Manifest Installation "Bridge / Puente" at Taller Boricua Gallery (November 2000)
Manifest Instllation – "Bridge / Puente" at Taller Boricua Gallery
22 September – 18 November 2000

Even as the title of this exhibition, curated by Mauricio Lafitte-Soler, promises to connect two different points – to bridge – it also implies that the points already overlap: “puente” is, of course, the Spanish for “bridge.” Both words refer to the same thing; the split between them is linguistic and cultural.

This split is indeed central, both in terms of the exhibition’s structure – the juxtaposition of two artists, Amy Eshoo and Omar Lopez-Chahoud, respectively from Vermont and Cuba – and of its content. Eshoo’s haunting Telling Tales, consisting of four child-size chairs facing each other, for instance, bespeaks of a regression to a pre-linguistic psychic stage, distilling as it does communication to communion. Story Lines (I and II) likewise never quite brings to fruition the narrative implied in its serial format; frame after frame of black-and-white photographs depict sihouetted figures gesticulating – i.e., resorting to a non-verbal means of articulation.   

If Eshoo’s works are located before the threshold of linguistic inculturation, then Lopez-Chahoud’s installations suggest a loss of cultural specificity after globalization, incorporating as they do a babble of voices from found material, text, and painting. Part artist’s studio, part romper room, Untitled (wall installation and table), for instance, begs the question: What did the artist make, and what is pre-fabricated? Decontextualized and shuffled around like so many circulating commodities, the internationally constellation of objects are divested of any particular or individual meaning.
Both artists address, if obliquely, the titular promise to bridge: Eshoo collapses private and public spheres, just as Lopez-Chahoud strains the distinction between art and life. But it is, finally, the exhibition’s circumstances that prevail on this matter: located in East Harlem, Taller Boricua is itself a writ large manifestation of cross-cultural exchange.