Ian Deleón’s first solo exhibition, Cuba + Puetro Rico | Invitación a Volar, is currently on view at La Galería. Deleón has worked closely with the gallery curator to give his show a unique format that includes an open instillation, an extended run time, and a series of events that keep the gallery space active and free from mental stagnation. I was able to stop by the gallery the night before the show’s official opening reception, so the gallery still had an air of creativity in progress.
Ian Deleón in his in-gallery studio.
In Invitación a Volar, Deleón uses intense research of histories, primary sources, photographs, and news to fuel his creative process. The gallery is centered around Deleón’s in-gallery studio – a desk and corner brimming with source material. He then reorganizes the raw information into a series of historical interventions that problemetize conventional historical narratives of Cuba and Puerto Rico. The exhibition reads like a multi-media chose your own adventure research paper – each photo, each sculptural element is imbued with Deleon’s intense research process and the simple is made complex.
“Speak Softly Now…”
In “Speak Softly Now…” Deleón has taken a split second of footage from a news reel – a Teddy Roosevelt sports mascot banging his head against the wall in frustration – and looped it into a rhythmic expression of absurdity that he dubs “pop-cultural decolonization.”
“The Influence of Sea Power Upon History”
“The Influence of Sea Power Upon History” features the only photographs in the show taken by the artist’s hand rather than appropriated from other sources. In these photographic performances, Deleón took a nineteenth century maritime propaganda book with him to Puerto Rico and photographed the book’s idealized imagery in juxtaposition with the land that has felt its impact.
“Invitación a Volar”
The show’s title piece, “Invitación a Volar” plays upon the duel translation of the show’s title. The phrase can mean literally, “an invitation to fly,” but it can also mean “an invitation to explode.” Here Deleón transforms a tropical vacation drink, the daiquiri, into a molotov cocktail – the potential for explosion lurking beneath the veneer of luxury. He describes the piece as a “decolonization revenge fantasy,” an expression of the desire to rewrite history through brute force.
Invitación a Volar is smart and sharply incisive. Deleón gives the viewer the tools and the information that they need and demands that they rethink and question what they thought they knew about the history of colonization, but at the end of the exhibition, the choice between passiveness and violence is in the viewers hands.