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Ernesto Pujol at El Museo del Barrio
Kneeling Carthusian
Ernesto Pujol's photos and installation works address issues of religion and politics. In this museum show, he presents a group of large photo self-portraits in which he wears monk's robes in dark brown, gray or white. Looking quite demure in these freshly laundered gowns, he strikes pious-looking poses. Also on view were a number of mannequins dressed in similar garb. At first glance, the shots with the artist in ecclesiastical drag appear to constitute an appealingly campy spoof on religious posturing. In several of them, dogs frolic at the monk's feet. In others, strategic lighting seems intended to evoke a sense of divine illumination, mimicking the baroque theatricality of works by El Greco or Murillo, for example.

Pujol's project, however, has an added depth when one realizes that this young, Cuban-born artist was once a Roman Catholic seminarian, and later a cloistered monk and missionary. The photos stem from the artist's experiences as he aimed to live a life of saintly devotion. The images with dogs (the artist's pets), allude to St. Francis, for instance. Pujol abandoned the priesthood for art-making in the late 1980s, and has had many one-person shows since. This engaging exhibition seems to reflect the artist's rather soft-spoken conviction in the sanctity of art.

Ernesto Pujol, "Conversion of Manners," June 13-Sept. 24, at El Museo del Barrio, 1230 Fifth Avenue at 104th Street, New York, N.Y.