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Williams Carmona. Body Madness, 2010. Oil on canvas. 14 x 18 in. (35,5 x 45,7 cm.).

Solo Show
Williams Carmona
Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico

ArtNexus #78 - Arte en Colombia #124
Sep - Nov 2010

San Juan, Puerto Rico
Museo de Arte ***

Janet Batet

Williams Carmona is a sort of restless elf who loves to dig in the unfathomable labyrinths of the soul. With sharp sensitivity and a singular sense of humor, his work becomes a fertile landscape for the imagination and scrutiny. Such is the sense that animates this current individual exhibition ¿ at the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico ¿ in which storytelling and delirium go hand in hand.
A compendium of recent works by Carmona, the exhibition envisions new lines of exploration, such as those in the case of the sophisticated mannequins turned into spoiled madonnas who trap all sorts of mysteries in their crinoline petticoats.
Carmona¿s proposal draws from the deep well ¿ so dear to our region ¿ of magic realism. Much has been said about the close relationship between his work and surrealism. In this respect, his 1999 encounter with Leonora Carrington in Mexico was symptomatic. To Leonora, Williams Carmona was a sort of ¿esoteric wizard,¿ and an ¿old ghost.¿ Both descriptions reveal essential attributes of an artistic personality that regards his artistic endeavor as sorcery; the right cauldron in which frogs and spells are transformed into yellow butterflies. On the other hand, there is something very special in the artist¿s canvases that transport us through time in an unsurpassed way. It is as if Carmona, the ¿old ghost¿ that Leonora Carrington speaks of, had returned from some mysterious trip and was describing it to us through his canvases.
While there are indeed surrealist elements in his work ¿ such as psychic automatism and chance ¿ that act as integral components and nourish the creative process, we also cannot deny a realist undercurrent and an attraction to history that inspires and is the cornerstone of Williams Carmona¿s proposal.
Carmona¿s work resorts to the inclusivism and referencing so near the heart of contemporary art. The appropriation of epigones from the history of art is a constant part of his images: capricious meninas: courtiers: transvestite Giocondas, and Christs, among others, and even a reference to the sacrifice in Van Gogh¿s creative act manifested in his Self-portrait, or ¿ in a more general sense ¿ the martyrdom incarnated by Saint Sebastian. The fundamental idea in his art is inspired by neighborhood characters who are included in the sort of staged play that is his work.
His proposal also contains a metaphysical breath. The characters are generally carefully arranged at the center of the composition and are surrounded by nothing, with only the horizon present as a necessary reference. The predominance of blue in the background continuously reaffirms the watery element ¿ also evidenced in the artist¿s depiction of showers, fish, and water faucets. The majority of the figures portrayed are mannequins, busts with no arms that stare at us with inquisitive gazes. A good example of this are the works Las Mujeres Mandan y los Hombres se Ilusionan (Women Are in Charge and Men Get Excited) o Fórmula para Mujeres (Formula for Women), both from 2008.
It is precisely at this point that an incursion into objectual art takes over, with the mannequin as point of departure. Venturing inside the exhibition space is a wonderful immersion, thanks to the play with the mannerist possession of such sui generis meninas. Their crinolines contain hallucinatory universes with strong analogies to the everyday, to desires, and even to commentaries on the local political reality, as in the case in Debajo de la Falda de Mamá (Under My Mom¿s Skirt, 2009). Here, Carmona presents two effective allegories of power: The first consists of a gender discourse in which the female figure ¿ defiantly showing us that she is in charge ¿ makes all the decisions, even political, from the warmth of her lap. The second allegory is stamped on her skirt; here, a fighting cock coexists with capricious multicolored eggs that represent the country¿s various political parties. The crinoline suggests the idea of a combat arena, because it is reminiscent of the fences that enclose the area for cockfights ¿ so popular in Puerto Rico. This ¿gentlemen¿s sport,¿ as it is known in Puerto Rico, is used here as a parable and sarcastic reference to the local debates and disputes to attain political power.
Verdades que Me Fatigan is a survey of the recent and exuberant artistic production of Williams Carmona. It is an exhibition in which reality and illusion, history and myth, conventions and transgressions are combined to weave a unique universe that can only be envisioned by the jester that is Williams Carmona.

Janet Batet



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