Visual Arts Center of New Jersey to open ‘Olas Caribenas/Caribbean Waves’ in January

Jairo Alfonso, ‘362 (Lada),’ 2012, watercolor pencil on paper, 79 x 159 inches.
Jairo Alfonso, ‘362 (Lada),’ 2012, watercolor pencil on paper, 79 x 159 inches.

SUMMIT, NJ — The Visual Arts Center of New Jersey will open “Olas Caribenas/Caribbean Waves,” an interdisciplinary exhibit that explores the visual art and folklife traditions of the Caribbean diaspora in New Jersey, on Monday, Jan. 23. The displayed work will be on view through Sunday, June 4.

In the main gallery, “Jairo Alfonso: Objectscapes” surveys the work of Jairo Alfonso, a Cuban-born artist who has been living and working in New Jersey since 2014. In the past 10 years, he has produced three substantial bodies of work that are concerned with the meaning of everyday objects. Alfonso meticulously documents consumer goods, communication devices and other ubiquitous products in large-scale drawings and paintings, installations and videos. He reveals material culture’s propensity to hold personal as well as collective significance and sheds light on who we are, where we are from and where we belong.

Concurrently, in the Mitzi and Warren Eisenberg Gallery, folklife traditions — including dance performances, traditional music and multimedia storytelling — will be highlighted in public programs and through video, audio recordings and documentary photographs. Los Herederos, a media arts nonprofit organization, will showcase “The Sonicycle,” a mobile audio-visual unit that engages communities in sharing stories, music and cultural traditions. This interactive digital caravan is fully outfitted with a DJ turntable, speakers, audio players, a projector and recording equipment. Los Herederos will use “The Sonicycle” to record stories from artists, performers and community members in a public event at the Art Center on Saturday, Feb. 11, from 1 to 4 p.m. They will then produce a short audio documentary reel comprising oral histories, local soundscapes, and musical performances collected by them and by folklorist Naomi Sturm-Wijesinghe. Also on view will be elements of the folklife research, including an installation of documentary photographs printed on textiles.

The art center’s Stair-gazing space will showcase “Jack & Jill,” by figurative painter Kevin Darmanie. Born in Trinidad and Tobago, Darmanie utilizes photographs of himself and his friends to create his portraiture, referencing elements of his own life and shared experiences to inform clean narrative works that explore complex relationships between image, object, gaze and landscape. In Darmanie’s recent work, the cell phone’s function as a contemporary mechanism for interpersonal communication looms prominent, informing the composition of the artworks and acting as the de facto device to capture the depicted images.

Alfonso is living and working in Hudson County. He was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1974. He graduated from the Instituto Superior de Arte and from the Escuela Nacional de Arte in Havana. He moved to the United States from Spain in 2013.

Alfonso’s work has been featured in more than 10 solo exhibitions worldwide, including “Instrumentaciones,” Centro de Arte Contemporaneo Wifredo Lam, Havana, Cuba, 2000; and in more than 60 group shows, including “Useless: Machines for Dreaming, Thinking and Seeing,” the Bronx Museum of the Arts, New York, 2019; “Flow: Economies of the Look and Creativity in Contemporary Art from the Caribbean,” Inter-American Development Bank Cultural Center Art Gallery, Washington, D.C., 2014; “Cuban America: An Empire State of Mind,” Lehman College Art Gallery, New York, 2014; “Occupying, Building, Thinking: Poetic and Discursive Perspectives on Contemporary Cuban Video Art, 1990-2010,” University of South Florida Contemporary Art Museum, Tampa (2013); “Politics: I Don’t Like It, but It Likes Me,” Laznia Center for Contemporary Art, Gdansk, Poland, 2013; “Killing Time: An Exhibition of Cuban Artists From the ’80s to the Present,” Exit Art, New York, 2007; and “Batiscafo/Proyecto Circo,” at the eighth annual Mercosul Biennial in Porto Alegre, Brazil, 2011.

Alfonso has participated in various artist residencies, including the Fountainhead Residency, Miami, 2019; Marble House Project, Dorset, Vt., 2015; and Guttenberg Arts in Guttenberg, N.J., 2014. He was the recipient of a Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant in 2017. Alfonso’s work appears in private collections as well as in the public collections of the Pérez Art Museum Miami; the Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach, Calif.; the permanent collection of the province of Hainaut, Belgium; and the Havana Galerie Collection, Zurich, among others.

Los Herederos, which translates to “the inheritors,” is a grassroots media-arts nonprofit organization dedicated to inheriting culture in the digital age. The group engages in research-based documentation for public consumption to produce projects, programs and services that address the realities of local culture, evolving communities and an increasingly diasporadical immigrant experience. The group’s members believe in the power and complexity of transmedia storytelling to educate and encourage a more culturally aware, equitable, and sustainable society. Founded in 2015 by a cohort of documentarians, media artists and folklorists, Los Herederos has a platform that provides a link between artist, citizen, public, education and history. The group adapts artist-driven projects and archives to reflect the transformative nature of community and tradition. Central to the group’s creative strategy is its interdisciplinary approach to ethnography. Its ethnographic practice is both observant of the participants’ surroundings and reflective of their experiences as New York City natives and immigrant artists. As inheritors of the city, they look to capture the magic of the everyday to build infrastructure in our communities and name their stake in our cultural futures.

Darmanie currently splits his time between Brooklyn, N.Y., and Newark. He has exhibited at the Paul Robeson Galleries and Messier Gallery at Express Newark/Rutgers University, Newark; the Reginald Ingraham Gallery in Los Angeles; the Harold B. Lemmerman Gallery at New Jersey City University; Gallery Aferro in Newark; and Central Utah Arts Center in Salt Lake City. He has had recent solo exhibitions at Paradice Palase in Brooklyn, N.Y., and Peninsula Art Space in New York City. His work has been written about in both Forbes and Hyperallergic.

Photo Courtesy of Jairo Alfonso