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.

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
Leonard Tachmes 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
La Casa del Arte
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. A snootful for the irony-impaired. Push the little orange dodad below and you will 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.

Re: the Hash

We found ourselves face-to-face with some jug-eared Baroqueness last week at our fave Santurce hole-in-the-wall, =Desto. We’ve come to expect the unexpected in this lively redoubt of the avant avant and the what-the-hay, but even our fossilized, not to say termite-ridden, old Rotund timbers were shivered by the latest antics from =Desto’s dynamic duo, Raquel Quijano and Omar Obdulio Peña Forty. (It appears that one-time partner-in-crime Jason Mena has gone on to other things; mainly attending to his own artistic career. This move recently paid off handsomely for Mena, who won an honorable mention in the VI Salón de Dibujo de Santo Domingo, which we’ll get to in a moment.)

Really, all Quijano and Peña Forty had to do was invite the always creaturely Freddie Mercado into their tiny exhibition hall cum point-of-encounter, and Mercado did the rest. Copious black lace, froufy period appointments, stuffed animals of unknown and highly questionable provenance, consumptive lighting, all as backdrop for the paintings, photographs, and other so-called “sculptural objects” which comprise the man’s artistic production. On one wall, a series of photographic self-portraits of the artist as Victorian lady of means, black-clad alcaldesa, hefty sexpot alounge with bad intentions. On another, paintings that range from middling, straight-ahead homenaje-portraits of neighborhood figures to amusing semi-figurative pastiches made with floral patterned fabric, calligraphic traceries of goo configuring corsets, necklaces, g-strings, and net stockings, and actual brush strokes in the service of recognizable, well-put faces and figures. One little portrait confronts us with a personage from a tropical fever-dream, pig-nosed and bewigged. If you ask us, where Freddie Mercado is concerned, “wiggy” often comes to mind.

Or maybe it would be more appropriate to call the setting foreground, or—let’s split the difference—all of a piece. We’d be the first to admit that the lace, the velvety, old-time accouterments, and the soft illumination—which gives our photographs their jaundiced look, a much truer picture than you might think—provided =Desto with perhaps its coziest, most drawing room moment to date. Things are only disturbing in the details.

We had the opportunity to chat with Mercado amidst his fringed lamps, doilies, and bug-eyed soft sculptures, and he is a well-spoken and downright affable fellow. We learned that there is little distinction between Freddie the artist and Freddie the man. It appears that Mercado lives his art, dressing daily as we see him in the photographs of grande dames and elegant floozies, and, of course, a guy has to find time to paint and stitch and sew. He told us that, “performance can begin at any moment, and anything, any object, can be something else.” When he has an audience he likes to raise his skirts and lower his bodice and show his butt—it’s such a prodigious show that we wonder if what we’re seeing is perhaps a clever prosthetic enhancement—and we suspect that this part of Mercado’s thing is strictly to freak out the straight people, because we’re frankly hard-put to see the point when you’re alone in the livingroom dusting the armoire.

Be that as it may, even in his most outré proffering of flesh there is the sort of push-pull, attract-repel, granny-slutty dynamic you see in the overall picture of his =Desto outing, and what comes to our conventional little minds is the transgression thing so beloved by certain artists of every generation and locale, a desire to carry things a step too far. Which in Freddie Mercado’s case seems less a personal quirk than a kind of vision. He has a way with exaggeration that teases out both the pleasantness of what is old-fashioned about us and the hypocritical, absurd, and cruel. He works to violate ordinariness in every possible way—or maybe “transcend” is a better word for it—up to and including our rage for the here and now. And that’s okay with with us because that’s what we’ve always thought art was about, too.

Pay =Desto a visit at 1400 Américo Salas at Hipódromo, if for no other reason than to see a a truly original mind at work, plus a chance to sit on some pretty groovy furniture. Give Omar or Raquel a jingle at 787-633-3381 because you never know when someone will be around to give you a show.

In Praise of Somewhat Famous Persons

We were recently apprised of the news that several of our kind—i.e. Puerto Rican artsy fartsies—went to the VI Salón de Dibujo de Santo Domingo, and that more than one island personage came away with honors. Haydeé Venegas was the organizer of the boricua group and got the award as top curator at the show. Javier Olmeda Raya won one of the main prizes for his “use of the textual in the service of drawing,” and Jason Mena received an honorable mention for his work sin título, which we believe is an artist’s book. Miguel Luciano, who was in Santo Domingo as a U.S. representative—though we think of him as a native son—also got an honorable mention.

Up and Coming

There are a couple of events and some art news we want to shout out about, but we’ll content ouselves with showing you some reproductions of publicity fliers. One regards the soon-to-open ICP-sponsored exhibition Estigma, the group show of artists who were representatives of La Trienal Poli/Gráfica de San Juan: América Latina y el Caribe at la Bienal Internacional de Artes Gráficas de Ljubljana . . . if you follow. This exhibition opens in sala 3 of La Ballajá on November 29th at 7 p.m. The flier, below, features a Miguel Luciano work, by the bye.

Another group exhibition, Location unoseisiete, opens at Caribbean University on November 27th, also at 7 p.m. This show has many of the usual suspects of the youth explosion, including Karlo Ibarra, Rafa Miranda, Abdiel Segarra, and Puntos Suspensivos.

Finally, the much anticipated Orificio, the omnibus magazine-like gathering of island art wowsers, put together by Teresa López, is a step or two closer to realization with the announcement that López received grants from the ICP and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). Fab!

Fair is Fair

We love to give El Nuevo Día a hard time for its horrendamente uncritical coverage of the local art scene, so we have to take our hats off to the daily newspaper for its spate of recent articles by Mariana García Benítez. García Benítez, as we’ve mentioned elsewhere in our often inflamed, and perhaps even intemperate, coverage of the matter, knows for the most part whereof she speaks, writes well, and has an almost uncanny way of connecting with the artists she writes about. It is an unusual approach for an arts writer, but here it humanizes the all-too-often dreary process of reading about art. A really smart move on the part of El Nuevo Día. Who says we’re not nice?

A Tip o’ the Hat to the Grinner

Last spring we tripped on over to la Playa in Ponce, a mostly desolate warehouse section of the city where Antonio Martorell has built a studio, creating a veritable palmy oasis amidst the arid ruins. At the time Martorell was finishing up a large-scale print installation for Eugenio Maria de Hostos Community College in the Bronx, New York, where he’d been a visiting scholar in the fall of 2006. The woodcut, dry point, and collage installation features, as we saw it, not only two walls of images, but also a dancefloor and an array of lamps and kites. It is based on both Hans Holbein’s The Dance of Death and that essential Puerto Rican form la plena, and, in fact, is entitled La Plena Inmortal [The Immortal Plena].

La Plena Inmortal displays the artist’s usual inexhaustible prodigiousness, but to say that we were astonished at the work’s color, strength, and sheer velocity is, well, a kind of understatement. And you know we’re not often given to those.

Unlike the funereal stillness of his recent exhibition Martorell DF, the artist’s public entombment of things he lost in the vandal fire that destroyed his studio-home and many of his works and possessions last fall—which we commented on hereLa Plena Inmortal literally dances with exuberant excess, both in its formal play and its commentary on the abiding swoon of tropical island existence, the peculiar absurdities of what’s frequently referred to here as “our colonial situation,” and living—and dying—as a human being.

We have always been a much greater fan of Martorell the printmaker than the painterly Martorell or even Martorell the installation artist, and for us La Plena Inmortal harks back to some of his strongest work ever, the 1960s portfolio Las Barajas Alacrán.


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