Critics’ Picks

View of “359 Days in 19 Months,” 2017.

View of “359 Days in 19 Months,” 2017.

San Juan

Jorge González

Calle Cesar Gonzalez 382
January 7–March 18, 2017

For the better part of the past five years, Jorge González has been working on several related projects that focus on recovering vernacular material culture and knowledge in Puerto Rico. In “359 Days in 19 Months,” González draws from pedagogy, ethnology, botany, design, and architecture to bring forth an installation that layers modern and indigenous references. His work is in dialogue with that of Henry Klumb, a German architect who settled in Puerto Rico in 1944, and ArKlu, the design firm Klumb established with Stephen Arneson. Many of González’s pieces were made in collaboration through the Trade School, an itinerant workshop initiative he founded in 2013, and with several artisans around Puerto Rico.

Panels of dry cattail leaves line one side of the gallery space, evoking Arawak huts, while the woven cattail mats that cover half the floor emphasize that the once ubiquitous object is now part of a growing catalogue of disappearing craft knowledge. The gallery is completely engulfed by the smell of cattail leaves, and visitors are encouraged to take off their shoes to walk around or lie down on the rugs, a particularly pleasant sensory experience.

The title of the exhibition refers to a ceramic stamp used by the Taíno peoples that was interpreted by ethnographer Pedro Escabí as an Antillean calendar. The moon cycle is implicit throughout the show, evoked through photographs of recorded archaeological finds. Ancient agricultural astrology practices dictate that the cattails must be cut only under a new moon. Here, González has achieved new heights with his projects, connecting improbable agents in an ever-growing network of knowledge exchange and renewal.