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John and June Allcott Gallery: Norma Vila Rivero, A Metaphor Against Oblivion

The photographic image shows a woman facing away from the picture and looking out towards the ocean from a railed balcony with a concrete roof overhang. Here hair is piled up in a bun on the top of her head and she has her arms wrapped around her waist. She is wearing a backless black and floral sundress and we can see on her back the faint image of two palm trees on a beach, a reverse print made with the careful application of sunscreen only to those image areas.

A Metaphor Against Oblivion
Reception: November 8, 6-8 pm

A Metaphor Against Oblivion is Norma Vila’s latest conceptual body of work, inspired by two themes; landscape and absence. The exhibition consists of nine mid-size digital photographs and twelve sculptures made of Styrofoam. This collection of images and sculptures reference and criticize the notions of development by metaphorically representing the absent landscape that remains in the collective consciousness. Vila is tempted to convey the impossibility of the landscape that surrounds her by presenting a critical look at the transformation of the landscape -in the broadest sense of the word- while at the same time a contemplative view of the paradox of development in today’s world.

Vila Rivero works with analogies and the double meaning of objects, words and concepts. Media, disciplines and materials are intertwined thereby creating an intricate web of multi-layered ideas. Vila’s starting points originate with personal experiences within her collective environment. She then directs her interests into an in-depth critical analysis of selected topics. With a deep dive into the origins and meaning of her subjects, she prepares the groundwork for making critical, contemporary and pertinent visual commentary. When asked about her upcoming exhibition Vila Rivero comments:

“For this project I am working with the representation of the metaphor ‘the skin of memory’… Everything we have seen marks us, and many times when passing by some place, it is inevitable to remember that place as it was before … And that absent landscape is impregnated in us, it is a mark and a metaphor against oblivion. In order to represent that mark or trace in the memory, in this series of photos I am placing a stencil at the back of a model and the sun imprint the image to their backs… Then I place the model – marked by the memory of what is no longer there – in the place that corresponds to the vanished landscape. All the images used as stencils are based on stories that I have compiled from friends, family members or myself. The result is that the photo serves as testimony or record of the specific event … The aim is to present a clear and manifest absence. Photography as a medium is vital as it makes an absence visible and serves as a certificate of presence. In A Metaphor Against Oblivion themes such as the impossibility of the natural landscape on an island, the excessive urban development, the abandonment of cultural heritage, and the negligence in the communities and public spaces are over layered to contrast the effects caused by failed leadership and bad management in today’s society.”

Calls for attention on the ways we relate to the environment are a peremptory key in Norma Vila’s most recent proposal. Issues that previously emerged in her work, today are openly formulated in what will be a long-term research project around environmental sustainability in the face of economic growth. Reflection through the chosen images allows us to think about ideas: memory-event-revelation. Game of presence and absence, trace of hidden realities, as activation of the memory, of updating past marks, cognitively and emotionally.

Norma Vila Rivero (b. 1982) is an artist that approaches art making from a diverse number of perspectives while subtly seeking to address emotional issues or intense social themes from a humanist point of view. She is also an active art projects coordinator of numerous innovative projects in Puerto Rico and in Boston and New York. Vila Rivero has a B.A. in Visual Arts from the Universidad del Sagrado Corazón and an M.A. in Arts Administration from the Universidad del Turabo, Ana G. Méndez. Her work has been presented in Mexico, Norway, Switzerland, Argentina, the Dominican Republic, St. Croix and U.S.A. In 2017 was selected to participate with Occupy Museums Debt Fair installation at the Whitney Museum Biennial. Since 2010 she is the Administrator of the Galería de Arte de la Universidad del Sagrado Corazón. In 2011 she co-founded Metroplataforma Organizada an artist run space and since 2015 has been the Director of ÁREA:lugar de proyectos (Founded in Caguas, P.R in 2005). Vila Rivero’s work is part of the collection of the Museum and Center for Humanistic Studies Dra. Josefina Camacho de la Nuez (University of Turabo, Caguas, PR) and the Foundation FIART (International Foundation Fund of the Arts) in Madrid, Spain, as well as in numerous private collections. *This project has been possible thanks in part to the sponsorship of El Serrucho by Beta-Local.

Admission: Free
Gallery Hours: Monday-Friday, 8 am-5 pm

Artist’s website:

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