Take a Deep Breath, We’re Just Getting Started
Are we flogging La Muestra Nacional too much? We daresay not. In fact, here at Rotund World we believe we’ve just scratched the surface of this behemoth sampling of the contemporary island scene. Above, on the left, three works from Aaron Salabarrías Valle’s serial romp, “Los turistas,” 2006, photography on vinyl, 2' x 3' each. To the right of the doorway, Susana Espinosa’s bronze and marble “La demora 1/8” from 2006, 21" x 6" x 2". And next to Espinosa’s work, one of the “Visitors/Visitantes BCN” photo-collages by Carlos Ruíz Valarino, 2006, digital photography, 90" x 50".
While hardly “mellow,” some of the above selections walk a bit on the cooler side. From the top: Nick Quijano’s “Corona de espinas,” 2004, oil and 24k gold leaf on wood, 48" x 48". On the left below, Garvin Sierra’s “Sor-dado”—from the series “Que Dios te lo pague” —2006, digital print, 24" x 30". On the right, from the “Las Amazonas” series, “Mujer” by Zilia Sanchez, n.d., wood with molded canvas and acrylic, 60" x 72". Below, on the left, Lope Max Díaz, “Oops No. 9,” 2006, acrylic on wood, 24" x 24". On the right, one of Rafael Ferrer’s wordfest pantings, “En tela,” 2006, acrylic on canvas, graffiti, gouache, and zinc, 30" x 37". Finally, a detail of Carlos Rivera’s three-part installation, including “The Ball,” foreground, and “Pirámide al cuadrado” behind it, 2006, wood, glass, plastic, and acrylic, dimensions variable.
We encourage you to visit our previous coverage, here, but only if you cannot walk, run, hop, skip, or jump to La Muestra Nacional de Arte. Remember, you have until February 4, 2007, to pay the show a visit. Stay tuned for symposia, guided tours, and the presentation of the fab, shiny exhibition catalogue.
How we like to hoot at the misfortune that is Ponce. We’ve razzed its ruins and belittled the bumpkin ways of its inhabitants. We act like Puerto Rico’s second city is somewhere south of Podunk Hollow, and, in a sense, it is. But for shame! There is good in every benighted, out-of-the-way burg, and Ponce has its share of pleasantly wacked, intrepid souls. Take Luis Valldejuly Sastre, whose hand-cranked torrefacción—we’re kidding, folks, the machinery may be small but it runs on actual electricity—produces, hands down, the best-roasted coffee on the island.
You can scout the cloud-shrouded mountains of Gripiñas all you want, searching for the perfect harvest, and you can sit hour after hour sorting and sizing unroasted beans until your eyeballs spin in their sockets. But roasting is the name of the game, and until now we never actually witnessed the critical moments in which Luis transforms those curious little blue-green nubbins into the dark, aromatic vessels of a jazzy, life-affirming brew.
Café Mayor maintains an outrageous advantage in flavor and what we call the “bliss factor” over the corporate roasters that prevail in Puerto Rico. Luis explains this with the old saw about timing being everything. Whereas some torrefacciones roast their coffee for as little as fifteen minutes at a relatively high temperature, he takes his time. Using Arabica beans grown in shadow at high altitudes, he attends his roaster like a mother hen with an unruly brood. Luis is always a voluble, jolly host when the Rotund mob descends on his place unexpectedly, but a deep inner ear remains attuned to the subtle shifts and increments in the next room.
At an exact moment, following a series of close visual checks and some feral sniffing of the air, Luis cranks a lever and cascade of brown gold issues forth, amidst steam clouds and an insect chorus of popping and crackling.
According to Luis, these are the sounds of flavor and aroma coming to life as the beans’ oils reach the surface after roasting. He first observed this phenomenon in the company of a certain Mujbat Aydin, a coffee roaster in Izmir, Turkey, and he believes it signals the outward manifestation of all that has been going on during the bean’s growth process. You, rational reader, may find such talk a shade too psychobabbly, but we Rotunders think it’s lovely because that’s the kind of guy Luis is.
With Café Mayor, Luis performs the unlikely feat of making Ponce seem cool, civilized, and timeless for his city-mouse cousins, the finicky Rotund crowd which finds the south an overwarm, dour, faraway, and generally exasperating place. Whatever he and Wastrel Chico put in the espresso—yes, the very same, looking muy suave, muy debonair these days—it is a balm for frazzled boricua living, and we’ll take a pound or two any time.
But there is more to life in Puerto Rico than La Muestra Nacional and black coffee, isn’t there? Who the devil is Martin Creed, and why are they saying those things about him? Aren’t there some art shows going on?
Find out what we’re talking about, page 2.