“Agriculture is a weapon of massive construction in the hands of the people and it’s within the reach of our will. We have to transform the country from the bottom, as far down as the earth herself”
– Ian Pagán Roig, El Josco Bravo
Geografía(s) del Jiquilite al Añil is the first U.S. solo exhibition by Puerto Rican artist Leila Mattina. The exhibition encompasses artworks and documentation that traces indigo production in the Puerto Rican archipelago. Through research and material-based work, Mattina shares insights garnered from the cultivation and processing of different types of indigo in Puerto Rico and their interconnectedness in the Caribbean and Latin America.
Geografía(s) del Jiquilite al Añil considers how blue–the color that indigo produces–connects us within and to the Archipelago, physically, historically and politically. The exhibition showcases varieties of seeds, unprocessed fibers, powdered indigo, and a mortar. All produced and sourced from Puerto Rico, these materials are gathered from TRAMA Antillana, a farm in Aibonito, Puerto Rico founded by the artist. TRAMA Antillana educates the public on the processing of natural dyes and fibers, alongside the chemical constituents and historical significance associated with these materials.
This exhibition aims to illuminate overlooked or eradicated craft practices in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean due to colonization, extractivist practices, destruction of natural resources, and modernization in the name of “progress.” For the Puerto Rican archipelago–a land so fertile, yet prevented from producing and exporting local goods by its colonial relationship with the U.S–Geografía(s) del Jiquilite al Añil offers pathways for self-governance and self-determination.
Geografia(s) del Jiquilite al Añil is organized by Natalia Viera Salgado and co-presented by Artists Alliance Inc., Abrons Arts Center, and Pública Espacio Cultural.
Leila Mattina is a Puerto Rican artist/farmer based in Aibonito, Puerto Rico. She is co-founder of Trama Antillana, a farm space focused primarily on producing and processing natural dyes and fibers. Trama is a place for research and development of different practices to grow or source natural raw materials for arts and culture. It also provides a space for continued education and access to a variety of raw materials for the community.
Natalia Viera Salgado is a Puerto Rican curator and curatorial consultant based in New York City. She is also the founder of :Pública Espacio Cultural, an independent art space in Alto del Cabro, Santurce Puerto Rico. Her art historical research focuses on contemporary art in relation to decolonial practices, architecture, social and environmental justice, and new media with a keen interest in hybrid and interdisciplinary projects. She has worked at the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture, El Museo de Barrio, Art in General, Socrates Sculpture Park, The Nathan Cummings Foundation, and Americas Society. Viera holds a MA in Curatorial Practice from the School of Visual Arts and is currently the Associate Curator at the National Academy of Design and curatorial Resident at the Abrons Arts Center.
Abrons Arts Center is a home for contemporary interdisciplinary arts in Manhattan’s Lower East Side neighborhood. A core program of the Henry Street Settlement, Abrons believes that access to the arts is essential to a free and healthy society. Through performance presentations, exhibitions, education programs, and residencies, Abrons mobilizes communities with the transformative power of art. La Residencia is a collaboration between Abrons Arts Center and Pública Espacio Cultural that supports artists of the Puerto Rican diaspora. Abrons and Pública, together with resident artists, develop platforms to support interdisciplinary, transnational collaboration with Puerto Rican and New York-based artists and cultural institutions facing challenges due to the archipelago’s colonial relationship to the United States.
Pública Espacio Cultural is a cultural space founded in November 2018 by cultural producer Naíma Rodrígez and independent curator Natalia Viera Salgado. The space is located in the community of Alto del Cabro, one of the most important historic neighborhoods of Santurce, Puerto Rico. One of the major problems on the island currently is the lack of funding and spaces dedicated to serve the community in the cultural and arts sector. In November 2018, Pública: opened up its doors to become a platform for local artists and international artists as a way to strengthen the relationship between Puerto Rico and an international audience.