F ollowing my involvement with the art workers coalition during the late 60’s and then co-founding the Taller Boricua, an artists’ collective in 1970, I decided to forsake my early training of modern art, to begin a quest for alternative sources. This led me to embrace the art of the extinct Taino Indian peoples of my homeland Puerto Rico. My mission would be to pay homage to, and encourage, the revival of the art of my spiritual ancestors.
I was born on a sugar plantation in Puerto Rico, where I was raised, until the age of nine. During my childhood explorations, I discovered shards of pottery carved with images created by the Taino Indians. I also experienced European contributions to art through the religious pictures and sculptures displayed in the churches. In 1952, my family moved to the United States and settled in New York City. Soon after graduating from the High School of Fashion Industries in 1963, I was drafted into the Vietnam war and released in 1967 with an honorable discharge.
The culture of the Asian people was a wonderful visual experience. While serving in Korea, I learned to make rubbings from stone carvings onto delicate rice paper. I later used this technique to collect images from petroglyphs in Puerto Rico. After my tour of duty, I returned to the United States and decided to become a professional artist and I enrolled at the School of Visual Arts S.V.A.) in New York City.
During my years at S.V.A, I joined the Art Workers Coalition, an advocacy organization. The goal of the coalition was to decentralize the art displayed by museums and re-distribute them throughout the local communities. In that period, my art was a hybrid of hard-edge techniques, surreal and pop-art images. I had studied extensively with Malcolm Morley, Chuck Close, Richard Artshwagger and Steve Gionakos and others. In 1970, I graduated from the School of Visual Arts’ Fine Arts program.
Later that year, I co-founded Taller Boricua (Puerto Rican Workshop). A community based art group that served to create artists’ spaces, a creative support forum for ideas and a center for education. In 1971, I married and my first child was born. That same year, I exhibited my surreal/pop art work in the Institute of Culture in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
Using petroglyphic images from the caves and stone styles of the Taino Indian and incorporating them into automatic drawing exercises, these images and compositions turned into a series of drawings and paintings assimilating the power and intensity of the root of carribean culture. That year marked my departure from European influenced aesthetic, as strongly evident in my first solo exhibit at the Museo del Barrio in 1973.
Following this exhibit, I began a series of three-dimensional assemblages and found-object “combine” paintings. This series, titled “Spirit Traps,” made use of a mixed selection of materials such as feathers, rope, discarded furniture parts, mirrors and umbrellas. All of these were shown at the Forum’s Gallery “Paintings and Assemblages exhibit in 1974.
My second child was born in 1977, the same year I exhibited in the “Soho Whitney Counterweight” in New York City.
In 1979, two important exhibitions featured my revival and rebirth aesthetic. The first exhibit entitled “Private Icon,” at the Bronx Museum in New York City, debuted the Voyager assemblage; a primitive vessel which I presented as an allegory to the modern spacecraft and to a primitive spiritual voyage. The other exhibit entitled “The Imagist” featured a selection of ritual assemblage drawings. These exhibitions were presented at the Association of Hispanic Arts and the Cayman Gallery, both in New York City.
During these years, I also studied filmmaking at the School of Visual Arts, and later at the W.N.E.T. film television school. In 1977, I produced and directed a documentary on six contemporary Puerto Rican painters (including myself) that was aired on P.B.S. Channel 13, and for which I received a Creative Artists Filmmaking Fellowship (C.A.P.S.)
Between the 1970’s and 1980’s, El Taller Boricua maintained its philosophy of helping artists find a true initiative aesthetic and self-empowerment. To this day, I have maintained my participation as a founding member of Taller Boricua-as director, teacher, advocate and mentor. In 1981, myself and other artists from Taller Boricua were invited to exhibit “Events” at the New Museum of Contempoary Art in NYC and “Das Andere Amerika: (The Other America) that was exhibited in West Germany and traveled throughout Europe.
In 1981, in a retrospective exhibit at the Museo Del Barrio, I showed a decade of my Urban archeology and transmorphic work. This show was titled “The Voyager’” and other work,” and consisted of paintings, drawings, assemblages , prints and environmental works.
In 1986, I received an Artist-In-Residence Fellowship from te Bronx Council on the Arts. This same year, I had a solo exhibition of recent works at The Bronx Museum of the Arts.
From 1986 through 1994, I’ve had a steady output of work that I exhibited in a constant flow of shows. Including the “Carribean Art/African Currents” exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Hispanic Arts, 1986; the “Transcultural Exhibit” at Exit Art, 1986; the “Second Biannual” in Havana, Cuba, 1986; the Taller Alma Boricua” 20th anniversary exhibition at Museo del Barrio, 1989/90; the “500 Year Anniversary Celebration”exhibition in San Juan, Puerto Rico, 1993; the “Indigenous Image in Puerto Rican Art” exhibit at the Museum of the Americas in San Juan, Puerto Rico 1993-94; the “Reclaiming History/25th Anniversary Exhinition” at Museo del Barrio, NYC 1994; the “El Puerto Rican Embassy Show” at Kenkeleba Gallery, NYC 1994; and “Yslas” exposition at Hostos Community College, Bronx, NYC 1994. The second of the “Reaffirming Spirituality” exhibits at the Museo del Barrio 1995, featured a work of mine called “Spirit Trap” as the signature piece and title exhibition.
Marcos Dimas is a painter, printer, filmmaker and sculptor.