Marcos Dimas combines Pre-Columbian Taino symbols with contemporary modes of abstraction and figuration to create a fusion between past and present ways of seeing. His poetic symbol laden drawings and prints are based on transcriptions of common sights and sounds, popular music and dreams. As such, Dimas’ work falls into the Caribbean tradition of surrealist abstraction fostered by Wilfredo Lam. Marcos Dimas is a founder and current artistic director of Taller Boricua and has won several awards for painting, graphic work, and video. His work was featured in Mixed Blessings, New Art in a Multicultural America, written by Lucy R. Lippard.
Dr. Yasmin Ramirez
Opiyel Guaurioban, 1975, ink on Hoshi paper, 35” x 24”.
Born in Puerto Rico, Dimas found Taino Indian artifacts in the fields where he played. His art deals with the mythic dimensions of that lost culture. Opiyel Guaurioban is a Taino dog deity. In this work, one of the first in a series of drawing and assemblages on Pre-Colombian symbols, the dog is counterbalanced by an ancient tool and a stone collar; stretched between the branches is a thorn-tortured skin in the shape of the island of Puerto Rico. Dimas is one of the founders of the Taller Boricua in New York’s barrio. His concern in both his political and artistic work has been to “use art as a vehicle to contribute to our history and the social-cultural revolution.” He cites his influences as Pre-Columbian art, Duchamp, Rauschenberg, and Latino popular culture. He intends “to make visual through a pictorial vision an invisible culture, made invisible by the Spanish Conquistadores and their colonization in the first stage, and by the Euro-American cultural-political invasion in the second stage. To make art that would incorporate-propagate-encourage and acknowledge New World Aesthetics.” (letters to the author, 1982, 1990)
Lucy R. Lippard, Mixed Blessings p.132
The Puerto Rican collaborative workshop model was transplanted to New York with the Taller Alma Boricua, founded in 1969 by a group of “Nuyorican” artists, including Armando Soto (b. 1945), Marcos Dimas (b. 1943) and Adrian Garcia (b. 1948). The Taller Boricua, as it is more commonly known, became a meeting place for Puerto Rican artists in New York. The collaborative’s nationalist orientation was reflected in its name, which is derived from the Taino word for Puerto Rico, and the frequent use of Taino symbols by the participating artists. The workshop was initially housed in a building across from the East Harlem headquarters of the Young Lords and produced several posters for the party.
Veerle Poupeve, “Caribbean Art” 1998
Most of the artists shown this year are represented by more than one painting or sculpture, so that the individual flavor of their work emerges from the potentially confusing group presence. Marcos Dimas’ Spirit Trap is a triangular box lined with mirror and supported precariously on a stick; in its haunted angular form it summons up a reference to the superstition that the reflection of a person captures his or her soul; at the same time the viewer recognizes its similarity to the simple box trap commonly used to capture small animals and birds. Other aspects of the artists’ interest in anthropology, real or imagined, may be seen in his Ritual Assemblage, which seems directly influenced by American Indian crafts and lore.
ArtNews, October 1978
Marcos Dimas in his very energetic work-paintings, drawings, assemblages and bizarre furniture constructions- Marcos Dimas attempts to deal in contemporary terms with the ancient Taino culture of his native Puerto Rico.
Indian trappings, adornments and symbols – flowers, feathers, trees, fishes, boats – and oddly, umbrellas, are important symbols in the work, but their dreamlike , associative rendering makes each form suggest or double as another. In the painting “El Bohique” (roughly translated as “The Shaman”), for example, a very grasping, octopoid tree trunk stretches out its limbs in a jungly overgrowth, grasping a kind of witch-doctor’s sceptor; the tree trunk suggests an elephant’s. And in the drawing “Ritual Assemblages,” an elephant head develops appendages that look like the ribs of a bat or an umbrella.
There’s a vigor to the paintings, but it’s the constructions and assemblages that really show the artist’s strength. They range from a small wall piece called “Tribute to Tito,” in which three stiffened paper bags, adorned with feathers, dance together on a small platform, to “The Voyager,” a construction in which a flattened umbrella, a fish or two, a boat and a mirror take on the presence of a shrine. An environment called “Dream Room,” whose walls are stenciled with birds, lizards and flowers, presents small, surreal pieces of “furniture”: an unsittable, curtailed chair, whose red cushioned seat resembles a tightly closed pair of lips; a “vanity” table topped by an inverted triangle of nail-studded polyurethane foam, a lamp whose shade is covered with tiny horns and so on.
Mr. Dimas’ work, a fusion of ancient imagery with a 20th century urban consciousness, evokes such other “ritualists” as Bettye Saar and Rafael Ferrer. But his talent and invention are very much his own.
Grace Glueck, The New York Times , February 5, 1982
Pero Marcos Dimas, como todo artista, tiene la necesidad de explorar mas alla y la inquietud de evolucionar con los tiempos. Recientemente presento su exposicion “The Last Paintings”, que llamo asi por ser las ultimas obras en las que integro iconografia indigena y tecnicas formales de pintura. Hoy en dia descubre la imagen digital y hace construcciones, la misma tecnica que utilzaba en su juventud en el Taller. Pero hoy es aun mas ambicioso: trabaja con el sonido, que para el es una de las cosas mas abstactas que se pueden encontrar, y busca interpretarlo como arte visual mediante sus construcciones.
Y su vision vuelve al lugar donde comenzo: el patio de la escuela con los musicos de hoy y los ninos de ayer, interpretando visualments la musica de Eddie Palmieri. O. aun mas alla, a Puerto Rico, cuando recuerda que un dia lejano reorrio el bosque con su tio en busca de piezas tainas.
De un artista como Marcos, con su historia y sus logros, sobre todo se puede decir que es artista. Al final un artista no deja de ser nino o adolescente o anciano. Carga en su alma las experiencias para que por sus manos el horizonte del mundo pueda tener la belleza que vive en sus recuerdos.
Tanya Torres, Siempre, October 6, 2004