Thursday, May 23, 2013

Photography Without Borders

June 14 - July 20, 2013
*Opening Reception: Friday June 14, 5:30 - 8PM
Closing Reception: Saturday, July 20, 2-5PM

Taller Puertorriqueño is pleased to present photographer/educator Tony Rocco and his students from North Philadelphia, PA, and La Florida, Colombia, to conclude their three-year-long cultural exchange program in photography, education, and youth leadership in a multimedia exhibition in the Lorenzo Homar Gallery. 

This unique exhibition publicly acknowledges the powerful perspective of youths from inner-city America and rural Colombia who face the daily challenges of living in marginalized communities.  Rocco’s photographs bridge these two communities and respond in tandem with the students' work as they utilize photography as a medium to explore and compare their worlds.

*A group of students and chaperones from La Florida, Colombia will attend the opening reception on June 14th. The cross-cultural exhibition then travels to Colombia as the Philadelphia delegation embarks on a 10-day tour this summer of Medellín, Cali, and Bogotá, sponsored by the US Embassy and concludes with another group exhibition in Bogota in August, 2013.

Photography Without Borders is a photography outreach program that builds bridges between youth in marginalized communities around the world. For more info. please go to

Friday, May 10, 2013

The Artist in the cycle of Claiming Places

In the book Diálogos, Placemaking in Latino Communities, the writers discuss one definition of place as referring to “territorialized local communities, collective memories associated with territory, claims of authenticity by local actors, phenomenological associations with locales, and social relationships among people in territorial communities.” In other words, place connotes a community’s shared history and experience 

Taller Puertorriqueño’s (Taller’s) proposed move into new facilities, expanding its services to further its mission as an institution that promotes the understanding of Puerto Rican and Latino cultures, was the genesis for its 2012 - 13 exhibition cycle, Claiming Places: Unity, Ownership, and “Hogar” (Home). In the Puerto Rican barrios around Taller, the availability of affordable housing and workspaces is luring in artists, young professionals, and first-time homebuyers who are not Latino. Also entering the mix are Latinos who are not Puerto Rican. This increase in demand and diversity in the area (while not alleviating the needs of the Puerto Rican community living here) has set the stage for a full investigation of what it means for Puerto Ricans and the Latino community in general to claim a place as their own. This concern falls within the context of the Puerto Rican neighborhoods of North Philadelphia, Mexican immigration, changing attitudes of the local youth, and acknowledgment of varying aspirations and viewpoints within the Latino community. This conglomeration, paired with the need and demand for better public services, employment opportunities and understanding, set this cycle in motion.

In constructing this cycle, we started with the premise that the affirmation of one’s Latino ethnic heritage is a political statement and a form of placemaking. Consider for a moment the controversy surrounding Latino studies programs[1] in some quarters of the country, the underfunding of bilingual education[2], and the inability of politicians to find common ground on immigration reform (despite a growing national consensus that this must be addressed[3]), and you may begin to understand that Latinos who may not be political may, nonetheless, feel politicized by their very presence or absence. In this light, any action taken by Latinos in America to assert themselves and their heritage can be construed as placemaking, and artists, whose work may seem far removed from these discussions, are nevertheless drawn in.

Pressures on the Latino community are also displayed as public funding for social services for the neediest is being cut and replaced by neo-liberal models that call for privatization and the marketing of culture[4]. This act of essentially selling cultural experiences whitewashes any cultural distinctions by applying Universalist calls for Latindad without acknowledging national distinctions.[5] To respond to these current issues, we felt it necessary to cast a wide net for this cycle to show the Latino community’s different viewpoints, reflecting that which we have now: the immigrant, the contemporary, the next generation, and the transnational. This produced an unconventional exhibition cycle that was challenging to some artists who were asked to move away from their comfort zones and consider what they feel is their community and how they fit in spatially and socially.

The eight selected exhibitions for Claiming Places: Unity, Ownership, and “Hogar” (Home) come from a variety of communities and disciplines. These exhibitions highlight the distinct ways Latino artists are seeing their worlds and claiming places within their communities. Within this cycle, we exhibit works from artists and groups who were invited to reflect on the concept of claiming places. The exhibitions include:

• César Viveros Herrera, No Me Conformo [I don’t Conform nor Accept], 9/28 - 11/10/2012, born in Mexico, muralist and traditional Aztec and Mayan Performer; (Lorenzo Homar Gallery)

• Ahdanah (Leticia Roa Nixon), Ahdanah (Leticia Roa Nixon), 9/28 - 12/1/2012,, born in Mexico, photo journalist and author; (El Vestíbulo Exhibition Space)

• Merián Soto, Triangulations: Revisiting OYWPP, 12/7 - 1/19/2013,, from Puerto Rico, a choreographer and dancer; (Lorenzo Homar Gallery)

• Youth Artist Program (YAP), Dreams & Realities, 1/25 - 3/23/2013, Philadelphia student artists from Taller’s ; (El Vestíbulo Exhibition Space)

• Esperanza Cortés, Entre Sombras - Sites of Memory, 2/8 - 3/30/2013,, born in Colombia, installation artist and painter; (Lorenzo Homar Gallery)

• Ariel Vazquez, born in Dominican Republic, an urban planner, and the Counter Narrative Society’s (CNS), from Chile and San Francisco, CP LAB, 3/30 - 7/19/2013, an artistic-research-activist unit; (El Vestíbulo Exhibition Space)

• Dino Vazquez, Futuro Metálico, 4/19 - 5/25/2013, born in Puerto Rico, artist and vernacular architect; (Lorenzo Homar Gallery)

• Tony Rocco and the children from North Philadelphia and La Florida, Colombia, Photography Without Borders, 6/14 - 7/20/2013, photography exhibition. (Lorenzo Homar Gallery)

In the next few weeks in four parts we will be reviewing the exhibitions so far while putting the cycle into context. Please join us in this conversation of claiming places and understanding unity, ownership and hogar.

[1] “Rift in Arizona as Latino Class Is Found Illegal” - NYT 1/7/2011

[2] “Suburban Chicago Schools Lag as Bilingual Needs Grow” - NYT 2/9/2012

[3] “POLL AFTER POLL: AMERICAN PUBLIC WANTS IMMIGRATION REFORM WITH CITIZENSHIP,” Americas Voice Online, 1/23/13, An aggregate of polling data :

[4] Arlene Davila, Barrio Dreams, 2004
[5] Arlene Davila, Barrio Dreams, 2004 & Balch Institute for Ethnic Studies of the Historical Society of Philadelphia, Latino Philadelphia:Our Journeys, Our Communities, 2004