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Playing With Fire

  • El Museo del Barrio
December 14, 2014

Playing With Fire: Political Interventions, Dissident Acts and Mischievous Actions is the latest exhibition at the El Museo del Barrio in New York that specialises in shows of Latin American and Caribbean art. It is rather appropriate that the current Playing With Fire exhibition is being shown in times of great unrest in the U.S. at El Museo del Barrio which was a fire station during the Nuyorican and Civil Rights movements in 60s America and transformed into El Museo by artist and educator Raphael Montañez Ortiz in 1969 after books were burned at the location by radical political figures. El Museo emerged from a time when art with a political angle was encouraged and welcomed and as 2014 comes to a close we may well have travelled a full circle but it would appear little has changed. The United States is still dealing with racial and economic discrimination and issues raised by the Civil Rights movement in the 60s, El Museo has responded to this by gathering together a number of artists who deal with these issues in their artwork for the Playing With Fire exhibition which deals with themes of urban neglect, imperialism, colonialism and cultural hegemony.

El Museo del Barrio
Papo Colo – The Others

Political Interventions, Dissident Acts and Mischievous Actions

The exhibition, Playing With Fire: Political Interventions, Dissident Acts and Mischievous Actions traces the founding of El Museo del Barrio by Raphael Montañez Oritz and activism by taking a poke at the oppressive systems in modern life, the images confront the powers that be with humour and irreverence, sometimes sacrilegious and at other times rebellious. Some of the artists being exhibiting such as poet Pedro Pietri, who was the founder of the Nuyorican Movement and a great believer in intellectual freedom, have strong links to the origins of El Museo while others such as Quentin Rivera Toro (born 1978) is known for site specific installations that draw on themes such as mass media, pop culture and history. Jessica Kaire creates work that is a counterproposal to the violent atmosphere of Guatemala where she was born, her thought provoking Confront series features a range of sculpted weapons such as knuckledusters and hand grenades but created with delicate fabrics to offer some comfort to the consumer. Less confrontational but no less powerful is Chicana visual artist Ester Hernandez (1944) who creates portraits of Chicana/Latino women reflecting the political, social and spiritual themes of her community. All of the artists in Playing With Fire offer some kind of political slant that they describe as ‘’aesthetic detonators’’.

El Museo del Barrio
Adonis Flores (Left) Reincarnation (Right) Incubacion


Nicolás Dumit Estévez as curator of the Playing With Fire: Political Interventions, Dissident Acts and Mischievous Actions exhibition, also asked the artists to interview each other and partake in question and answer sessions that deal with their art practices and their specific contributions to the exhibition, hoping they will create debate and possible collaborations between the artists in future. The resulting words are on the El Museo website and are definitely worth looking over.

El Museo del Barrio
Jessica Kair – CONFORT White Grenade Trio

Playing With Fire at El Museo del Barrio

The Playing With Fire: Political Interventions, Dissident Acts and Mischievous Actions exhibition runs until 3rd January, 2015 at El Museo del Barrio in New York. The following artists are participating: ADAL, Manuel Acevedo, Maris Bustamante, Nao Bustamante, Papo Colo, Abigail DeVille, Alejandro Diaz, Adonis Flores, Ester Hernández, Javier Hinojosa (b. 1956, México, D.F.) with the collaboration of Melquiades Herrera (Mexico, D.F., 1949-2003), Jessica Kairé, Carlos Jesus Martinez Dominguez, Ricardo Miranda Zúñiga, Carlos Ortíz, Pedro Pietri, Jesús Natalio Puras Penzo (APECO), Quintín Rivera Toro and Juan Sánchez.

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El Museo de Barrio
Melquiades Herrera
El Museo de Barrio
Ester Hernandez – La Virgen de Guadalupe
El Museo del Barrio
Quintin Rivera Toro – My Agenda Is Not Their Agenda
El Museo del Barrio
Juan Sanchez
El Museo del Barrio
Pedro Pietri