Tony Cruz Pabón One month after being known in that island

Tony Cruz Pabón (b. 1977) is a Puerto Rican multimedia artist who lives and works in San Juan. He earned his B.A. at the Escuela de Artes Plásticas de Puerto Rico in 2000, and then received a Ph.D. in research and artistic practices from the Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha in Spain. In 2009, he helped create Beta-Local, an organization dedicated to promoting arts and critical discourse on the island of Puerto Rico. His works have been shown internationally, including in Berlin, São Paulo, Bogotá, Los Angeles, and Glasgow. He is the recipient of a 2018 Joan Mitchell Foundation Award and a 2019 Robert Rauschenberg Foundation residency.

ON VIEW: La Clave / La Llave (The KeY), 2020

ON VIEW: La Clave / La Llave (The KeY), 2020

Some experts from Brian Fee’s interview with Tony Cruz Pabón.

Q: What are some of your earliest memories of art and visual culture?

A: I think my introduction to visual culture was television. Early on, I started drawing cartoons. When I saw that I could draw a reasonable likeness of Bugs Bunny, I began to sketch all the characters I watched on TV. In my second year of high school, I asked my parents if I could change schools, because mine had no art classes. They agreed, and, at some point, the art teacher at my new school lent me an art-history book with images that really impressed me. I remember seeing El Greco’s paintings and making the decision to study art. But I didn’t have access to museums, galleries, or art spaces until I arrived at university.

Q: Is this piece more about new kinds of cultural traditions, then?

A: For La Clave/La Llave, I focused on the strategies graphic designers used to create album-cover art. I’m not coming at this from the point of view of tradition, necessarily. But I am interested in looking at how these strategies are still present—and meaningful—in our culture. It’s like the syncretism that took place between the Catholic and Yoruba religions during the Caribbean colonization, in which the Catholic idols became the containers of the Yoruba deities. The Catholic images took on a new meaning but did not change their aspects. In today’s art world this might be seen as cultural appropriation. I propose that it is a strategy: creating images and content that are rooted in tradition while still being useful today.


To explore the other artists on view, click here.
To view the exhibtion One month after being known on that island, click here.

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