the Razors Edge"
(essay in Spanish)
Mano Poderosa Racetrack: Nuevo Devocionario Boricua"
- (essay in English)
en Espanol )
On the Razors Edge
By Taína B. Caragol
When face to face with Miguel Lucianos work, disequilibrium is the only certainty. The spectator steadies himself between humor and pain, over a razors edge, just on the line that defines or obscures "Puerto Ricanness" An emptiness full of certainties and uncertainties threatens his every step. The mix, the jumble, and the bamboozle emerge and give license to combining essentialist folklore with the American Dream, the devotion for saints with the seduction of the tropics.
For Luciano, the deconstruction of Puerto Ricos colonial history, as well as the problematization of the space between Puerto Rican and American cultures, are the principal terrain of exploration. His paintings, videos and installations present a variety of Puerto Rican stereotypes that expose racist traditions within our historic representations, including those representations we ourselves continue to perpetuate. Social, racial and sexual prejudices are revealed beneath the mask of political power that outlines the relationship between oppressor and oppressed.
Lucianos work concommitantly poses the historical problem of colonial dependency with the present question of globalization and its attendant voracious consumerism. The strength of his work lies, justly, in bringing to light how these issues lead to a perpetual state of subordination and alienation.
In search of answers, Luciano transforms his canvases into carnivalesque scenes in which popular icons, religious and commercial, converge in a continual (re)definition of Puerto Rican identity. Strident colors and strokes outline the encounters between El Vejigante, Uncle Sam, Mama Inés, Ronald MacDonald, and the Divine Child, who in a playful or violent tug-of-war, reclaim spaces, vacillating dangerously between mestizaje and assimilation. The juxtaposition of icons allows Luciano to deconstruct, subvert and establish new hierarchies that reinforce the corporal fight between multiple contradictions, equating shopping to religious devotion, and unveiling the complexity of sociopolitical processes.
His work engenders provocative questions, inciting reflection without offering definitive answers. The nostalgic evocation of Cajigas rural landscapes, the substitution of folkloric icons with commercial icons, and the the layering of newly painted images over aged and weathered surfaces, however, suggest a loss and a distancing between traditional representations of "Puerto Ricanness" and the process of its continual transformation. After getting beyond the seduction of surface and color in the paintings, we may upon deeper reflection wipe the smiles off our faces.