Mi Puerto Rico at WAM
Post #902 • November 7, 2006, 12:52 PM • 12 Comments
Worcester, MA — Mi Puerto Rico: Master Painters of the Island, 1780-1952, currently up at the Worcester Museum of Art, showcases three Puerto Rican painters whom the island regards as luminaries. The Museo de Arte de Ponce, which Miamians may recall as the current institution of former Miami Art Museum curator Cheryl Hartup, put this together, and it makes the history of painting there come off as uneven but pleasant, and accomplished if not innovative.
It begins with a dour roomful of José Campeche, who stands up to competent late 18th Century contemporaries on the mainland. I confess to having little appetite for the whole genre, but their workmanship is laudable. Later, though, Puerto Rico proved an excellent place to practice Impressionism. Francisco Oller, seven years older than Monet, brought it back from his studies in Spain and France, and developed it to a high polish in impressive still lifes incorporating the local produce. Miguel Pou, a product of the Art Students League and the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts circa 1900, shows thorough command of the concerns of the Ashcan school, and applied it to the depiction of local types. They don't compare well to, say, similar projects by Joaquin Sorolla, but technical authority and heartfelt sympathy drive them to successful conclusions. The handsome WAM installation includes bilingual wall copy in honor of the vibrant Latino community of central Massachusetts, although I remain unconvinced about the piped-in chirping of Coqui frogs, a campy addition that would better suit a science exhibit.