Visions and Apparitions

Smudging the line between fantasy and reality

Another in the series, Victory (Wolf), 2004, ripped from Aunt Louisa's Book of Fairy Tales, shows a fanged and yellow-eyed drooling wolf scratching at a window jamb. Underneath the line, "Open the door, my dear little kids," Velez simply added a stenciled row of black stars.

My favorite is Epilepsy, 2005, a page yanked from the artist's private high school (Disciples of Christ Academy) yearbook, where a sophomore Velez, sporting a powder-puff mop and caterpillar brows, leers like a chucklehead. The artist scribbled "Ni Tu Ni Nadi" (translation: "Neither You Nor Anybody") in an upper corner of this self-referential piece. It was refreshing to see he doesn't take himself too seriously.

"I use these collages as a hook to provoke a reaction," says Velez. "On opening night I was approached by a Puerto Rican girl who felt I was being a condescending joker and trying to fool the public. She told me, 'I get what you're saying but I still don't like the work,' and I'm cool with that," Velez remarks.

Deciding whether Velez is a multimedia mandarin on top of his game or the class wisenheimer who needs to take a time-out and reconsider a lazy assignment demands, as Chris Ingalls points out, an immersion into his process. "Pedro Velez's work is highly conceptual and might appear facile because he applies disparate techniques and incorporates ready-made materials like industrial banners with grommets and book pages to convey a message," Ingalls says.

Pairing Velez's work with Duran's begs the question: Did the curator match these exhibits to raise comparisons in terms of approach to workmanship?

"It was fortuitous," adds Ingalls. "Christian is extremely methodical and meticulous, with a spiritual and intellectual cast to his work. Pedro's methodology is to provoke thought, incorporating diverse strategies. I find it interesting, as someone who appreciates art, how their works contrast," Ingalls comments. "But these are two distinctly separate exhibits."

Velez's Pujwpbdbanr Fault Leran, 2005 is a large-scale, almost nonsensical graphite-on-wall drawing with a highly spontaneous vibe. He tweaks it into a collage by slapping a large dog-eared photograph onto the middle of the mural.

The photo, Emmi Mathis in a Bathtub Full of Bubbles by Melissa Shubeck, Curated by Pedro Velez,2002 -- try saying that with a mouthful of marbles -- displays a teenage, Siamese cat-eyed girl with a wan smile, lounging in a cast-iron tub while covered with suds.

Reasonably, can the potential eyesore, depending on John Q. Spectator's opinion, pose a valid argument for squandering valuable gallery space?

"That photo is part of a series called Las Chicas Lindas de Pedro Velez," Velez offers. "The photo works well because the model is 'cute' and not beautiful. My mom is cute, so is the girl, but sometimes people don't grasp the difference when discussing issues of beauty. That's why I juxtaposed the photo over the mural and next to the 'beautiful' Benetton models, to make that point." Fair enough, one thinks.

Velez's punch-line conceptualism, designed to rake over notions of taste, hits the mark with his piece Puerto Rican-Jewish, 2005, a Benetton banner the artist found in New York City. He attached scraps of old paintings and a post card (also found) with the image of a Puerto Rican flag, superimposed by the Star of David, onto the banner.

Chris Ingalls pointed at a Benetton bimboy plastered across the piece and said, "During the opening, a lady told me he was the most gorgeous creature she had ever seen. Funny, I thought, the schlep looks like an anorexic, shaggy-maned Dolph Lundgren to me."

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