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Artist Nayda Collazon-Llorens and New York dealer Ivan Vera at Galeria Raices, San Juan

Nayda Collazon-Llorens
Still from Canales V2
Galeria Raices

Nayda Collazon-Llorens
Test 2

Scott Roberts
Galeria Comercial

Scott Roberts
Arches of Triumph
Galeria Comercial

Scott Roberts
Devil Cat
Galeria Comercial
Puerto Rican Sun
by Pedro Velez

Nayda Collazon-Llorens, "Interventions," Aug. 7-28, 2003, at Galeria Raices, San Juan, Puerto Rico

Scott Roberts, Aug. 14-Sept. 15, 2003, at Galeria Comercial, Fortaleza 302, Old San Juan, Puerto Rico

From New York to San Juan and back is an easy $250. Just ask Ivan Vera, director of Von Lintel Gallery, whom I found strolling through the throng at Nayda Collazo's opening at Galeria Raices in Puerto Rico.

Collazo is one of those versatile artists who move easily from one medium to the other. She is also, alongside Ivelisse Jimenez, Calzadilla & Allora and Chemi Rosado Seijo, one of the most visible and respected young stars of the Puertorican art scene.

"This is a great crowd, beautiful paintings and she has already sold two pieces," said Vera. "I didn't know there was so much energy here, this is amazing." His observation is accurate. Puerto Rico is hot and it shows -- art gallery openings have become a favorite event of politicians, hipsters, collectors and art-school students alike.

Greeting visitors to Collazo's show was Canales V2, a huge video projection of mundane events to which the artist added text and phrases taken from anywhere and everywhere. The text functions as subtitles to the non-linear narrative of the video. The piece is a raw and low-budget collage of feelings and thoughts that point out some sort of emotional discomfort.

Collazo's paintings, like her video, are a collage of abstract forms. Lines, serial numbers, text and Rorschach patterns are interwoven across a flat background. The colors are not mixed and seem to be plastered casually on the canvas. Yet the paintings manage to convey a delicate state of melancholy.

Not far from the 15-year-old Galeria Raices, and located temporarily in Old San Juan, is Galeria Comercial, founded by Francisco "Tito" Rovira. Tito has established himself as one of the most important dealers in the island at the ripe age of 26. And for kicks he has opened an exhibition space.

For his second show, Rovira presented works by the Chicago-based artist Scott Roberts, who uses technology and technological art forms, in order to perpetuate a sardonic view of the role of popular culture in contemporary society.

Roberts is as much an illusionist as an artist, as he demonstrated in Lucky, one of the highlights of Art Chicago last year. Lucky is a video projected onto three sides of a box constructed to the same dimensions as a Lucky Charms cereal box. In the video loop, the artist plays the role of a weird and greedy leprechaun, who also represents the cereal's mascot. Roberts' Lucky is a sickening look at desire and the ever-changing values promoted by popular culture.

Arches of Triumph was a site-specific multimedia installation atop the roof of Galeria Comercial. It could be seen from afar and from different perspectives depending where the viewer was located in the old colonial city. The installation mimiced the shape and color of the infamous McDonald's logo, a sarcastic gesture that was a bit too obvious but still managed to hook tourists visiting the city. In Arches, Roberts examined capitalist iconography, and how it provides comfort to foreigners visiting a third world country.

A less political gesture is Devil Cat, a sort of holographic image of cartoon cat that is inserted into the same architectural space that it is projected onto. The ghostly cat endlessly and nervously moves in circles, unaware of the viewer. The voyeuristic viewer is powerless to offer any assistance to the tortured monochromatic cartoon.

PEDRO VELEZ is an artist, critic and curator based in Puerto Rico.