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Dominican Yorks at the Hispanic Society: Exploring Dominican-American Identity and Migration Experience in New York City

NEW YORK — Dominican artists Reynaldo García, Chiqui Mendoza and Rider Ureña claim their place of origin and recount the migratory experience through eight works, gathered in an exhibition that can be seen at the Hispanic Society in New York from this Friday until June 30th.

The sample ‘Dominican Yorks at the Hispanic Society‘gives voice to those Dominicans who emigrated and settled in the Big Apple in migratory waves that had their peak in the mid-20th century and that were motivated by the political and economic instability of the country.

The Dominican-American population now exceeds two million people, of which almost 900,000 reside in the New York metropolitan area, especially in the neighborhood where the museum is located, Washington Heights.

The migratory experience and Dominican roots set the tone for the seven paintings that make up the exhibition and that portray the interculturality of the Dominican Republic -influenced by Spanish, Aboriginal and African culture- as well as the feeling of living between two worlds, the country of origin and the place to which one emigrates.

“It is always a struggle between what one left and what one found,” García told the press in a presentation of the exhibition at the museum, referring to the day he left his country and moved to the United States.

Her three works, “The Graces of the Virgin while Bathing”, “The Dilemma of 2016” and “My Birth”, focus on the figure of the woman, represented in the style of the virgins of Catholic iconography, and recount the relationship of the artist with the women who have been part of his life: his mother and his ex-partners.

In the first painting, the Dominican portrays the Virgin of Altagracia (considered the protector of the Dominican people) as a dark-skinned woman who appears in profile, with a naked torso and with a pantheon in the background.

García chose to represent this virgin even though the country’s patron saint is actually the Virgen de las Mercedes: “She is considered the ‘official’ because she defended the Spanish in a battle against the natives of the island. What a contradiction , I am not kidding.

And colonialism is very present in the exhibition, especially in the works of Chiqui Mendoza, who represents the religious saints San Miguel de Arcángel and San Sebastián, the latter pierced by arrows and painted entirely red to represent the blood shed. by the Dominicans.

A ‘decolonized’ San Sebastian

The work also addresses the issue of decolonization, since San Sebastián, which carries elements of the Taíno and African culture, is built on a traditional Spanish altar that appears destroyed: “It is like erasing the altar and repainting it to impose our culture or highlight it, because it has been a forgotten and trampled truth,” explains the artist.

Mendoza, who landed in the United States in the 1980s, assured that the influence of this country is reflected in the richness of the materials and the characteristic refinement of the works exhibited in this temporary collection, although he stressed that his works “always carry with the roots.”

“Despite this refinement and having the opportunity to encounter art everywhere, I want to maintain that rawness of our Caribbean,” García said.

On the other hand, the two works by Rider Ureña, who could not attend the presentation, are a reinterpretation of the famous painting by Francisco de Goya “The Duchess of Alba” (exhibited in the museum’s permanent collection), which in the work of the Dominican is represented abstractly and with a black veil.

“His plastic work is three-dimensional, although it remains within flat formats,” said Reynaldo García.

The exhibition also includes a tambú gagá (on loan from García), an elongated drum played in the gagá musical band, a complex composition of music and dance popular in the Dominican Republic.

2024-02-23 04:09:27
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