Paradise and Words: A Dialogue between Art and Literature in Puerto Rico

Part of the important collection of Puerto Rican art guarded by the Museo de Arte de Ponce was exhibited in Paradise and Words: a dialogue between art and literature in Puerto Rico, a historical-artistic tour that explored Puerto Rican art from the eighteenth century to the present day through a set of more than 250 works from the Museum’s collections, united by the intimate creation of literature.

Paradise and Words toured eleven rooms that included examples of portraits and paintings of devotion by José Campeche y Jordán; works by Francisco Oller, which witness the impressionist gaze of the master; paintings and drawings by the artist Miguel Pou, born in Ponce, works that recount the development of Puerto Rican life of the early twentieth century, reflected in portraits and worship by the local landscape and northeastern American; the collection of photographs by Jack Delano, which bear witness to four decades of Puerto Rican history and an important exhibition of engravings with examples of Carlos Raquel Rivera, Antonio Martorell, Rafael Villamil and Lorenzo Homar, in celebration of the centenary of his birth.

Each room illustrated how Puerto Rican artists created ties beyond the island’s borders, whether for travel, their relationship with travelers arriving in Puerto Rico, the influences they received from the diaspora, and the dialogue with countries such as Mexico, United States, Spain and France.

The Museo de Arte de Ponce honored the tradition of engraving with a growing collection of works and at the same time joined the celebration of Homar 100 years, with the creation of a room that narrated the transcendental place of engraving in the history of Puerto Rican art. In this room works of the workshop of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture were exhibited, organized by Homar in 1957, works of CAP (Centro de Arte Puertorriqueño, 1950–1952), workshop of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture (The Graphic Workshop of the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture, 1957–1985) and examples of the internationally renowned production of the DivEdCo  posters (Division of Community Education, 1949–1989).

With the intention of bringing before the viewer, the important work done by the Anton J. Konrad Conservation Center, which is normally done behind the scenes, one of the galleries was dedicated to conservation. It included a replica of the Conservation Laboratory so that visitors could lively experience the process of art preservation and better understood one of the areas surrounding the presentation of the works in the Museum.

In its entirety the exhibition, curated by María Arlette de la Serna, offered a chronological look at 230 years of Puerto Rico’s life and history through the works and objects of art that were exhibited. Visitors enjoyed the art that has been produced on the island and found a mirror where historical, social and cultural facts seen from the perspective of the artists and their opinions of facts of Puerto Rico’s history are reflected. Paradise and Words included examples of the works of Puerto Rican plastics of different artistic movements and genres such as Rococo, Impressionism, Realism, Genre Painting, Historical Painting, Landscape, Portrait and Engraving, which highlighted the cultural richness of art, history and literature, oral history and poetry.

The works were complemented by inter-textual dialogues, which are fragments of chronicles, poetry and literary texts by the most important Puerto Rican authors. The exhibition also presented a space dedicated to the exchange of books entitled Paraíso de palabras.