In his first solo museum exhibition, artist and musician Omar Velázquez (Puerto Rican, b. 1984) presents recent paintings and sculptures that address the intersection of painting, music, and folklore.
In a series of large-scale paintings, Velázquez—who lives between Ponce, Puerto Rico and Chicago—explores the lush, tropical landscape through vibrant colors and thick oil paint smears, known as impasto, creating surreal scenes from memories, dreams, and his daily walks and drives through the Puerto Rican countryside. In Velázquez’s paintings, the landscape and its creatures are mystical entities that reveal the dark legacies of colonialism and the experience of the Puerto Rican diaspora.
The exhibition also features string instruments, carved by Velázquez, in the shape of tropical fruits. These instruments accompany small-scale paintings of Jíbaro music album covers, a popular style of string music from the mountainous regions of Puerto Rico. Presented alongside Velázquez’s work are two sculptures made by fellow artists and musicians Rafael Ferrer (Puerto Rican, b. 1933) and Carmelo Martell Luciano (Puerto Rican, 1907–1990), tracing a genealogy of Puerto Rican artists who share Velázquez’s interest in shape, color, and sound.
Chicago Works: Omar Velázquez is organized by Carla Acevedo-Yates, Marilyn and Larry Fields Curator, with Iris Colburn, Curatorial Assistant. It is presented in the Sternberg and Rabin galleries on the museum’s third floor.
Artists in this exhibition
Artists Featured in the Exhibition Include:
Rafael Ferrer (Puerto Rican, b. 1933)
Carmelo Martell Luciano (Puerto Rican, 1907–1990)
Omar Velázquez (Puerto Rican, b. 1984)
For this exhibition, Velázquez crafted several string instruments in the style of the tiple and the cuatro, two of the instruments that make up Puerto Rico's traditional orquesta jíbara, or country orchestra. These instruments, and the jíbaro musicians who play them, are also featured in some of the paintings on view.
Songs by iconic jíbaro musicians, selected by Velázquez, play in the exhibition’s galleries.
Generous support is provided by Nancy and David Frej, Ashlee Jacob, and the Sandra and Jack Guthman Chicago Works Exhibition Fund.