Art Basel

Maria tore up this Puerto Rican artist’s life. He’ll still show in Miami this week.

History on Wheels series, by Chemi Rosado Seijo.
History on Wheels series, by Chemi Rosado Seijo. Copywright Chemi Rosado Seijo

Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico in September, leaving devastation in its wake. Puerto Rican artist and social activist Chemi Rosado-Seijo, who is represented by the Embajada gallery of San Juan, still managed to pull things together in time to exhibit at NADA Miami this year. (See Booth 5.16)

The New Art Dealers Alliance celebrates a move from Miami Beach to the Ice Palace in Miami this year. The fair attracts widespread attention because it features emerging yet accomplished artists whose work appeals to collectors on a budget.

Rosado-Seijo is no exception. The fair features elements from his Salón Sala Salón exhibition at the Whitney Biennial earlier this year, as well as the artwork he creates while pursuing his other passion – skateboarding. With the help of adhesive material attached to the wheels of his skateboard, Rosado-Seijo traces his trips and then mounts the tapes onto panels in various geometric shapes.

The hurricane indelibly altered not only his way of life – and that of his compatriots – but also changed the way he produces art. Many of the places where he used to skate are damaged, and the lack of electricity on most of the island forced him to alter his work schedule. In an email, he detailed the changes wrought by the storm:

"The Hurricane has changed everything about my (and our, Puerto Ricans) life and practice, here on our beautiful island. Now we are all in the ‘Jibaro timing’ (a Jibaro is a peasant from the countryside) waking up early with the sun, and going to sleep early in the night, with the chickens. The Hurricane hit us pretty hard, the communities I work with, El Cerro and La Perla were damaged seriously. Also some of the skateboard parks and DIY spots were affected seriously. A lot of the people and friends that I work with have lost their houses and all that was inside of them. So, most of all people on the Island has had to change the way she or he was living.

“Most of us still don't have electrical power in our houses or studios. We have changed our priorities; for example, the approach on how I’m working with El Cerro community, La Perla and even my Studio practice have changed completely after the Hurricane. I was accustomed to the comfort of manipulated light, electricity, to work in the studio during the nights, now we are working with natural light, different hours and timing for all my practices. In El Cerro, instead of continuing the painting and workshops, now we are concentrated on bringing solar light, water filters, other needs and materials to start fixing roofs in the community. The ‘Perla Bowl’ (a permanent installation of a skateboarding bowl that also functions as a pool) worked as a water tank, so neighbors had water for their needs in their own community right away. My studio practice now is during the evenings, the moment when there’s still natural light coming in the space and no toxic gases from the power plants of the downstairs business are on."