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Mishkin Gallery exhibition featured in NY Times’ September gallery roundup

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Jahlil Rush
Mishkin Exhibition

Upon entering Baruch College’s Mishkin Gallery, viewers are greeted by a large plastic rainbow grounded in two potted plants. The sculpture frames a domestic scene with a handwoven mat and chair, with a sign inviting visitors to remove their shoes or to use plastic foot coverings.

Such is the scene at the new exhibition. “We didn’t ask permission, we just did it…” was highlighted in the New York Times “What to See in NYC Galleries in September” on Sept. 8.

The exhibition opened on Aug. 31 and is a recreation of three influential Puerto Rican exhibition series from 2000 to 2016.

“I’m thrilled, I hope it means more people come and see the show,” Mishkin Gallery director Alaina Claire Feldman said in an interview with The Ticker. “Because this is a relatively new art history, I think it’s affirming that the New York Times agrees that this should be in our history books.”

The show is an homage to artists who paved the way for the Puerto Rican contemporary art scene. It was co-curated by Manuela Paz and Christopher Rivera, founders of the San Juan-based art gallery Embajada.

Rivera also taught a museum and gallery management course at Baruch for the Summer 2023 semester, in which enrolled students assisted with archival research and exhibition installation.

“The class was about the idea of expanding an exhibition, as you saw the exhibition is a very not traditional exhibition,” Rivera said in an interview with the Ticker. “We were playing a lot with [artist Pablo León de la Barra’s] idea of the ‘economy of friendship’ and how to make a project happen without necessarily having capital or resources.”

The exhibition’s title references the self-sufficient and do-it-your-self ethos of the Puerto Rican art scene. Limited infrastructure and environmental issues have forced artists to carve out new creative spaces.

“We didn’t ask permission” shows the array of community-based project spaces that took place in caves, beaches and domestic settings.

The artist nonprofit M&M Proyectos was one of the first collectives to host art invitationals on the island. Curator Michy Marxuach organized three biennial invitationals varying in theme from 2000-2004. The last gathering experimented with a Puerto Rican Olympic motif and featured mock flyers advertising a fictitious athletic event.

Out of the M&M Proyectos gatherings came the Gran Bienal Tropical founded by León de la Barra. The biennials expanded on the “independent spirit” of Marxuach’s work and collaborated with local Puerto Rican communities to promote art accessibility. The gallery’s center projected footage of the 2016 edition of the Gran Bienal Tropical.

Highlights include a local woman’s collection of Betty Boop ceramics and a room decked out with fruit magnets, a hallmark of some Hispanic households.

The “Cave-in” mini-exhibition recreates one of artist Mike Egan’s cave gatherings where artists drew on walls and installed biodegradable art away from the masses. The cave art was only seen by the participating artists and attendees.

Artist Andra Ursuta’s “Ethnic Bimbo” call girl cards poke fun at the exoticist fetishism towards women of color’s bodies. The exhibition displayed the postcards on the floor to recreate how the works from the original installations were discarded.

Mishkin Gallery plans to host numerous public programs to support the exhibit.

The programming will include a panel featuring Black and Latino Studies professor Dr. Rojo Robles and political science professor Dr. Viviana Rivera-Burgos to discuss the political, historical and cultural context for the themes presented in the exhibition on Oct. 3.

An art and storytelling workshop with artist Jorge González will allow students to learn about artistic Taino traditions on Oct. 31.

A “community day” will also be held with BLS and The City University of New York’s Center for Puerto Rican Studies. The event will feature remarks by Paz and a live music performance by Joel “Yoyo” Rodriguez Vargas on Nov. 14.

“We didn’t ask permission, we just did it…” will be on display through Dec. 8.

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About the Contributors
Mia Euceda, Arts & Culture Editor
Mia Euceda is the Arts and Culture Editor of The Ticker.
Jahlil Rush, Production Assistant
Jahlil Rush is a Production Assistant for The Ticker.
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