“I try to use my music as a machine to move these people to act – to get changes done” – Jimi Hendrix
Miguel Luciano is a cognizant and dynamic artist. His paintings, sculpture, videos and combined media installations raise critical questions about globalization and colonial dependency, in particular examining the social and political impact on Puerto Rican and Latino communities. Luciano’s individual and collective consciousness fuels his art. His semiotic use of religious, popular and commercial iconography, appropriated product labels, graffiti and text are visually arresting, exciting and conceptually provocative. Luciano critically reconstructs, subverts and establishes new hierarchies, meanings and allegories that redefine the Puerto Rican paradigm. Electoral politics, consumerism, poverty, racism, sexism, demoralization, stagnation and alienation under the dense and dark clouds of U.S. colonialism are articulated through cultural nostalgia, humor and sometimes carnivalesque hysterics. Popular Puerto Rican and North American icons often duel and compete, from Super Vejigantes and Jibaro Colonel Sanders, to Cosmic Tainos and Ronald MacDonald Conquistadors. Relationships that are both appealing and absurd, painful and playful – this is Luciano’s visual and conceptual strategy.
Miguel Luciano’s work is often interactive, stressing community access and participation as a priority. Coin-operated kiddie rides, Hot Wheels® car races and supermarket vending machines are among the many amusing and entertaining devices Luciano engages to stimulate ethnic pride and community consciousness, especially among youth living in dire and depressing urban environments. Through art workshops, mural projects and other creative encounters, Luciano inspires young people to explore their potential, emphasizing creativity and the boundless freedom to express themselves. Among his most effective public art/activist projects was the Vieques Peace Kites, where young people designed kites that flew over the fences of an occupying U.S. military base on the island of Vieques. Life-size portraits of Vieques residents were photographically printed on every kite, giving the impression of people flying as the kites were launched. This art-activism project followed numerous acts of civil disobedience, public protests and demonstrations in Puerto Rico and in various cities in the United States to stop the U.S. Navy from using Vieques as a bombing practice zone. In 2003, the Navy finally closed its base, but left unresolved contaminated lands and soaring cancer rates for the population to overcome.
Luciano’s art is at the core of universal relevance because it effectively connects, unites and celebrates humanity’s will for freedom, respect and self determination. Though art of social and political content is not new, there is clearly a need for daring, appealing, reflective and persuasive art. Miguel Luciano’s visually dynamic and determined work eventually will impress and attract the art world, but it has already begun to impact and touch the needs of the real world, as well it should.
Curated by Juan Sánchez