Adal Maldonado, an influential Puerto Rican photographer and artistic provocateurist who investigated the psychological and cultural fallout of the Puerto Rican diaspora in New York, died in San Juan on December 9. He was 72 years old.
His death in the hospital was caused by pancreatic cancer, said Francisco Lovilla Luran, a San Juan gallerist and manager of his real estate. Maldonado returned to Puerto Rico in 2010.
Maldonado’s main subject was identity, and for him the concept of constant change from situation to situation.
As a teenager, he moved with his family from his home in the mountainous countryside of Puerto Rico to New Jersey, and then to the urban dissonance of the Bronx. The experience left him with a sense of displacement, the driving theme of his art, and made him a typical “nuyorican” — a person who straddles New York and Puerto Rico and is completely at home in both.
“We are multi-layered because so many different cultures and races have passed through Puerto Rico in the slave trade. I grew up feeling that I had many different dimensions to choose from.” He told the New York Times in 2012.
For more than 45 years, Maldonado was a professional Monica who passed only Adal and was proposed to him by photographer Lisette Model, working in multiple media in different genres. His art was often imbued with terribly satirical humor and a destructive political message.
It is exhibited at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Barrio Museum of Art, and the Paris Museum of Modern Art. Some of his photographs remain in their permanent collection.
His extensive work includes photo novels. A small photo storybook with words like “I was an FBI schizophrenic mambo dancer.” A dark future where Latin music is banned.
Maldonado used a camera to record reality and distort it.
Latin art and history curator Taina Karagol at the National Portrait Gallery in Washington said:
In his book “Portrait of the Puerto Rican Experience” (1984), Maldonado filmed 100 prominent Puerto Ricans, including Miriam Colon, Rita Moreno, Jose Ferrer, Mark Anthony and Raul Julia, recording their importance in American cultural history. Did. The New York City Public School System used these portraits in its social studies curriculum, and the National Portrait Gallery received 15 of them.
One of his most famous efforts is the “Embassy of El Puerto Rico”, an elaborate and satirical work created in 1994 in collaboration with the poet Pedro Pietri. Combining poetry and painting, this project envisions Puerto Rico, which has achieved self-determination after a long struggle as a federation of the United States that is neither an independent nor a nation.
The “Embassy” government has its own national anthem written by Mr. Pietri of Spanglish. Its own church, La Santai Grecia de la Madre de Rostmates (Holy Church of the Mother of Tomatoes); and its own space program. (American astronauts landed on the moon in 1969, according to Maldonado, but only found that Puerto Rico explorers first landed on the moon.)
Their fictional embassy issued a passport that looked real, but in fact intentionally contained a blurred image in a document filled with poetry. By blurring the photographs, Mr. Maldonado intended to convey the political and psychological ambiguity of the Puerto Ricans — American citizens who often feel like a colonial subject.
“Adal talked about his country’s’imagination’,” Dr. Karagol of the National Portrait Gallery said in a telephone interview. “He used that phrase to hint at the infinite possibilities of freeing himself from oppressive social and political structures by unleashing his imagination.”
Adal Alberto Maldonado was born on January 1, 1948 in Utuado, Puerto Rico, where his parents were farmers. After they divorced, Adal and his sister moved to Trenton, NJ with their mother at the age of 13. They lived in an apartment above the portrait photographer’s studio and taught Adal how to process and print film. Handed over to other photographers, including Robert Mapplethorpe.
Adal’s mother remarried and her family moved to the Bronx at the age of 17. After that, he studied photography at the Art Center College of Design in Southern California and the San Francisco Art Institute, and graduated in 1973.
He returned to New York in 1975 and helped launch a photo gallery in Soho. His first book, Evidence of the Unseen (1975), consisted primarily of self-portraits of post-Surrealist collages and portraits of other photographers who influenced him.
Maldonado returned to Puerto Rico 10 years before his mother, Mari Santiago, who returned to Puerto Rico in the 1960s, became ill. She survived him with her son Lucian and sister Nilsa Maldonado. Maldonado had never been married.
Many years ago in New York, he tried a series of photographs called “Underwater in Puerto Rico” and set them aside. Being underwater took on a new meaning when the island began to drown with $ 78 billion in debt after he resettled in Puerto Rico. After Hurricane Maria struck in 2017, the financial crisis was devastating, killing about 3,000 people and ruining much of the island.
Maldonado began taking pictures of the general public. Most of them are strangers who recruit online, come home and pose underwater in the bathtub. The result was an eerie arousal of Puerto Rico’s drowning and helplessness.
Most striking is the man in a black T-shirt with the words “Mueltrico” or “Dead Rico”. This photo won the People’s Choice Award as part of a contest at the National Portrait Gallery and became part of Maldonado’s 2017 Underwater / Los Ahogados (Drowning) series.
“He turned to the moment the community lost his face,” gallerist Luran said in a telephone interview.
Among Maldonado’s last works was a series of clouds he saw from the hospital after his cancer was diagnosed.
“I was looking at the clouds from the hospital bed,” he told Smithsonian Magazine in June. “And they felt like a metaphor for transition and things.”
Adal Maldonado, provocative “Nuyorican” photographer dies at age 72
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