Monday, November 26, 2018

My encounter and evolving relation with the Tarot (Part 2 of 3)

EL EMIGRANTE & EL ARTISTA (2011) Oil and gold leaf on panel 11.5 x 23.5
 from the Mcolonial Citizens series.

In 2011 I worked on a series of oil paintings and gold leaf on panel titled  The Mcolonial Citizens. This represented my first direct exploration into some of the archetypes found in the Tarot. Since I was interested in issues related to social injustice and inequality in the Americas from colonial times to the present,  the Series E/S Conditions of Man from the Mantegna Tarocchi made perfect sense as a point of departure and inspiration for this collection. On  these 12 pieces also found inspiration in the Spanish Colonial "Casta" paintings and the portraits of 18th century Puerto Rican painter Jose Campeche. From the Beggar to the CEO, these "Neo-Colonial" portraits respond to the present socio-economic living conditions in a capitalist/consumer driven society.  The Mcolonial Citizens were shown at Petrus Gallery in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 2012.

EL MENDIGO & LA AMA DE CASA (2011) Oil and gold leaf on panel 11.5 x 23.5
 from the Mcolonial Citizens series.

 EMPERATRIZ & EMPERADOR (2013) Oil and gold leaf on panel from the Devocionales series.

In 2012 and 2013 a second wave of work inspired after the Tarot was created, titled Devocionales: Neo Colonial Retablos from an Archetypal Perspective. These "Neo-Colonial" retablos were derived directly from the Major Arcana from the Tarot  of Marseille, one of the oldest surviving Tarot decks. As with the Mcolonial I aimed at the issues of social inequality and consumer culture taking inspiration in Spanish Colonial Art and Latin American history. The difference this time was in scale, complexity and the use of several Tarot decks as source of inspiration, but mainly the Tarot of Marseille. In large gilded altar like poliptychs I incorporated multiple historical narratives, tying them all together with a common archetypal theme.  This body of work along with some of the Mcolonial Citizens were exhibited at the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum, in Mesa, Arizona in 2013. 

EL MAGO & LA PAPISA (2013) Oil and gold leaf on panel from the Devocionales series.

In the following years, from 2014 to 2016 the work kept evolving  while I incorporated and developed the archetypal language of the Tarot in it as well as visual elements derived from Alchemy Astrology and Mythology.

TEMPUS FUGIT (2014) Oil and gold leaf on panel 36 x 31 inches.

By the end of 2016 after my re-encounter my old cards, I decided it was the right time to create my very first deck of cards, the Tarot Novi Mundi. After much research and creative exploration I wanted to create a deck that reflected my personal experiences from my childhood years growing up in Puerto Rico to my travels through Latin America. I also wanted to integrate some of the narratives from a book that was highly influential in my art since 1999. I'm talking about Memorias del Fuego by Eduardo Galeano, a compendium of short stories from the history of the Americas. I read this trilogy while traveling through Peru in 1998 and it had a huge impact in the way I understood the history of Latin America. Galeano as an incredible storyteller portrayed the story of the Americas as an ongoing history of conquest, colonization and exploitation of people's and resources in the name of the Crown, Church and Capital. At that time I felt  a strong  urge  to re-tell these stories through  Art. Even though I no longer fully agree  with all the Marxist views and post colonial theories expressed by Galeano, Cesaire and others, I do see the need to respond to the issues of colonization, immigration, social injustice and the ruling corpocracy in the Americas from a historical perspective and through Art.

6 BASTA (6 of Wands) PONTIFEX MAXIMUS (The Pope) & 2 BASTA (2 of Wands) 
Three cards from the Tarot Novi Mundi

The Tarot provided me with the perfect platform for such endeavor. Originating during the Renaissance, in the age of Columbus and the dawn of globalization, the Tarot has been used for playing cards games and fortune telling. Within this context in mind It wasn't too hard to see how the story of the Americas could be retold, yet it would be impossible to include all the important stories in 78 cards. With more than 500 years of social struggles, individual stories and historical turning points, I had to get creative, but  also very selective with the stories I wanted to tell.  Since it is my first Tarot deck, I decided to make it more personal and stick with the historical narratives that somehow struck a chord in me as an artist. I also took some creative liberty to incorporate some of my own stories into the cards, recognizing and embracing my own bias and personal experiences informing my understanding of history.  With this in mind I worked for a whole year in 2017 on  the deck. On the next and last part of this blog article I'll discuss in more detail the soon to be published Tarot Novi Mundi.

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