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Weekly Update — Trelles at Taller and news-ettes


This week’s Philadelphia Weekly has my review of Miguel Trelles’ painting exhibition at Taller Puertorriqueno. Also on the art page, a couple of news items in sketches. Here’s the link to the art page and below is the copy with some extra photos.

Oceans Apart
Miguel Trelles‘ two-part exhibition at Taller Puertorriqueño creates a fluid world where East not only meets West but merges with it in one big global hug. Trelles, a studio artist and art historian (Brown, B.A., 1990; Hunter, M.F.A., 1995), was inclined to culture-sampling due to an early and deep interest in ancient Chinese landscape painting.


In his 13 paintings from the “Chino-Latino” series, Trelles-a fluid painter deft at literal depiction as well as gestural swirls and flat passages of saturated color-reinterprets Chinese landscapes as hybrid fantasies, in which the Asian mountains have moved to a Caribbean island and are surrounded by a vibrant ocean of fuchsia, orange, yellow or blue.

Chinese landscapes frequently incorporate the idea of climbing up the misty mountain. Trelles also suggests an upward climb, but his atmosphere isn’t one of mist and rain, and his mountains, far from being climbable, are often like slippery jewels-beautiful but unscalable.

The 36-year-old Puerto Rican painter, who splits his time between the island and New York, is in tune with the mountain but more in tune with the ocean. The atmospheres in works like Orange Landscape, Imperial Landscape, Golden Tree and others are ones of oceanic extremes. The flat expanse of endless sea that dominates the land in these paintings suggests an island perspective as well as a more philosophical point about the balance of power on the planet and the smallness of land-and humankind-in the greater scheme of things.

(the artist works with oil on canvas, acrylic on canvas and, as here at left, in a piece called “Charcoal Bones,” oil, acrylic and charcoal on linen)


The paintings are imbued with longing for these uninhabitable lands. Their beauty is haunting, and while the colors suggest playfulness, there’s an undertow.

Part two of Trelles’ show includes a series of portraits of “rumberas”-female rumba dancers who were featured in Mexican movies from the ’30s through the ’50s.


Depictions of dancers/actresses Maria Antonieta Pons, Ninon Sevilla and seven others evoke the costumes, music and prefeminist mindset of the times. In these paintings, most of which date from 2005, Trelles continues to play with the Chino-Latino themes by setting his characters in fantasy landscapes that evoke Asia-by-Caribbean worlds. Best in this series is Mirta and the Pine (left), which seems to add a layer of North American fantasy as well, with the bright yellow moon behind the dancer looking for all the world like a Maxfield Parrish painting.

Artists exploring other cultures must tread carefully on their source material. Trelles shows great respect. His works are harmonious explorations of cross-cultural identity.

“Miguel Trelles: The Garden of the Forking Paths and Rumberas in the Garden”
Through Jan. 15. Lorenzo Homar Gallery, Taller Puertorriqueño, 2721 N. Fifth St. 215.426.3311.


Sculptor Jennie Shanker emailed an announcement that Tyler School of Art is searching for a sculptor for a full-time tenured position in the sculpture department starting in 2006. Application deadline is Dec. 15. See College Art Association career listings for more.


>> Seraphin Gallery emailed that Edgar Jerins, an artist in their current “New Philadelphia Realists” exhibit, got one of those golden rings — a favorable New York Times review — from Ken Johnson for his June exhibit at Tatistcheff Gallery. (image is charcoal drawing by Jerins, a PAFA grad. I got it from his website and am not sure why it’s purplish)

>> Hundreds came out last Wednesday night for the ICA-sponsored “LURE” event, a “son et lumière” organized by Aaron Igler at the Morris Arboretum that included video projection on trees, live music, swirling mechanized light gizmos and a relaxed summer-camp ambience.

>> Folks at the Global Creative Economy Campaign want you to help them select the right marketing campaign to promote Philadelphia as a happening, creative town. Four proposals will be unveiled and the audience will vote at 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 8 at Moore College. A reception follows. Your participation as a voter and presence at the reception costs $30, which seems high, so I hope the refreshments are good. The group hosts a conference on its issues Jan. 9-11, 2006, at University of the Arts.