Friday, 26 December 2014


Engel Leonardo, 'Rejas, Sillas, Vestidos, Muñecas y Plátano' organized by Ramos Mederos at the Museo del Hombre Dominicano in Santo Domingo

and a conversation between Engel Leonardo and Pablo Leon de la Barra about the exhibition, with the support of Davidoff Art Initiative

The facade of the Museo del Hombre Dominicano in Santo Domingo which inaugurated the 12th of October of 1972 (with sculptures outside of an african slave, a priest, an indigenous taino)

The Museo del Hombre Dominicano in Santo Domingo which although dusty, dormant and forgotten, still has its original museography and exhibition design.

Engel Leonardo
Rejas, Sillas, Vestidos, Muñecas y Plátano
Museo del Hombre Dominicano, Santo Domingo
press release

Ramos Mederos Gallery presents Rejas, Sillas, Vestidos, Muñecas y Plátano (bars, chairs, dresses, dolls and plantain), the first solo exhibition by artist Engel Leonardo. Open from November 4th to the 30th at the Museo del Hombre Dominicano (Museum of the Dominican Man) in the Plaza de la Cultura in Santo Domingo.

The exhibition is presented within the framework of interventions carried out by Ramos Mederos in various areas of the city as a way to create new dialogues between the artwork and the public. This time the Gallery is housed on the third floor of the Museum of the Dominican Man, a public institution dedicated to the conservation, research and dissemination of the national anthropological and ethnological heritage.

Within this context Engel Leonardo proposes a series of pieces made from his travel research, and the collection and documentation of traditional craft practices of the Dominican countryside. Creating works that are based on contemplation, observation and the detailed study of the elements, features and aesthetic languages that represent a valuable sample of the popular aesthetics and craftsmanship of the island.

Rejas, Sillas, Vestidos, Muñecas y Plátano (bars, chairs, dresses, dolls and plantain) consists of five series which express Leonardo’s interest in Dominican and Caribbean culture through formal exploration, creating a catalog of elements and objects from our culture transformed into geometry and color and in which converge new and interesting techniques, as well as a mixture of different materials.

The series of sculptures in Moca, are based on the study of the faceless dolls created in Higüerito, Moca in the 1970s, and popularized in the 80s and 90s. Made of local clay and Guayacán, he revisits this Dominican icon, a symbol of Caribbean mixing, bringing the original’s abstraction from the face to the rest of the structure.

La Otra Banda is a series of dresses created from research trips and documentation of vernacular architecture in the communities of La Otra Banda and Villa Jaragua, located in the extreme east and west of the country. These pieces carry the architectural, competitive, formal and chromatic elements from wood to fabric, a new proposal for clothing that allows you to dress up in popular architecture motifs.

Yamasá is composed by three sculptures that are based on abstractions and formal explorations on the traditional design of the guano chair, maintaining its proportions and retrying their structures, blurring the border between craft and art, between the utilitarian and the contemplative.

The Cibao printed series, is the first two-dimensional work presented by Leonardo, and with it proposes new pictorial forms, using the juice of the banana peel as ink or stain, extracted and applied directly with the hand on Arches paper they suggest the reliefs of the Cibao and the Cordillera Central.

In the Vevés bar series the artist uses the basic structure of a protective grate, a typical element of the Dominican contemporary surroundings as a canvas. On this occasion representing Vêves, traditional symbols of Haitian and Dominican Vodou, through abstract synthesis and color.

Engel Leonardo was born in Baní, Dominican Republic in 1977. A graduate of the Faculty of Arts of the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo with complementary studies in the Altos de Chavón School of Design (affiliated to the Parsons School of Design in NY). Some selected exhibitions: Rejas, Sillas, Vestidos, Muñecas y Plátano (bars, chairs, dresses, dolls and plantain) Galería Ramos Mederos; Pedernales, Teorética, San José, Costa Rica; UNFOLD, Ramos Mederos, Santo Domingo; Moderno Tropical, Engel Leonardo and Laura Castro, 27th National Biennale of Visual Arts, Museo de Arte Moderno, Santo Domingo;Construction: New Perspectives on the Dominican Identity, William Road Gallery, London, UK; Status Quoand sample of video art, Museo de Arte Moderno, Santo Domingo; On Common Ground, Art Museum of the Americas, Washington D.C. Awards: 27th National Biennale of Visual Arts for Moderno Tropical; selected in the call for emerging artists in emergency - volcanic context, Teorética, San José, Costa Rica; Selected in the Solo Project Latin America, ARCO, Madrid, Spain; selected by Worldwide Storefront for Art and Architecture with the project Tropical Ghosts.

On Engel Leonardo's Work
Regina José Galindo

“When I think of the Caribbean I think of the unrelenting Sun, of the great waves of people, of the large parties that suddenly come together, of excess. Excess of blue skies, excess of light, excess of heat, excess of air conditioning, excess of moisture, excess of green landscapes, excess of rain, excess of mosquitoes, excess of potholes, excess of jeeps, excess ofcolmados, excess of public cars, excess of moto taxis, excess of salami, excess of meat pastries, excess of frying, excess of fried chicken, excess of rum, excess of beer, excess of quickies, excess of fierce women, excess of fierce men, excess of beaches that take your breath away, excess of coconuts, excess of coconut candy, excess of ripe fruit. Excess of Russians in Punta Cana, excess of police extortion, excess of racism, excess of lawsuits, excess of decibels, excess of bachata, excess of merengue, excess of dembow. Excess of music everywhere, excess of parties everywhere, excess of friends everywhere, excess of happiness everywhere.

Therefore, it seems a great and surprising contradiction to years later encounter the work of Engel Leonardo. His projects are exquisitely conceived by the spirit of the tropics, they are imminently Caribbean, they exude it, and yet are all but excessive. They are like that other side of the Caribbean, calm, moderate, precise. Like small poems (or Visual haikus of Dominican origin) lacking or sparing nothing.

After his ceramic centerpiece depicting a fried chicken with tostones, and other work done in collaboration with the group Shampoo, Engel’s language began to take new directions. Synthesis and abstraction replaced narrative which was promptly relegated by the investigation of the form. It seems as if he went through a complex and arduous cleaning process from which he emerged renovated, balanced, with a nearly zen meditative energy. That could explain the origin of work as carefully produced as Moderno Tropical, carried out in collaboration with Dominican artist Laura Castro. A fascinating intervention of the Museum of Modern Art in Santo Domingo, where suddenly the Balaguer architecture of the building was modified by sophisticated architectural details that gave new life and new air to the space. I only saw it in photos, I did not have the experience of being in the space, but the images were enough to transport me to the terrace of a house in Baní or an afternoon al fresco in the porch of a Victorian house in Puerto Plata.

It would also explain the fact of having produced pieces as refined as Moca, the series inspired by the typical Dominican faceless dolls. Beautiful sculptures in clay, glaze and Guayacá n with round forms and spindly necks which through geometric figures refer to the mystery and voluptuousness of the women of the region, strong workers and peasants; or Pedernales a series of abstract sculptures inspired by the typical Dominican guano chairs; or the palm tree hats transformed into baseball caps; or the wonderful series of sculptures Cordillera, Isla y Antillas great landforms processed by Engel and by the hands of local artisans, into sober minimalist pieces that remind us of the color, complexity of and diversity of the Caribbean.

But what does it all matter? what relevance does it have to explain the creative processes? If at the end what matters is what emerged from them. And being more precise, perhaps we could say that in fact there was no such break or change. Perhaps the work of Engel had always been thus. Fresh, clean, refined. Just as he is. An artist with an exquisite taste, a delicious friend. The most polite of my friends, the most distinguished. My stylish tropical friend, which like his work, is not lacking or sparing anything.”

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