Complicated Stories

Charles Juhasz-Alvarado: Complicated Stories presented the artist’s past and present bodies of works as an ongoing dialogue on social consciousness and cultural identity. Charles Juhasz-Alvarado’s elaborate site-specific installations engaged the viewer through narrative, performance, audio, and sculpture to introduce a fantasy world that served as an acute and humorous allegory of today’s multicultural society and the artist’s own background.

The Puerto-Rican artist was born in 1965 at the Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines to a Hungarian father and a Puerto Rican-Cuban mother. He grew up in San Juan, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, received a BA and MFA from Yale University, and now works and resides in Puerto Rico. These socio-cultural influences are addressed in his works, which often allude to his varied background and the historical and political conditions of those places.

Juhasz-Alvarado’s works are playful monoliths, combining monumental size with biting satire and political humor. In I-Scream (resist!), 2004, the artist complicates the history of Puerto Rican-American relations through the depiction of the 1983 robbery of a Wells Fargo van by the Macheteros (a pro-independence Puerto Rican organization) with an ice cream truck complete with a Mount Rushmore-shaped Popsicle. The Garden of Forbidden Fruit / Zona Franca is a complex installation exploring how the merging of divergent cultures creates desires and consequent limitations through a hilarious depiction of a Puerto Rican airport. The airport becomes the ultimate allegory for the opposition of the Puerto Rican and American experiences. The centerpiece of the exhibition was a new, commissioned work titled Winged Termite. This massive installation, made rather ironically from wood, referenced Leonardo daVinci’s idea to build a flying machine modeled on the shape, proportions and mechanics of flying animals such as birds, bats or, in this case, a winged termite. Hanging from the ceiling of Exit Art, the work invited the viewer to climb inside the machine and act as the ‘conductor’.

In this age, where many artists outsource their work or divide the labor of creating their work among several people, Charles Juhasz-Alvarado mastered the literal crafting involved in constructing his visions. He works hands-on, asserting his complete control over all aspects of his imagination. The artist himself is not only seen in the concept, but manifests himself in the shaping of steel, in the shaving of wood, so that when the viewer enters the installation, the works involve the viewer in one coherent thought.

Juhasz-Alvarado was chosen to be Puerto Rico’s representative at the Bienal de Saõ Paulo, Brazil (2002). He has also exhibited in: Octava Bienal de La Habana, Havana, Cuba (2003); II Biennale of Contemporary Art, Prague, Czech Republic (2005), Zverev Center for Contemporary Art in Moscow, Russia (2006), and most recently at the Singapore Biennale (2006). His most recent solo exhibition was at desM Galeria Petrus, Santurce, Puerto Rico (2005). This will be the artist’s first solo exhibition in New York.

This major project, Charles Juhasz-Alvarado: Complicated Stories, was a vital opportunity to survey the work of this important contemporary artist and to introduce him to American audiences, where he has had limited exposure.

Curated by Jeanette Ingberman and Papo Colo.

THIS KIND OF ARTIST

His talent is an unrelenting one; there is no business plan or conflict of interest. The capacity of creating something unseen is a uniqueness that sometimes is paid in unawareness. This kind of artist is the opposite of the hype, a creator in slow solitude that comes with a void that circulates in every decision and the will to override any obstacle. He builds stories that embrace history and the future of history.

This artist is in equilibrium with his potential; Charles Juhasz-Alvarado is in his prime. There is total Americanism in his results, a hybrid state of insects, idols and events that are embedded in a tropical archaeology in which science, botany, literature, aerodynamics and political history are managed with metal and wood. There is an interior mark in this kind of artist, an essential way that makes him non-digestible, a renegade, a rebel with many causes, an artist shadowboxing with history, his own.

The exhibition, Complicated Stories, is a three-dimensional map in which the route is indicated in many directions, an island labyrinth in which incomprehensible purposes of dependence and independence are placed against the power of an empire and by mutual agreement, Art is done. An unidentified vision of his style, the complexity of interpretation, and the intelligence of his reasoning make his work escape any classification.

This exhibition, with many levels, is in control of its complications. And like the place he comes from, San Juan, he composes the utopia everyday and makes it operational. This work redefines the unique position of a radical mind telling stories about extremes, making it playful and literary, individual and participatory, artisan and cerebral, creating local and thinking global.

Charles Juhasz-Alvarado is an innovator of contemporary sculpture and a necessary artist in the cultural history of the island of Puerto Rico. With this exhibition Exit Art now introduces him to the New York public.

Papo Colo, 2008
San Juan/New York

EVENTS

Wednesday, May 21, 7 PM
A Conversation About Art, the Island, and U.S.
Charles Juhasz-Alvarado talked with Deborah Cullen, Director of Curatorial Programs at El Museo del Barrio, New York. The talk covered themes and political implications in Juhasz-Alvarado’s work and investigated his process.

SOLO

Charles Juhasz-Alvarado: Complicated Stories followed Exit Art’s tradition of presenting mid-career solo retrospectives, bringing public attention to now firmly established artists such as Jimmie Durham, Ursula von Rydingsvard, Willie Birch, Krzysztof Wodiczko, Tehching Hsieh, Martin Wong, and David Hammons. This exhibition was the first in Exit Art’s newly initiated SOLO program, aimed at providing public visibility for under-represented, mid-career artists through annual solo exhibitions at Exit Art.

CREDITS

All audio in collaboration with Fabian Vélez. Additional collaborations with visual artists Carol Cordero, Elizam Escobar, Carlos Fajardo, Teo Freytes, Juana Gallo, and Ana Rosa Rivera. The studio team for this exhibition includes Ing. Yorvani Arzuaga, Verónica Cabrera, Marcela Castro, Marielis Castro, Adelino González, Elsie Miranda, Ivonne Pratts, Frances Rivera, Leonardo Rivera, Manuel Rodríguez and Abdiel Segarra.

CATALOG

Charles Juhasz-Alvarado: Complicated Stories, 2009
Unique box includes:
– 38-page saddle-bound catalog with exhibition texts, excerpt of interview with the artist, and curatorial statement by Exit Art Co-founder/Artistic Director Papo Colo
– DVD with video documentation of the exhibition and Still Life, a performance by Trickster Theater
– Exhibition poster
– Full-color images of each of the artist’s works

ISBN 0-913263-54-0
8.5 x 11 inches
Edition of 100
$30

EXHIBITION SUPPORT

This exhibition was sponsored by the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Trust.
Additional funding provided by Catharine and Jeffrey Soros and the Dedalus Foundation, Inc.

Charles Juhasz-Alvarado: Complicated Stories was also supported by the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña/National Endowment for the Arts, Ursula Von Rydingsvard, Diana and Manolo Berezdivin, Marimar Benítez, Maud Duquella, Marketing Media, Ana Rosa Rivera and special thanks to Arnaldo Morales. General exhibition support from Carnegie Corporation, Jerome Foundation, New York State Council on the Arts, Starry Night Fund at The Tides Foundation, Exit Art’s Board of Trustees and our members. Public programs support provided by The New York City Department of Cultural Affairs.