JUAN SÁNCHEZ: Hello my name is Juan Sánchez. I’m a painter, a printmaker, and I also do work in video. This mixed-media print, which is a combination of lithography, and hand-coloring, and collage with laser printing. The title of this piece, “Para Don Pedro.” For Don Pedro is actually a portrait of this important political figure in Puerto Rican history by the name of Pedro Albizu Campos, who was president of the Puerto Rican Nationalist Party, who advocated and fought for the independence of Puerto Rico. He is a figure that has become iconic because he spent many years in jail as a political prisoner, and at the same time he was someone who has really impacted the consciousness and the movement in a very strong way.
The elements within this portrait also has a connection to Catholic religion surrounding his portrait, which is dead center in the composition, is a repetition of a portrait of Jesus Christ, whose hands is extending almost welcoming the viewer, and there is this huge halo in the background. I was trying to make those kinds of connections because, of course, as we all know, in the New Testament Jesus Christ also sacrificed his life for humanity, and the combination of the floating spirals, which derive from the Taino Petroglyph in Puerto Rico. The overlayering of those spirals and the multicolor that that creates against the grey area where the portrait of Pedro Albizu Campos is repeated as a pattern. That creates a very interesting, floating, optical almost psychedelic effect, and what I was trying to do is create a portrait that not only represents him as a political revolutionary figure but also because of his Catholicism represented him as a spiritual figure. The repetition of the portrait of Christ in each corner of the composition creates an interesting cross when you look at that in relation to the negative space that it creates, and so there’s a number of symbolism and metaphors that plays into this composition so that the viewer can take many different readings and really engage in the optical effect of this composition.
Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art presents the rich and varied contributions of Latino artists in the United States since the mid-twentieth century, when the concept of a collective Latino identity began to emerge.