Episode1, part 1, a brief, riled-up soliloquy about life in Puerto Rico.

Episode 1, part 2, a close-up look at one of the island’s most personable coffee roasting operations, Café Mayor, plus Rotund’s first roundup of art shows.

Episode 2, part 1, in which we review Pedro Vélez's "Godfuck," study an art sale posing as an exhibition, and get a haircut.

Episode 2, part 2: the haircut continues, there’s a regrettable moment with fruit, and we drop by the fresh San Juan art-o-rama =DESTO for a talk with the founders.

Episode 3, part 1 covers, if not the waterfront, at least that occasional Nuyorican-Borinquen artfest “The (S) Files” at Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico, and visits scenic Caguas to marvel at another new kid on the block, ÁREA.

Episode 3, part 2 takes a wild ride on the Tren Urbano.

Episode 4, part 1 gets the unexpected: some mail. In part 2, we hit the road for points south, with stops at the Frade Museum, El Cuñao, King’s Cream, and Museo de la Historia de Ponce.

Episode 5, part 1 weighs Puerto Rico’s travails against Miami’s prosperity and scratches its head. Why does Fred Snitzer say the things he says?

Episode 5, part 2: more art shows and the artists who make them, including the evergreen Antonio Martorell and a stealthy group called El Polverío.

Episode 6, part 1 and part 2 offer blow-by-blow coverage of Puerto Rico’s first-ever art fair, CIRCA 2006, and the whole world asks, “What’s it all about, Rotund?”

Episode 7 takes the slow train to Hato Rey and Galerías Prindari, where it meets the friendly natives.

Episode 8 knocks on the door of the Berezdivin collection, hoping to get in, and then muses disapprovingly about el Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico.

Episode 9, part 1 wallows in the paradoxes of summer in Puerto Rico, including a curious exhibition at la Escuela de Artes Plásticas, while part 2 looks at the work of painter-writer Javier Martínez.

Episode 10: the excellent exhibition space tagRom has a birthday and the laggardly Rotund crew tries to catch up on San Juan art doings, while Tiny Type travels southward to watch Rafael Trelles do his thing at el Museo de Arte de Ponce.

Episode 11: “Two Cards from the Bottom of the Deck?” This could only mean Pedro Vélez.

Episode 12 invites all and sundry to get down with La Muestra Nacional de Arte. Plus, =Desto hits its stride and doesn’t look back.

Episode 13: is La Muestra Nacional the only thing on the Rotund mind? What about sex? Rapacious legislators? What happened to lechón, pasteles, and Heineken tall boys?

Episode 14 brings us yet more Muestra, but also, what? Yes, Pedro Vélez, now in his new role as Rotund art dick. Plus, new shows at San Juan’s La Liga de Arte and Crema Gallery.

Episode 15 proves that the island is cooking: The International Book Fair, experimental prints at =Desto, Milton Rosa-Ortiz at Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico. The Basquiat drawing show is not terrible, but what is a private collection doing at MAPR?

Episode 16: the government is pilloried, artists are praised, food is mentioned, jokes are cracked that no one gets.

Episode 17 visits Art Basels past. This may strike some readers as cheap and retrograde, but we think the vintage years never get old. Besides, we also look at a Julie Kahn trading-card project, and what could be groovier than that?

Episode 18 looks like a preview, reads like a preview, and even smells a bit like a preview. But is it really a preview?

Episode 19: Barcelona. Need we say more?

Episode 20 visits the Corozal redoubt of Titi Noris, then gets down and gets funky with Julio Micheli.

Episode 21 tramps through the dirty snow of New York City and sees a bunch of fur coats posing as art.

Episode 22: the good, the bad, and the dubious underbelly of the Puerto Rican art world: shows and those who write about them.

Episode 23 takes a break from the box step and does the boogaloo instead: some advice about going public.

Episode 24 is an extensive chat about a wide-ranging show, The DAMS 2. Who exactly are Dildo and Culo?

Episode 25 marks the beginning of the end. At least the end of the long wait for CIRCA 2007.

Episode 26: enough CIRCA to please the gluttonous and outrage the discreet.

Episode 27 provides one last thrill from the Puerto Rican scene before our Ecuadorian sojourn: we visit =Desto’s rad Publica.

Episode 28: Hello, Cuenca. Almost more news from one small Latin American country’s premiere art event than a reader wants to know. Still, we bet the artists involved will like seeing their names in print.

Episode 29 is as nutty as a fruitcake. Don’t miss the Coke cans, created by real, or once-real, graffiti artists.

Episode 30 brings us back to the island, but not without a detour to the Cuenca Biennial’s dark past.

Episode 31: Can you believe the nerve of some people? The Rotund crew talks about art critics sin fin, which means, of course, a lot of self references.

Episode 32: We call out the forces of evil, who no longer bother to answer. Someone will be sorry one day.

Episode 33 visits La Perla and then takes off its hat to the organizers of the now-annual neighborhood art and music fest, La Perla Habla.

Episode 34 returns, if not from the dead, then from what seems like a long sleep. Reviews of Espacio 1414's latest doings, the good works at =Desto, and thoughts on the new boys in town, Galería Candela.

Episode 35: Why do we persist in making rude fun of the island’s leading newspaper? And is it possible that the San Juan art scene deserves so many column inches of Rotund blather?

Episode 36 travels all the way to Miami to bring you news of the greater world, needing an extra page to do the job right.

Episode 37: Ada Bobonis gets the Rotund treatment for her installation at MAPR, and others on the San Juan scene—Martorell, Maldonado, Ayala, and the BlackBoxArt crew—also feel the fire.

Episode 38 is the calm that preceeds the storm, an extended visit to San Juan’s Museo de Arte Contemporáneo.

Episode 39 goes several better than last time, hitting every museum in creation just to prove a point. Then it settles down to talk about shows by Otero, Fontánez, and Pintado, and a pep talk by none other than César Trasobares.

Episode 40 asks, ”How did we get this far?“ The answer is far from clear, but it involves regular, only semi-warranted attacks on the local press and flattery lavished on actual artists. For example, in this episode we speak fondly and at length about Fernando Paes and el Museo de Arte de Caguas.

Episode 41 gets some mail of a sort and stoops to conquer once again, although what the point is, exactly, is lost on many readers. There’s an extended look at new paintings by Diógenes Ballester, which redeems the confusion somewhat.

Episode 42: when the going gets strange, the strange get going. Rotund World is on the case when =Desto shows Freddie Mercado. Antonio Martorell also gets the once-over.

Episode 43 is spelled A.B.M.B.

Episode 44 visits Ponce to take in the razzmatazz surrounding those lovable Tres Reyes Magos, then asks a silly question about a certain San Juan art museum.

Episode 45: we offer our musings on Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, which are no more or less mean- spirited than the rest of them.

Episode 46 tries to forget about the nattering voices of pointless controversy for awhile and accentuate the positive. An architecture conference anyone?

Episode 47 gets wordy trying to look at the public art programs in Puerto Rico and Portland, Oregon. Is that like comparing apples and mangoes?

Episode 48: we do what we do best, welcome the new Orificio into the world and review shows at Galería Guatibirí, Museo de Arte de Caguas, and MAC.

Not to be missed, of course: Booty Bundt, the cake that says it all, and BUY THIS NOW! an exclusive offer to be a part of this toney enterprize.


Follow the links to the Miami and Puerto Rican art worlds, and to perspectives bigger than both.

The Next Few Hours
Critical Miami
Miami Art Central
Locust Projects
Centro Cultural Español
Edge Zones
Brook Dorsch Gallery
Kevin Bruk Gallery
Bernice Steinbaum Gallery
Fredric Snitzer Gallery
Ambrosino Gallery
David Castillo Gallery
Diaspora Vibe Gallery
Miami Art Exchange
Worm-Hole Laboratory
The Moore Space

Museo de la Historia de Ponce
Museo Pío López Martínez
(The Frade Museum)
Museo de Arte de Ponce
Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico
Museo de Arte Contemporaneo
Museo de la UPR
Museo de las Américas
Los Balcones de San Juan
Primer Piso Galería
Galería 356
Galería Comercial
Galería Candela
Programa de Artes Plástics del ICP
CIRCA Puerto Rico
¿Dónde Veo Arte?
El Status
MSA-Xperimental Art
Trance Líquido
M de Mater O’Neill Audio Archive

Art Nexus Magazine
Tom Moody's Weblog
Edward Winkleman’s Blog

Rotund World covers Miami, la Isla, and the world.

The magazine is designed and written by Joel Weinstein. Is it for real? Only time will tell. Use the orange button below to subscribe to our RSS feed.

Photos, unless otherwise credited, are by none other than J Weinstein.

Contact us at this address or this one. Note that is defunct, R.I.P.

Fair, the Second Part

As promised, we have more CIRCA coverage. In addition to the hair-splitting and pettifogging that comprise our observations of CIRCA 2008, below, we thought we should offer our readers a little sweetness and light. For that we must move some distance away from the Convention Center and cast our gazes upon the doings al lado; taking a walk, as they once sang, on the wild side. If you’ve already read the verbiage below, proceed directly to the next page. Clikea aquí por página dos de las noticias CIRCAnias.

Fair is Fair, the First Part

A lovely—and meaningful—scene from “El pulguero de los artistas.”

¡Ay, Dios mío! You wouldn’t think that our little CIRCA, that sweet, tropical artfaircito, could be half as exhausting as el gran bruto, the Mutha of All Fairs, Art Basel Miami Beach (ABMB). But here we are, footsore and dizzy with too much at one time and not enough to matter.

Sus servidores looked upon the coming of the first weeks of April as a terrier awaits its annual rabies booster. We did what was right, of course, walking ourselves silly over the four days of the latest edition of Puerto Rico’s own international art fair, setting out with the grim assurance that by gumption and mother wit alone we could make sense of the manic too-muchness of it all, from Friday night’s mock-tony opening to the interminable fade of the following Monday afternoon.

The hustle begins . . .

. . . and never lets up.

Deal-maker Walter Otero, doing what he does best.

Storehouse Groupers Rigoberto Quintana, left, and Karlo Ibarra.

It began with the usual, patently snoozy speechifying by the fair organizers, who wore the dead eyes and bonkers grins of the seriously sleep-deprived. Then the doors flew open and we were greeted with lurid, fair-ready, sometimes fluorescent artworks lining the labyrinthine aisleways of booths, so like a cattleyard. The scene was awash with bosomy would-be divas, glad-handing, tallboy-clutching bohemian posers, and natty swells mugging relentlessly for every camera in sight. We were not the least disappointed. At the first booth we wandered into, a pin-striped dealer was actually punching the air with a princely digit, commanding a minion to close a sale or perhaps alerting her to the presence of ne’er-do-wells. The usually sullen element—by which we mean our artist pals who were representing their own works at one booth or another—while not exactly beaming, did not glare at the camera as is their custom but presented themselves with the rumpled aplomb of teenagers at their first sales jobs. Shades of Davy Crockett, here’s firsthand evidence we saw a beaver-tail hat!

The rewards of scene-watching.

Early the next morning at CIRCA Labs.

The 2008 edition of CIRCA had a sprinkling of artist’s projects on the periphery of the main action—fewer this year than last, tamer, too—and at a safe distance outside the Convention Center proper a collection of four semi-truck trailers housed projects with zero commercial potential, mimicking the containers at ABMB. Coca-Cola was not shy about announcing its sponsorship of these “CIRCA Labs”—Coke has become the official co-opter of Puerto Rican artists in the last year or so, having profited enormously by hiring four young grafiteros to make designs for Coke cans while simultaneously giving the graffiti-hating mayor of San Juan, Jorge Santini, the finger—but that did not stop most of the artists involved from doing mildly provocative to mind-bendingly stupefying projects. More about CIRCA Labs later.

For now we wish to assure you that however much we tried, we were never able to make a lick of sense of CIRCA 2008, nor do we believe that any art fair has behind it a reason more complicated than making a buck. As one dealer assured us, “the walls are not falling down, at least,” which lead many a fair-goer to observe that the 2008 edition was an improvement over last year. No one could put their fingers on why this might be, but we heard the refrain over and over: better art, higher-tone dealers, etc., etc., though frankly we doubt it. We firmly believe that everyone involved so wants CIRCA to succeed, to be the Little Fair that Could, that they rarely give it the critical eye. Many dealers who were ebullient last year, sales or no, seemed a bit deflated by this year’s leveling off, or worse, of what they were able to move. Yet everyone we talked to expressed satisfaction with their experience. Go figure.

From left: Michele Miner, artnet’s Walter Robinson, Pedro Vélez. Behind them, Roche.

It all went by in a blur. If you want some vaunted expertise, or at least a manic string of pick hits, name-dropping, glib commentary, and the touching of many bases, tune in to Walter Robinson’s take on CIRCA 2008 at The Waltster jetted in as usual to catch some rays, fatten himself on local mofongo and arroz con habichuelas, ogle the talent, take a bunch of snapshots, and hang out for a few hours with local hipsters so he could collect some original lines to sprinkle among the platitudes.

By now, Pedro Vélez has surely unleashed a torrent of wild raving at his punzante, muy sabrosa Box Score, and the less said about that the better. Vélez will have a ton of snapshots at least as fuzzy and off-kilter as our own. The perfect island antidote to Robinson’s smooth carpetbaggery.

As for us, all we can offer you right now is a random bunch of often misidentified images which, we believe, truly reflect the vast, chaotic spread that CIRCA has achieved in three years. Actually, the fair itself has been solidifying nicely, drawing into itself and sharpening its features as any truly serious commercial enterprise must. It’s the exponential growth of surrounding events, often having no official connection to the fair, which is giving CIRCA its Man-eating Blobish appearance, that of the crazed spectacle that many art fairs seems to mutate into before you can say, “¡Ayeeeeeeeeee! ¡Ja ja ja ja ja ja ja! ¡Cabrón!”

Were “condones” distributed openly at the Convention Center? Not! Try Cataño.

This year we heard about probably fifteen far-flung gallery openings, collective exhibitions, panel discussions, collection visits, and flea markets that we were absolutely required to attend to if we hoped to maintain our groove credentials, of which we got to perhaps six. We will begin, cyclone-like, at the vortex of things, the fair itself, and work our way outward. Likely we’ll do this in two parts: the fair and its environs now, and a look at what went on in Santurce (Hipódromo 610 and LA15), Cataño (Cataño Distrito Cultural), Caguas (Angora 2), and the amazing Pulguero de los artistas, when we’ve had a chance to catch our breath, probably in a few days. We’ll go to Museo de Arte Contemporáneo (MAC) as well to visit openings of exhibitions by Victor Vázquez and José Morales. As we warned you, we’re proceeding in no particular order, with no point in mind. Because there wasn’t any!

However, we do think it appropriate to begin our coverage with a brief stop at the terrifically retro, choicely weird booth of Madame Lyn-Go-Tee, during Lisa Ladner’s El pulguero, one of the better moments of CIRCA 2008. Though not, apparently, one the fair organizers seemed willing to admit to. We espied the Frank Zappa album right off and hoped to take it home, but after a phone call to the mysterious Ms. Go-Tee (or is it Madame Lyn?), the best that her junk-tender could offer us was $25 for a copy of the CD, to be picked up the next day. ¿WTF? We passed of course—Cheap Thrills is no Freak Out (“Help, I’m a Rock”) or Absolutely Free (“The Duke of Prunes,” “Call Any Vegetable [. . . and the chances are good the vegetable will respond to you.]”)—only to receive a scolding email from the freaky diva herself stating that we were not appropriately bargain-minded; once again, in all our nerdliness, missing the whole point.

But that’s fine, we missed the point from the get-go. Opening night, as we said, was suitably swirly, jam-packed, and scene-making. We heard from several dealers that they actually sold work that night, although it was all downhill from there. One of the most frequent dealer complaints: two hours to allow collectors to peruse the premises is about a day too short. The poor schlubs—the collectors, that is—had to galumph down the aisles like elephants pursued by a pride of hungry lions. We weren’t there, but it probably wasn’t pretty.

On subsequent days we witnessed a lot of finger-drumming and nervous pacing, but we thought that the halls were humming decently considering that real bargain-hunting doesn’t begin until the fair’s final hours. We missed the few in-house events—Haydée Venegas clucked at us for being absent from a panel she’d organized on curating, and the following day El Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña (ICP) had invited several stellar guests to talk about “Latin American and Caribbean biennials and triennials”—though we lamented that there were not more such foros, as was the case in years past. These, ranging across topics and generations, did not always rise above the obvious and the snoozy, but they never lacked for lively moments.

Jorge Zeno, “El fin de un principio,” 2008.

Unlike the daring Robinson—and, no doubt, the crusty Vélez—we’ll hazard no guesses as to which booths or artworks or artist’s projects were “best,” or whether or not this year’s CIRCA surpassed last year’s—the figures will tell the cold, hard truth about that, no need for the babble of sus servidores to try to explain what you’ll soon read in black and white —but we did stumble upon an artwork which cried out to be nominated as the worst of the fair, in a high-pitched, bent-capped, come-hither quaver. This was, no question, Jorge Zeno’s El fin de un principio, a little ceramic statue that was part misshapen snowman, part mudpie circus clown. Yikes. Under Plexiglas no less. ¡Wao!

Other notable encounters of an entirely haphazard kind:

A full-color Elsa Meléndez box, one of the hot items at Galería 356.

Co-director Favián Vergara showing off Primer Piso Gallery’s wares.

Karlo Ibarra’s “Under/Ground,” with José Rivera. Shades of Luis Gispert.

An Omar Obdulio Peña Forty work at CIRCA’s Área booth.

Matt Hoyle’s photo at Point of View Gallery. This image is our scan of a gallery card.

A new sculpture by Fabian Marcaccio at Walter Otero Gallery . . .

. . . and one of the artist’s untitled, mixed-media drawings.

A detail of “Bucólica in Blue,” 2008, by Eric Schroeder Vivas at Faría + Fabregas.

One of the series of mixed-media collages by Pablo Helguera at Moti Hasson Gallery.

We have notoriously complained about a few basic things which continue to plague CIRCA’s approach to what, in grander circumstances, would be called “infrastructure.” Last year we pointed out, to no one’s amusement, that the booth walls still sported their unhandsome seams and bare hinges. As the above photo makes obvious, the fair took half-measures—if you can call it that—by taping the seams, without further ado. Are we the only ones this bothers no end?

Mariana Monteagudo at Galería Fernando Pradilla. A dollish trend?

Could be. Enrique Marty at Witzenhausen Gallery.

Steve Schepens, “HORROR Cabinet,” 2007, brot.undspiele Galerie.

Draw you own conclusions about the “look” of CIRCA 2008. As regards the lamentably few spaces allotted to individual artist’s projects, to our way of thinking these ranged from the opaquely bizarre to the less-than-hoped-for. They glowed and shimmered and might as well have had “Art Fair Attraction” written all over them. Even Ada Bobonis, always the exemplar of underdoing and rigor, succumbed to the art fair imperative of the runway- oriented spectacle with her neony light boxes. No matter how sophisticated the concept, garish is as garish does. Amidst the fair’s generally excellent progress toward a more business-like enterprise, we find the gaudy drift of its artistic initiatives to be kind of depressing. CIRCA’s early years may have suffered from unruliness, with sprawling, often gigantic installations dominating the floor—remember the first year: Charles Juhász- Alvarado’s big trumpet and Jorge Rito Cordero’s fun, many-bicycled ridable contraption, Colecticleta?—but surely the organizers can give artists some rope without throttling them with it.

Adrián Villeta’s baffling portrait project.

Antonio Martorell’s CIRCA mutation of his impressive “La plena inmortal” from 2007.

“Ventanas” by Ada Bobonis.

Let others venture opinions about trends, artistic hierarchies, and so forth. The real fun to be had during CIRCA was outside the Convention Center, starting in the parking lot. The so-called CIRCA Labs batted about .500, with W&N’s half-car and FGA’s ear-splitting noise and tattered poster installation—with a free CD for the sharp of eye, all compliments of Pedro Vélez, Gean Moreno, and Jorge Castro—taking honors. Art Tracking—by which we mean the tireless efforts of Abdiel Segarra, Ralph Vázquez, and many, many friends (if we understand it correctly)—stuck to the usual formula of no formula, a mélange of more or less cool dabbling by the not-yet-arrived. There was a trailer full of coiled light and playable, game-like consoles—Espacio: Región de Murcia, España, very fun—and one featuring paintings and painted merchandise by the artist known as Rimx, sponsored by Espacio 304.

An artwork with gumption: Osvaldo Budet’s “Coctel Molotov” at Art Tracking.

Bobby Cruz in the same space: roughing it island style.

Rafael Miranda’s untitled installation outside of the Art Tracking trailer.

Espacio: Región de Murcia, España.

Espacio 304, San Juan: wearables and hangables by Rimx.

CIRCA Labs might have had its heart in the right place, but its trailers were far away. A shuttle between the so-called labs and the Convention Center’s front doors could not, by itself—as least as far as we saw—provide much of an audience for work which the artists were in no way half-assed about. It was a puzzling appendage to the hugger-mugger of fair’s main action, as if the organizers wanted to show some true artistic güevos in the midst of so much unabashed hustling, but were too embarrassed to fully admit it. If it was up to us, we’d shitcan the gimmick called “In the Spot”—a thorough misrepresentation of “curating” in which artworks are chosen from among the merchandise on the floor and mounted on a freestanding wall, usually by a bona fide art curator, who is then forced to stand before a small audience and pretend that this was an act of aesthetic decision-making —and bring the barbarians into the sanctuary instead.

A good friend of ours actually enjoys “In the Spot” very much, comparing it to having a personal shopper who shows you how to put together the little purse with the darling hat and the colorful pashmina; how to create the whole ensemble, in other words. But frankly we’re aghast. If CIRCA really wants to embrace the most edgy—and no one who’s paying attention really expects it to—the fair should put them front and center, or at least side by side with the much more “acceptable” individual artists projects. One way for the organization to hedge its bets would be to place any revolting, highly political, or otherwise outlandish projects inside of cages, thereby showing nervous nellies among the visitantes that the fair is willing to embrace strong ideas but doesn’t flinch from protecting the public from them, either. This strategy is not without precedent, since the Whitney Biennial in 1993 featured a terrific performance by Coco Fusco and Guillermo Gómez Peña in which the couple was paraded before the public as savages from some unspecified third world outback. There were, indeed, cages involved, and when Fusco and Gómez Peña had to go to the bathroom, they were lead away on leashes. It was an artist-inspired idea, true, but we don’t imagine that the likes of Pedro Vélez or W&N would object to such a display as long as it meant being among the anointed.

Diana Lowenstein and José Díaz.

Don’t get us wrong. Much of what Nieves, Nogueras, Barragán and company have accomplished in three short years is just astonishing. Dealers like Miami’s Diana Lowenstein, who left after the first year’s fiasco swearing never to return to Puerto Rico, are back and happy about it. The fair continues to give Puerto Rican artists and art aficionados a firsthand glimpse at what’s going on beyond the horizon, and many, many dealers, as if bonked by free-falling magic coconuts, continue to believe in the fair’s promise, in spite of the relative paucity of immediate returns.

The tricky Miguel Luciano at El pulguero de los artistas. Read carefully.

Marcial Feliciano’s installation at Angora 2. For the surprising results, go to this website.

The malecon at Cataño proved to be a congenial place for an outing.

Autumn Rooney at Hipódromo 610.

As you’ll see on the following page, the fair is also giving rise to countless satellite activities, almost entirely generated by artists. These do not fit into anything resembling an art “economy”—and the fair is, or should be, largely about that—but they’re moments which reaffirm the vitality of the local contemporary art scene, and they’re as spontaneous, exciting, and sociable as a good nightclub concert. Above are some teasers. You may now wish to proceed to part two of our CIRCA 2008 coverage. On the other hand, here is the route back to the Rotund past.


Our infra-red camera captures a behind-the-scenes moment at CIRCA.