Art along Lehigh

Post by Andrea Kirsh

Gilberto Gonzalez paintings on walls by Dan "One"
Gilberto Gonzalez paintings on walls by Dan “One”

There’s lots to see along Lehigh Avenue at the moment. If you’re going to the Lighthouse before it closes tomorrow to see Pepon Ossorio’s extraordinary and moving installation (see post), you might want to stop at Taller Puertorriqueno to see stylistically-diverse work by several other artists active in Philadelphia’s Latino community: “Three Conversations; recent works by Gilberto Gonzalez, Domingo Negron and Jose Ali Paz” is actually work by four artists. Gonzalez, the prize-winning Senior Graphic Designer at the Community College of Philadelphia, is showing cityscapes of the barrio done in mixed media on canvas, and three small portraits: a self-portrait and two of children. His paintwork and drawing is rich and assured; his unpopulated scenes of modest buildings make impressive paintings.

Gilberto Gonzalez
Gilberto Gonzalez painting on walls by Dan “One”

Gonzalez has hung the work on walls painted by his friend, Dan “One” – a noted graffiti artist and the un-named fourth artist. The portraits are close-cropped images of heads and the children are done with none of the sentimentality which is always a risk when depicting children. They are hung on a wall covered by Dan “One’s” very large Puerto Rican flag, while the cityscapes are on walls he covered with graffiti typical of the neighborhood; the buildings shown would surely be covered with the same. It’s a powerful installation that complements the paintings and situates them within a background of Puerto Rican identity, popular culture and youthful male markings.

The second room has work by Domingo Negron, another designer who creates posters, tee-shirts and banners for the local community. His wall is dominated by a large banner with a fierce, horned carnival mask, of a sort used to ward off evil spirits. The image is based on the work of the famous mask-maker, Casto Ayala; works by Alaya and his family are usually available at Taller’s store. Negron is also showing a powerful figure of the fertility goddess, Cayuana, robustly carved of wood. The walls here are decorated with large Taino pictographs (Taino were the indigenous population of Puerto Rico), to emphasize the continuity with the island’s pre-European culture.

May 4, 2007
by Jose Ali Paz

Jose Ali Paz, who is known for his community murals, is showing four paintings of both urban and rural scenes of his native Venezuela; they are rich with the bright colors and intense sun of the Carribean. My favorite shows a crowd of people accompanying a statue of the Virgin as she is carried in a religious parade across the plaza in front of a church. He has captured the centrality of religion in the community in its everyday intimacy to old and young alike.

The exhibition will be up through July 21 (Taller Puertorriqueno is at 2721 N. 5th St., (215) 426-3311).

–Andrea Kirsh is an art historian based in Philadelphia. You can read her newest Philadelphia Introductions and other commentary at InLiquid.