Leaning as if falling into the sea, artists Kevin Quiles Bonilla and Zaq Landsberg reimagined a garita from the historic fortresses of Old San Juan, hammered by hurricanes on the fifth anniversary year of Hurricane Maria.
We were on site at the East Harlem Art Park for the installation of For centuries, and still... (anticipated completion).
Echoing the hastily painted green plywood walls, paint sprayed “Post No Bills” stencils, and everyday interventions such as buffed out graffiti and commercial posters, these elements represent a New York City visual language, which creates a visually specific link to Puerto Rico, its colonial legacy to the US, and the history of migration between both locations. Installed at Harlem Art Park for a year, the work depicts the 13 foot tall garita at a 15 degree tilt, as though it is slowly sinking into the wave-like cobblestones.
Conceptually, the work threads commonalities through the materiality between two locations with long histories, and explores contemporary notions of colonialism as a precarious, never-ending project that affects anyone within it. The colonial fortresses of Old San Juan, erected by the Spanish during their possession of the island as means for protection from enemies, becomes the remnant of a violent history that is constantly erased and kept hidden from both tourists and islanders alike. The construction site, with its demarcated fences and small peep holes looking at an empty space, become a threshold within the city, a prelude of something to come, but then later reappears elsewhere, continuing a never-ending cycle of development and maintenance. What happens when the ‘anticipated completion’ never arrives? Ultimately, this work merges the historical and the everyday, and approaches it as symbols to be questioned and distorted.
The presentation of For centuries, and still…(anticipated completion) will coincide with the fifth anniversary of Hurricane María passing through Puerto Rico, causing a multitude of damage to the island and its people, and activating a great exodus to the Mainland in 2017, the 500 anniversary of the establishment of San Juan, the capital of the Puerto Rico, and most recently the passing of Hurricane Fiona, which once again triggered many of the outcomes experience during María. The work also acknowledges the impact of the Puerto Rican community in New York, particularly in Harlem, and the decades-long history of migration between both islands.
This public art commission is made possible in part with public funds from Creative Engagement, a regrant program supported by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature and administered by LMCC; UMEZ Arts Engagement, a regrant program supported by the Upper Manhattan Empowerment, Zone Development Corporation (UMEZ); with support from the Friends of Art Park Alliance and Art Lives Here.
Harlem Art Park has been a site for a number of temporary art installations, accompanied by the Park’s permanent installation, ‘Growth’ by Jorge Luis Rodriguez, the first Percent for Art installation in NYC in 1985.
Harlem Art Park is also adjacent to the historic Harlem Courthouse.
Kevin Quiles Bonilla and Zaq Landsberg: For centuries, and still… (anticipated completion) will be on view from November 1, 2022 through October, 2023 in Harlem Art Park, located on 120th Street between Lexington Avenue and Third Avenue in East Harlem.
Programming for the exhibition will include activities that invite the community to intervene with the piece, such as poster making. By intervening in the work, affixing their own posters, images, and messages, the community will make this an ever-changing piece of public art. Additionally, throughout the duration of the exhibition, Puerto Rican artists will be invited to share an artwork in the form of a poster, which will be added to the sculpture as well.
Also exploring the fifth anniversary year of Hurricane Maria, the Whitney Museum of American Art opened the exhibition ‘no existe un mundo poshuracán: Puerto Rican Art in the Wake of Hurricane Maria.’
Kevin Quiles Bonilla (b. 1992) is an interdisciplinary artist born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He received a BA in Fine Arts – Photography from the University of Puerto Rico (2015) and an MFA in Fine Arts from Parsons The New School for Design (2018). His work has been presented in Puerto Rico, The United States, Mexico, China, Belgium, Japan, and Greece. He’s the recipient of an Emerging Artist Award from The John F. Kennedy Center (2017). He has presented his work at The Brooklyn Museum, Queens Museum, Leslie-Lohman Museum of Art, The Kennedy Center, Smack Mellon, The Lincoln Center, and Wave Hill Public Garden and Cultural Center. He has been an artist in residence at Art Beyond Sight’s Art + Disability Residency (2018-2019), Leslie-Lohman Museum’s Queer Performance Residency (2019), LMCC’s Workspace Residency (2019-2020), En Foco Inc. Photography Fellowship (2021), Monira Foundation Residency (2022), and Smack Mellon Studio Program (2022). His work has been featured in The Washington Times, Hyperallergic, and BOMB Magazine. He explores ideas around power, colonialism, and history with his identity as context. He currently lives and works between Puerto Rico and New York. Follow Kevin Quiles Bonilla on Instagram, and some of his past exhibits.
Zaq Landsberg (b. 1985) is a NYC based artist. He exhibited solo shows with the NYC Parks Department, with Chashama (NYC), at CUAC (Salt Lake City, Utah), La Ene, (Buenos Aires, Argentina), and at Pehr Space (Los Angeles). His work has shown in group exhibitions at Socrates Sculpture Park (Queens NY), Bronx Community College, Old Stone House (Brooklyn NY), Franconia Sculpture Park, (Shafer, MN), CCK, (Buenos Aires, Argentina), MALBA, (Buenos Aires), Figment Festival (Governors Island, NY), and others. He was the NYC Parks Clare Weiss Emerging Artist Award winner, a UMEZ Arts-Engagement/Creative Engagement grantee in 2020, and was awarded a NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship in Sculpture in 2017, the Art in the Parks: UNIQLO Park Expressions Grant and a More Art Engaging Artist Fellowship in 2018. He was an artist-in-residence with the LMCC Workspace Program 2019-2020 and Sculpture Space (Utica, NY) in 2012. His antics have been covered in over 40 countries and over 27 languages, including NY Times, NY Magazine, WNYC, artnet-news, Time-Out-NY, Vice, NY Daily News, The Believer, PEOPLE Magazine, Clarín (Argentina), ARTE (France), Blouin Art Info, Gothamist, KSL Salt Lake City, FOX5NY, WGN Radio, Fox News,The Daily Mail, among others. Born in Los Angeles, and holds a BFA from NYU. Follow Zaq Landsberg on Instagram, and some of his past exhibits.
Join the artists, Zaq Landsberg and Kevin Quiles Bonilla to celebrate their new public art installation in Harlem Art Park. East 120th Street and Sylvan Place (between Lexington and 3rd Avenues on Sunday, November 13th from 1-4pm.