Puerto Rican art exhibit at the Whitney inspired by Hurricane Maria's devastation

Monday, December 5, 2022
Puerto Rico art exhibit at the Whitney inspired by Maria's devastation
The Whitney Museum of American Art is hosting a major exhibit of Puerto Rican art inspired by the devastation left behind by Hurricane Maria in 2017. Sandy Kenyon has the story.

NEW YORK CITY -- The Whitney Museum of American Art is hosting a major exhibit of Puerto Rican artists in the Meatpacking District inspired by the devastation left behind by Hurricane Maria in 2017.

Entertainment reporter Sandy Kenyon said he can't remember when he learned so much in such a short period of time, but going to the Whitney to see "No Existe un Mundo Poshuracán: Puerto Rican Art" isn't anything like going to school.

The art is such that it engages the heart and mind while delivering a swift punch to the gut that forces you to pay attention.

There is a tragic beauty here tempered by sadness and mixed with hope.

The troubled relationship between the United States and Puerto Rico is the subtext of the first, major exhibition of Puerto Rican art at The Whitney or The Met in almost half a century.

"I want artists to you know have more exposure," says Marcella Guerrero, the Jennifer Rubio Associate Curator who organized the exhibit. "We have this incredible platform which is The Whitney Museum of American Art: one of the most important museums in the world, and showing these new fresh voices, I think the language of the arts is going to change."

Guerrero spent five years assembling a show of work that has been created since 2017 when Hurricane Maria devastated the island.

Now, with the passage of time, the point is to reflect, "and see how much has changed or hasn't changed, and unfortunately, as we saw recently with Hurricane Fiona-not a lot has changed, people are still, many households without power."

The tragic situation is depicted with a down power line pole that Guerrero pointed out.

"It's a symbol of the power grid: how it failed Puerto Rico after the Hurricane," Guerrero said.

Elsewhere are shields signifying political rebellion made from an abandoned school bus. There's even a hotel made of sand to represent how uncertain life can be.

A large panel of red iron has peepholes. Look closer and you can see tiny pictures inside. There is so much to see.

"I think it's cultural reflection, there is a sense of hope, but I want to give a bit more nuance to this idea of hope," Guerrero said. "It's a hope anchored in anger and frustration."

Both older and younger artists are represented at the exhibit -- many for the first time.

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