The lights… Daniel Lind Ramos has seized the lights. He has conquered the atmosphere of emotions gravitating in the dense coastal air of Loíza, desiring that human beings become again the simple, but resounding, measure of creativity. The recurrence of pregnant women in his works may indicate a coincidence between model and creator. In many ways, Lind’s work reveals that indispensable complicity, a duality suggested by Vallejo in his poetry. Human beings are metaphors, linked to a universal conception. Lind sensed its abstract meaning since he began to weave his own way two decades ago, up to the point of being able to configure the body and look at it as though for the first time. This discovery grows with time, and celebrates the ritual of magnetisms, attractions and separations, as a tribute to the will.
The solo show at Casa Roig Museum exhibited works made from 1984 to the present, to celebrate Lind’s appointment as Resident Painter of the University of Puerto Rico at Humacao, an honor conferred after he received two very important prizes in France.
Twelve years ago I wrote the notes for a catalogue of an exhibition of Lind’s works before his departure to Paris, as the first artist awarded a scholarship by the Arana Foundation. Since then I have followed his evolution. Revisiting his work, I can only confirm wholeheartedly that he is an artist with an immense visual wisdom. His solution of the artistic problems that he assumes are stunning. Lind’s formal, chromatic, and textural virtuosity, sets him apart from the prevailing trend of constructing works superficially, and with a mediocre self-satisfaction that fills a good part of the art market, and why not, of museums.
Although art in the 20th century moved away from the anecdotal, or the purely referential, if you live in Loíza, painting and producing art from those margins is not something you can avoid. There is a healthy tension between formal artistic freedom and the metaphorical embodiment of the self and its context. But that place, the space that gives the artist and us our identifying features, is first distilled as a pure visual experience. The sensuality of brushstrokes loaded with pigment; the rigorous selection of a palette to create the psychology of a given atmosphere; the textural porosity, ranging from the soft touch of the brushwork to the adhesion of objects on the surface; the perspiring brightness of oil, producing a cunning chromatic changeability in the multiple directions of the brushstrokes; the rippling bodies, sometimes massive and voluminous, sometimes spare; in brief, the hallucinated polychromy of the flat, aroused surface, define Daniel Lind’s appropriation; his search for a new Caribbean harmony.
In the compact selection of works exhibited at the Casa Roig Museum, a dizzying coloration is outstanding. Daniel Lind is a master of color. A small portion of any of these paintings reveals an enormous amount of color, applied in such a precise and well-conceived manner –or perhaps with the artist’s natural intuition– that it does not block the overall concept; on the contrary, it strengthens and grounds it in a very Puerto Rican way of approaching light. Of course, the tropical artist is heir not only to a tradition that goes back to Oller and Pizarro, allowing for distances and differences; he is also conversant with other great masters of light in painting, such as De La Tour, Caravaggio, Rembrandt, and, evidently, Lind’s favorite, Velázquez.
Lind’s painting belongs to the present. However, he does not endorse that shortsightedness before the past identified by Jameson as a defining characteristic of so-called postmodernity. Works such as Dudas (Doubts) (1984)," La
elegida" (The Chosen One) (1985-86), El día del huevo (The Day of the Egg) (1989-90), "La
boda" (The Wedding) (1993), or El elector (The Voter) (1998) are proof enough of a figurative world, as valid and unique as those of Balthus, Freud, Bacon, or closer to us, Armando Morales, Paula Rego and Jacobo Borges.
Lind is a persistently figurative artist. He is well acquainted with the human body, in particular the female body, an obsession of the Loíza-born artist. There is an imperious need to exorcise the lure of the flesh, and with it, the painter signals and pays his respects to a plastic materiality. I remember a documentary film, where a black female dancer from Harlem said that she had to “unlearn” ballet to find her most genuine expression, because ballet forced her to hide her breasts, hips and buttocks. By way of contrast, she believed that the dance closest to her heart –which she later practiced and developed– exposed the full carnality of the body as its most authentic means of expression. This dancer’s statement comes to mind when speaking about the work of Daniel Lind, since in Puerto Rico, as elsewhere in the Caribbean, the warm climate and corporal exuberance are mutually attracted. Hence the frequent play of corporal movements of female nudes in the trajectory of the Loíza master. Two examples are Rituales de verano (Summer Rituals) (1986) and Ménades tropicales (Tropical Maenads) (circa 1985). Warm and intense yellows and reds transform the visual experience into a festive riot of vibrating bodies, dancing in celebration.
An important quality of these paintings bears mentioning. The toning down in the background and in sections of the bodies suggests the use of an airbrush; however it is always hand-made. Some bodies, because of the lighting values or their formal connections, might be perceived as the negatives of others, when usually we would think of all bodies as positive. This effect is achieved both by the coloring and by the delimitation of contiguous bodies.
Maternity has been one of art’s enduring subjects, because, as stated, creation itself is its theme. Lind proposes several striking images of maternity. The protagonists are, of course, women. Woman is the artist’s model; woman in the act of giving birth, with its full meaning of pain and joy. But in addition, woman experiences all of the changes that precede the act of giving birth; the process of bearing creation within herself, the sensation of a growing creature and its increasingly unbearable weight. Female images allow the artist to express a psychological atmosphere by means of bodily posture. Using pregnant women as the subject of painting, the artist gives them different meanings, according to their plastic context. Some pieces are particularly dramatic, for example El día del huevo (The Day of the Egg) and "La
partera"(The Midwife) (1990). In others, the ritual is no less enigmatic, but we could say that the image is “more benign” to the spectator, as in Viaje a la fertilidad (Trip to fertility) (1998-2000). Let us look closely at some of these paintings.
El día del huevo is a medium-sized, almost square-shaped work. A central figure turns her back on the spectator and raises her hands as though imploring. She, and the five women surrounding her, are pregnant. They wait for the hieratical gesture of the celebrant at the center. Her buttocks are outlined on the round chair where they should have rested, but the intention of the artist is to highlight that part of the body, also exposed and emphasized in another one of the figures to the left. Around the chair is something like a staircase, whose ambiguous and obviously symbolic scale adds a sacred quality to the atmosphere. Resembling a pyramid, it inevitably evokes the civilizations of the Aztecs, the Incas or the Egyptians. Nevertheless, it is just a staircase shaped like a pyramid, a mere suggestion. The ceremonious tone is strengthened by this geometry, –staircase and circle, below– with an intensely pink-colored luminous circle somewhat below what would be the work’s vanishing point. In the background of the upper part of the painting, there is a sketch of mountains. Without alluding to Nietzchean misogyny, it could be said that Lind’s women follow the deepest meaning of the earth. The spot of light on the hands of the celebrant might suggest both the mountains in the background and a veil over this character. The pink spot is surrounded by a dark zone, almost an inverted triangle, and although it does not project light, the celebrant’s back is illuminated, as though by moonlight. There are echoes here of a philosophical occultism, a mystery about to be revealed to initiates. Everything is enveloped by an atmosphere of low contrasts. Violets and dark greens, greenish blues, and dark turquoises, form a backdrop to soft pink and wine-colored lights, sprinkled with yellow sparkles and almost hidden oranges.
Early in the 20th century, Suzanne Valadon posed her female models in rather absurd postures, so as to undermine the lustful gaze of men. Lind provokes a similar unrest, for different reasons. Tension is aroused in the spectator when facing these images for the first time, when the voluptuousness of the buttocks placed frontally contrasts with the dramatic, imploring gesture. The unrest is similar to that felt by someone in a serene emotional mood who comes upon a cathartic event. By successive viewings of El día del huevo, the spectator gradually accesses a ritualistic atmosphere of emotional and mystical rapture, and ends up being caught in it, both rationally and in sensibility.
partera" is one of the most complex pictures at the exhibition. It has the same middle-sized, square format. Lind repeats the dominant position of a woman placed at the center of the composition, who hides her face with one hand. Here, the dramatic, yet more positive, sign of the previously discussed picture changes radically to one of total harshness. Evidently, the character of the midwife anticipates a difficult situation with the pregnant woman who rests before her, along the lower extreme of the picture. The lying women gives the impression of being dead or in a precarious situation. A third woman, also pregnant, waits at the back, turning her back to the scene in foreground.
It is difficult to constellate the elements at play. A clue lies in the different color renderings of the three women. La
partera is made-up of pinks, grays, and greens. The prostrated woman is painted in olive green hues, while the other pregnant woman has turquoise overtones, dark or light by sections. The coloring of this last figure seems healthier than the one of the woman in the foreground, whose sickness is emphasized by her immobility. Remember that the use of pigmentation is not realistic. Instead it reflects psychological effects provoked by the artist on the spectator. The coloring does not match that of the skin, but rather the fruits or flowerings of nature; there is an indication of a certain immaturity in the lying woman, while the other pregnant woman seems to embody a sort of flowering, a natural ripeness. Two faces of the drama of giving birth. One disastrous and failed; the other anticipating a better outcome.
A fundamental aspect of "La
partera", is the chain of details tangled with symbolisms, coupled with the composition of this painting. A curtain behind the midwife separates foreground and background. There is a window on one of the sides. A house is visible behind. The parallel lines under the horizontal woman could indicate that she is lying on the floor or on a folding bed. Similar lines, colored differently, emerge behind the midwife toward the apparently wooden house. Everything is very stylized but suggesting an environment of precariousness and poverty. Without intending to create works of strictly social content, Lind pays tribute to the women who, without much formal education, devote themselves to helping other women in labor, but, on the other hand, questions the safety of performing such acts without sufficient medical knowledge. Nevertheless, the artist does not convey an image that may be read clearly in that sense, but rather conjures all of these features openly, as in a ritual, requiring a more elaborate analysis than the one proposed here.
This shamanistic bent toward the ritualistic returns pictorial knowledge to the realm of the spell, to the occult magic of things. There is a primal mystery in this experience, made timeless by the artist. The oneiric juxtapositions in Lind’s works are not merely surrealistic but, rather, express a leaning to the oracular. The objective is not to show the world, but the artist’s reading of the world, a metaphor of existence added to the world. This is evident in "Tránsito" (Transit) (1988-89), " La
familia"(The Family) (1989), "El
regreso de las ménades" (The Return of the Maenads) (1990), "Elixir
de amor" (Love Potion) (1994), and "El
bautizo" (The Baptism) (1997-98). All of these paintings surpass the boundaries of direct experience. The accumulation of color, the play of values, encourage the appropriation of a universal pictorial heritage, uniquely transformed by the dialogue between the figures and their Loíza surroundings, expressed in geometric forms.
Each appropriation addresses different expressive needs. "Elixir
de amor" is more naturalistic. A man and a woman, with their faces covered by cloths, remind us of Magritte, but recontextualized in a sort of creole spell, symbolic of sexual intercourse by the serving of coconut water in a glass. The picture, serenely blue, makes us stand back, while the curtain adds drama to the piece. Curtains, a symbol used repeatedly in Lind’s work, manifest an opening to an imaginary world. The display of luminous spots gravitating on certain areas of a work is frequent. They create an oneiric, even magical religious, effect.
"Tránsito" and "El
regreso de las ménades" are processions where the effect of bodies in motion is accomplished, in great measure, by the vibration of colors, symbolically linked to music, the dominant theme in both paintings. In the first one, the man in the foreground carries a drum, while in the second one, the woman at the right holds a horn to where her mouth should be. The instruments are represented very schematically; the drum is almost a bare circle, and the horn is a mere notion of a wind instrument. This representations take us back to immemorial times, a feeling emphasized by the semi-nudity of the bodies. Here is a symbolic reappropriation of primeval rhythm.
The reds, greens, and yellows on each one of the prominent figures mark the sequence of traveling musicians in "Tránsito".
Color changes from figure to figure are strengthened by the undulating rendering of the position of the arms; then the gaze moves to the hands, to the heads, and finally, to the houses in the background. We detect a visual control seeking to make us aware of pictorial space, since the figure in red is more flat than the woman in the greenish yellow specter in front of it, and than the man in green behind it. Again, the simplification of instruments suggests that Lind wishes to convey a deeper meaning than the simple act of music making at a Christmas party. There is a measure of the unknown in the confection of "Tránsito".
The title itself is an open invitation to flow, expressed in the musical metaphor, but also in the making of the piece. There is an intentional ambiguity in the fusion of the houses in the background and what the two figures to the right are carrying. The green figure and the one behind it, carry what appears to be a box. Its form is suggestive, because it looks like a percussion instrument, but also like a coffin, and could even be perceived as a section of the houses in the background, if part of it did not cover the back of the neck of the musician in red. This house, and the abstraction around the figures, disturb and enrich the symbolic construct of this painting. All of these elements adhere to the uncertain, suggest a pilgrimage to an enigmatic place where harmony rules the universe.
Something similar happens in "El
regreso de las ménades". Although the scale of the houses behind the figures is normal, on the right corner of the painting there is a rooster on top of a structure that could be a ceiling or a ladder. The rendering is suggestive and disconcerting, breaking the scale, and thus sharpening and multiplying the possibilities of interpretation. If this is a ceiling, the figures on top are gigantic, revealing a different scale. Again, if it is another object, stylized by the artist, the presence of an object with steps –or the hint of steps– leads us to interpret the piece as a spiritual search for cathartic cleanliness. The presence of a cross next to the rooster is not accidental. However, the religious references are rather hermetic or tenuous, and the piece remains within a vast territory of contemplation and reflections on existence.
bautizo" (1995-96) is another very complex composition. To appreciate it, we will look at it transversally, from the lower left to the right top. All but one of the figures are located in the upper triangle. Reading the piece in this direction, a woman makes a reverential gesture; above her, toward the center of the painting, a man holds a child; another celebrant of the ceremony named in the title of the painting, shows the mask of a white man, that of the knight in the festivities of Loíza; a figure behind it holds a sword, while, to the right of the piece, a vejigante also holds the child, and with the other hand, a cup to baptize it. Behind the man, a figure resembling a boy nails small stakes into his back, and, above, it, a unicorn, underlines the mythical dimension of the piece. At the bottom, a figure makes a reverence and its hand fall on a huge horn that stems from a container appearing to contain a magic liquid.
The act of a boy driving stakes into the main character of the man is not necessarily negative; there are Afro-Caribbean religions that see such a gesture as a metaphor of energetic empowerment. Therefore, the man is also empowering the child. In fact, a red line surrounds the body of the child. Again, we ignore if this sign precedes the baptism, or is a result of it. Is the child perhaps being protected from the mask of the white man and its meaning in History? Or is the mask a sum of the impostures that the child will have to adopt as a human throughout his life, and the baptism a good beginning, to ensure that he can assume them correctly? We could further venture that the cup held by the vejigante is green, the complementary color of the line protecting the boy. But then, how can we explain the range of light in the lower triangular portion? Certainly, the juxtaposition of the unicorn and the vejigante points to a symbiosis, a mythical syncretism quite characteristic of the Loíza artist. The exegesis of the picture is not given. Maybe it provides a shocking double symbolism –heritage and rebellion– in search of a different result, in search of a new harmony.
Around 1997, the work of Daniel Lind Ramos changed in an unforeseen way. Lind, who had been a constant painter, suddenly felt the need to express himself with found objects. Since then he has constructed assemblages of objects. Unfortunately, space was lacking to present some of these assemblages, but we did show two of them, integrating objects and painting. The spectator will see several paintings –not assemblages– that provide a transition between the previous work and the more recent one. Musas (Muses) (1998-99) and "Despertar" (Awakening) (1998-2000) are examples of this period of transformation. Material reasons dictated by the new medium that Lind cultivated alongside painting generated changes. When he endeavored to add objects to the moderate texture of previous compositions, the materials used could not be successfully integrated. Hence, Lind began to paint with a more substantial texture. The paintings of this period, animated with grains of sand, generally have a harsh and rich texture, that welcomes newspaper clippings and small shells, that converse with other objects such as bottle caps, painted soda bottles, tortoise shells, machetes, and many other things: once again, the union of art and life.
The two assemblages closing this show are: El elector (1998) and Viaje a la fertilidad (1998-2000). I would call them picto-assemblages, because of their juxtaposition of media, with painting still playing a dominant role. The main figure in El elector evokes the title of a book by Frantz Fanon: Black Skin: White Masks. The piece questions whether the election of our leaders is a truly democratic process, because the mask seems to deny emphatically what the character should be. Small caps with the faces of Puerto Rican personalities frame the top of the piece. The composition resembles a shrine, and the image of the virgin pointing out the path to be followed is undermined by the ironic collage with the word “memory”, somewhat blurred, and another phrase where the surname “Young” can be seen. Both fragments of glued newspaper question historical events, a common experience that came to the fore in the case of a plebiscite where the country’s identity was menaced.
The art of Daniel Lind Ramos has taken different paths that, nevertheless, complement the ones previously laid out. Twenty years of work have left an impressive presence in our plastic arts scene. We close our eyes and his world seems indispensable. We see a procession of pregnant women; musicians with circles and half-moon horns; vessels overflowing with coconut water; the magic of objects that whirl around as in a bomba and plena dance; the rite of passage of our existence; a mirror of memory and bodies, accomplices of the ceremony; the houses, the distant houses that invite us to the inner life of their domestic space. There is warmth here, a warmth that takes in the artist’s surroundings and rises them, beyond everyday reality, to a higher symbolic level. Such warmth is harmony; the harmony of celebration.
Daniel Lind Ramos, nació en Loíza, Puerto Rico, en
1953. Obtuvo su grado de bachiller en la Universidad de Puerto Rico
en 1975 y su maestría en arte en la Universidad de Nueva York
en 1980. Fue el primer artista en ser galardonado con la beca de
la Fundación Arana, permitiéndole estar estudiando
en París, Francia. Allí estuvo bajo la tutela de Antonio
Seguí durante todo el año de 1989. Entre los muchos
premios recibidos por el artista, destacan el Primer Premio en el
Salón Internacional Val D'or de Hyeres, al sur de Francia
(1990); y el Premio de Delegación del Salón Internacional
de Plástica Latina, en Meillant, Francia (2000). Ha ganado
primeros premios en certámenes importantes en Puerto Rico,
como el Certamen de las Artes Mobil (1979) y el de la Gulf (1980).
Ha tenido más de media docena de exposiciones individuales
e incontables exhibiciones colectivas en Puerto Rico, Francia, República
Dominicana y Estados Unidos. La exhibición "Viaje a la
fertilidad" Conmemora su nombramiento como Artista Residente
de la Universidad de Puerto Rico en Humacao, donde labora en el Departamento
50" x 55 "
Colección José Llompart
54" x 66 "
Colección Juan Brachi
48" x 47"
47" x 55"
Colección Ivette Montilla
47" x 59"
Colección Carlos Ubiña
Obra sin título I
Día del huevo, 1989-90
42" x 51"
Colección John Joseph Jr.
regreso de las ménades, 1990
68" x 89"
36" x 44"
Colección Dr. Agustín Nassar
38" x 30"
Colección Ivette Montilla
59" x 71"
Colección Ivette Montilla
El elector, 1998
63" x 65"
39" x 58"
Colección: Ángel Dávila