Rico. He has taught as a Professor of Art at The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Arts, in New York City, the State University of New York at New Paltz, the College of New Rochelle, School of Arts and Science, and The State University of New York at Albany. He currently works full-time in his studio in New York City and gives workshops and lectures at conferences and universities throughout the United States and the Caribbean. Although he had incorporated the exploration of cultural and spiritual history into his art since the 1980s, Diógenes first called himself an “arteologist” in 2006 when he was asked to exhibit at the Museum of History of Ponce, Puerto Rico, and presented “Ancestral Confessions: Evidence of a City”. Having access to manuscripts from The Ponce Historical Archives and archeological objects from The Archeological Museum of Tibes, as well as found objects from the Caribbean Sea, was instrumental in transforming him from just an artist to an “arteologist”. He focuses on installations in which he incorporates archaeological and found objects, encaustic paintings, sculptures, assemblages, and new media.
Félix Berroa was born in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic. Felix Berroa paints to express his passion for life, death, and the dreams of all humans. He started drawing and carving when he was a child and has been fascinated by the human figure ever since. Though he began making work that was more realistic, his current practice abstracts his figures into dreamlike characters. Vibrant yet subtle hues saturate each image, as does a complex narrative that addresses the many sides of humanity. Berroa uses large fields of color in combination with intricate line work, which he says is inspired by his experience working as an etcher. With his main focus on women and children, Berroa works to illuminate the tender beauty and life-giving ability to those often exploited. Education: 1970-1972: ‘Wood Carving’. Centro Nacional de Artesanía, CENADARTE (Under Direction of sculptor Joaquin Priego), Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. 1970-1972/1974-1978: ‘Fine Arts’. National School of Fine Arts. (Escuela Nacional de Artes Plásticas).
Mildor Chevalier is A Haitian visual artist. He lives and works in New York City. Mildor holds an Associate Degree in Fine Arts from the School of Design at Altos del Chavón in the Dominican Republic. He also obtained a BFA at Parsons the New School for Design in NYC and an MFA from the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC. Whether through painting, drawing, or sculpture, Mildor generally creates scenes that explore human experience, wishes, and dreams. His multi-cultural experiences give him access to the world of global art and he has become an international artist with individual and collective exhibitions, biennials, and art fairs from Haiti to Quebec, from New York to Shanghai, from Paris to Santo Domingo. His work is in private collections in the Dominican Republic, China, and around the world. Mildor also designed several instruction manuals with step-by-step lessons for the art supply company, Daler Rowney. Manuals titles: Master Series Drawing (colored pencil, charcoal, oil pastel), Master Series Watercolor, Master Series Acrylic, Master Series Oil, Master Series Mixed Media, including an Art Therapy Coloring book titled World Culture. Besides Mildor’s art practice, he is an art instructor at Studio In A School NYC and the New York School of the Arts.
Wildriana de Jesús Paulino was born in San Francisco de Macorís, Dominican Republic. She is currently in her junior year at The Cooper Union, pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts. The narrative of her work focuses on Latin American issues of violence and politics. To represent such accounts, she utilizes printmaking, painting, drawing, photography, and installation. Wildriana is assisting in the logistics and development of ArteLatAm‘s 2021 programs for Latin American art. She is also helping the collective of ArteLatAm in the pursuit of artistic opportunities and resources.
For more information on Wildriana follow her on Instagram.
Esteban Jiménez Guerra was born in La Habana, Cuba. In 2011 he obtained a BFA from the National Academy of Fine Arts “San Alejandro” in Havana. A year later, Jiménez Guerra opened his own studio gallery in Havana called the “Almost Famous Gallery.” He used the space to exhibit his work, create art and hold workshops for children in the community. Two years later, Jiménez Guerra flew to the USA as part of a group of artists called “The Wall” to collaborate with the American collective “Arte Libre.” He has lived and worked between Havana and New York ever since. As a visual artist, he has exhibited nationally and internationally. Esteban has been invited to art fairs, symposiums, talks, and workshops in institutions such Detour Gallery, NJ, the Cuban Art Space Gallery, the Children’s Museum of the Arts, NYC, the University of Massachusetts Boston for the International Printmaking Workshop, the Montevallo University for Blue Waters Symposium, Alabama, among many others. His work has also been exhibited at the University of Essex, London, UK. Esteban’s work challenges racial and gendered stereotypes that circulate in popular culture by offering transformative and liberating representations of the body. He sees the body as a vessel and as a complex map of inflicted memories that are conditioned by lived experiences. Esteban uses Afro-Cuban symbolism from the Abakuá, Lucumí, and Palo Monte religions and their parallels with life to re-signify the histories and contemporary structures that sustain racism and sexism. Esteban’s paintings are mystical, Black-centered, and confrontational. Black, white, reds, and yellows predominate in his works, which are mostly large-format paintings that mix techniques such as collagraph and cyanotype.
For more information on Esteban visit his website here.
Michele Klode Garoute was born in Port-au-Prince, Haïti, and lives and works in New York. Klode is a creative artist and a passionate cultural animator who is committed to bringing art awareness to people wherever she goes. Through her work, Klode wants to share her positive experiences with art, in order to motivate and stimulate people to seek and discover their true creative potential. It is an easier way that has enabled Klode to restore and maintain a balance; an artistic process that also helped the artist to grow on many levels to enjoy satisfaction in her life. Born in 1960, Klode started painting at a very early age. Growing up with art, she was 5 years old when she won her first art award. Everyone thought that it was ephemeral then. As time would show, however, a visit from her father Tiga in 1991 reaffirmed her true passion for art. Using Tiga’s art philosophy and teaching, the artist inside came out, like an explosion and through her outburst, we are left with the beneficiaries of her wonders. She has exhibited in Haiti, Florida, and mostly in New York, where she lives. Klode was also trained by Tiga as an artistic rotation facilitator and now teaches the artistic rotation method. She has held various art workshops in New York Broadway Housing community, Affirmation Arts, 159th street St Nicholas Community Art fair, Bethesda SDA Church, Ongoing home workshop in her home studio; and the Library of William Jefferson Clinton in Little Rock Arkansas.
Carlos Mateu was born in 1970 in Havana, Cuba, and has resided in the United States since 1997. As a teenager, he attended The Paulita Concepcion Vocational School of Art where he studied painting, engraving, sculpture, drawing, and art history. He later studied mechanical drawing at the Fernando Aguado y Rico Technological Institute and completed his formal art education at the renowned San Alejandro National Academy of Fine Arts. This combination of studies served to develop and refine his technique and style, as well as to solidify his desire to make art a lifelong profession. He calls his style geometric pop. His paintings fuse elements of cubism with realism, using straight lines and perspective to create a geometric and three-dimensional effect, while subtly deforming the images. Intense colors of acrylic are applied in layers like silkscreen, creating clean and precise divisions between tones, textured further with oil pastel. His subject matter incorporates surrealism and mysticism to reflect the Afro Cuban life and religions, memories of Cuba, his life in the United States, and his own creative perspective on the world around him. Trained as an Art Teacher by Joan Mitchell Foundation. Carlos had been teaching for different after-school programs, leading a portfolio prep for middle school students at the Museum of Art & Design, etc. He was selected as one of the 60 Masters of Contemporary Art by Art Tour International Magazine in 2014, also as one of three Latin artists of the 2015 Hispanic Edition of Thompson’s Unity Magazine, etc. Recently Carlos was showing his artwork at Galleria360 in Florence, Museum of The City of New York, WBGO 88.3 Jazz, and at the Jewish Museum of NJ. Currently works as a teaching artist for various institutions in New York City.