Visual Arts Center of New Jersey to Open Olas Caribeñas/Caribbean Waves In January

362 (Lada) by Jairo AlfonsoSummit, NJ (December 21, 2022)—The Visual Arts Center of New Jersey (VACNJ) will open Olas Caribeñas/Caribbean Waves an interdisciplinary initiative that explores the visual art and folklife traditions of the Caribbean diaspora in New Jersey on January 23. The displayed work will be on view through June 4.

In the Main Gallery, Jairo Alfonso: Objectscapes, surveys the work of Jairo Alfonso, a Cuban-born artist who has been living and working in New Jersey since 2014. This exhibition is a survey of artworks created in the past 10 years that are similarly concerned with the cultural and societal meanings of everyday objects. Like an archeologist of the present, Alfonso meticulously documents consumer goods, communication devices, and other ubiquitous products in large-scale drawings and paintings, installations, and videos. He reveals material culture’s propensity to hold personal as well as collective significance and sheds light on who we are, where we are from, and where we belong.

Concurrently, in the Mitzi and Warren Eisenberg Gallery, folklife traditions—including dance performances, traditional music, and multimedia storytelling—will be highlighted in public programs and through video, audio recordings, and documentary photographs. Los Herederos, a media arts non-profit organization, will showcase The Sonicycle, a mobile audio-visual unit that engages communities in sharing stories, music, and cultural traditions. This interactive digital caravan is fully outfitted with a DJ turntable, speakers, audio players, a projector, and recording equipment. Los Herederos will use The Sonicyle to record stories from artists, performers, and community members in a public event at the Art Center on Saturday, February 11, from 1–4 PM. They will then produce a short audio documentary reel composed of oral histories, local soundscapes, and musical performances collected by folklorist Naomi Sturm-Wijesinghe and Los Herederos. Also on view will be aspects of the folklife research including an installation of documentary photographs printed on textiles.

The Art Center’s Stair-gazing gallery will showcase Jack & Jill by figurative painter Kevin Darmanie. Born in Trinidad & Tobago, Darmanie utilizes photographs of himself and his friends to create his portraiture, referencing elements of his own life and shared experiences to inform clean narrative works which explore complex relationships between image, object, gaze, and landscape. In Darmanie’s recent work, the cellphone’s function as a contemporary mechanism for interpersonal communication looms prominent, informing the composition of the artworks and acting as the de facto device to capture the depicted images.

Artist Bios: 

Jairo Alfonso is a Cuban-born artist living and working in Hudson County, New Jersey. He was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1974. He graduated from the Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA) and from the Escuela Nacional de Arte (ENA) in Havana. He moved to the United States from Spain in 2013.

Alfonso’s work has been featured in more than 10 solo exhibitions worldwide, including Instrumentaciones, Centro de Arte Contemporáneo Wilfredo Lam, Havana, Cuba (2000); and in over 60 group shows, including Useless: Machines for Dreaming, Thinking, and Seeing, the Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York (2019); Flow: Economies of the Look and Creativity in Contemporary Art from the Caribbean, IDB Cultural Center Art Gallery, Washington, DC (2014); Cuban America: An Empire State of Mind, Lehmann College Art Gallery, New York (2014); Occupying, Building, Thinking: Poetic and Discursive Perspectives on Contemporary Cuban Video Art (1990–2010), University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum, Tampa (2013); Politics: I don’t like it, but it likes me, Laznia Centre for Contemporary Art, Gdansk, Poland (2013); Killing Time: An Exhibition of Cuban Artists from the ’80s to the Present, Exit Art, New York (2007); and Batiscafo / Proyecto Circo, Eighth Mercosul Biennial, Porto Alegre, Brazil (2011).

He has participated in various artist residencies, including the Fountainhead Residency, Miami, Florida (2019); Marble House Project, Dorset, Vermont (2015); and Guttenberg Arts, New Jersey (2014). He was the recipient of a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant in 2017. Alfonso’s work appears in private collections as well as in the public collections of the Pérez Art Museum, Miami, Florida; the Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach, California; the permanent collection of the province of Hainaut, Belgium; and the Havana Galerie Collection, Zürich, Switzerland, among others.

Los Herederos, which translates to “the inheritors,” is a grassroots media-arts non-profit organization dedicated to inheriting culture in the digital age. They engage in research-based documentation for public consumption to produce projects, programs, and services that address the realities of local culture, evolving communities, and an increasingly diasporadical immigrant experience. They believe in the power and complexity of transmedia storytelling to educate and encourage a more culturally aware, equitable, and sustainable society. Founded in 2015 by a cohort of documentarians, media artists, and folklorists, Los Herederos’ platform provides a unique link between artist, citizen, public, education, and history. They adapt artist-driven projects and archives to reflect the transformative nature of community and tradition. Central to their creative strategy is their interdisciplinary approach to ethnography. Their ethnographic practice is both observant of their surroundings and reflective of their own experiences as New York City natives and immigrant artists. As inheritors of the city, they look to capture the magic of the everyday to build infrastructure in our communities and name their stake in our cultural futures.

Kevin Darmanie is a painter who currently shuttles between Brooklyn and Newark, New Jersey. He has exhibited at the Paul Robeson Gallery and Messier Gallery at Express Newark, Rutgers University, Newark, NJ; Reginald Ingraham Gallery, Los Angeles, CA; Harold B. Lemmerman Gallery, New Jersey City University, NJ; Gallery Aferro, Newark, NJ; and Central Utah Arts Center, Salt Lake City, UT. He has had recent solo exhibitions at Paradice Palase, Brooklyn, NY; and Peninsula Gallery, NYC. His work has been written about in both Forbes and Hyperallergic magazines.

This exhibition’s accompanying public programming would not have been possible without the generous support of the National Endowment for the Arts. We are grateful to the New Jersey Council for the Humanities for its support of a folk-arts consultant, advisory committee members, and fieldwork that took place within New Jersey’s Caribbean communities. We also thank the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation for its support of an audio documentary reel complementing this project. And we thank the Wilf Family Foundations and the New Jersey Council on the Arts for their continued support. 

[Image above: Jairo Alfonso, 362, 2012, watercolor pencil on paper, 79 x 159 inches, courtesy of the artist.]