"Labor Art" Exhibit Opens in Hunter's East Harlem Art Galler
At the podium: Susana Torruella Leval; (L-R) Artists Nitza Tufiño, Juan Sánchez, Miguel Luciano, Melissa A. Calderón, Antonio Marorell
Hunter President Jennifer Raab and renowned labor leader Dennis Rivera joined a group of curators, artists, CUNY colleagues, and community members to celebrate the opening of the new home of the Centro Archives and Library and the inaugural exhibition at the East Harlem Art Gallery, both located in Lois V. and Samuel J. Silberman School of Social Work on the afternoon of September 27. Centro is a research institute that collects, preserves, and disseminates materials from and about the Puerto Rican diaspora.
"Our new building in East Harlem is meant to foster direct engagement with the community and also break down walls between disciplines to enhance the academy," President Raab said. "And in that spirit, we asked the art department to work with their sister department at Centro to an extraordinary end."
The exhibition, titled Labor, is co-curated by artist Antonio Martorell and former Director of El Museo del Barrio Susana Torruella Leval. It features new work by five Puerto Rican artists who each chose a single object from the vast archives of Centro as the starting point for their own work. Labor serves as a tribute to and a form of cultural recovery of the nearly 600,000 laborers who came to New York from Puerto Rico during the 1940s and '50s.
Juan Sánchez, a professor in the Art Department at Hunter College and a featuredartist in the exhibition, used images from Centro's "Faces of Migration" Archives to create archival pigment prints and an eight-minute digitally projected video.
"This show is about love of labor, and is a labor of love," said Martorell, who was dressed as a postal worker and handed out letters during the event with stamp sized reproductions of his larger woodcuts on view. "Artists love to work, and we are privileged because we work at what we love. But, there must be a way for everyone, if not to love their labor, at least respect it, find it meaningful, and understand its importance in the community."