This is not a comprehensive web site of my work. All images copyright of Pedro Vélez.
Web -based narratives and curated exhibitions
Miami Herald Review:
BY DAMARYS OCAÑa
There are alternative art spaces, risk-taking curators and middle-finger artists -- and then there's Law Office, Chicago's role-hopping collaborative, which once commissioned an artist to streak naked through an art fair with the crew's name written across his butt cheeks.
Other subversive hits by Law Office, whose members -- artists Rob Davis, Vincent Dermody, Michael Langlois and Rebekah Levine -- conceptualize and mount shows that they and other artists star in: A retrospective of a barely known emerging artist; a take on corporate sponsorship that combined art, Wu Wear and buckets of beer; and the genre-blurring, crossover Sex Party, for which four invited artists built a porn set and produced their own films. The set was then the icky site for a party in which ''trashy attire'' was required.
At its best, Law Office manages to make its enfant terrible, pop-culture driven art into relevant commentary on the art world, its slick connection with commerce, and the role of artists, curators, museum directors and the audience. One of a growing number of young artist collectives springing up nationwide and in Canada, it seeks to turn expectation and art-world hierarchy upside down, or at least blow it up to level the playing field -- and have a really good time doing it. At the very least, it's entertaining.
By comparison with its earlier projects, Law Office's show at Locust Projects, Fountain of Youth, is much more tame. Odd, yes, but no one is swinging naked from the rafters. The show, a Law Office collaboration with Chicago artist/curator/critic Pedro Velez that also includes pieces by Steve Davis, Travis Lanning and Scott Wolniak, comprising a painting, sculptures, drawings, an installation and a video.
The closest the group came to controversy was including Miami collector Rosa de la Cruz's name in a stream-of-consciousness list of phrases like ''a dead pony'' on a poster in the show, which doubled as the show's invitation flyer. De La Cruz, according to Velez, was upset enough to call him and complain. Alas, one show visitor lamented, the conversation was not taped for posterity.
The theme for Fountain of Youth, named after the mythical spring that supposedly brought Ponce De Leon to Florida, is Miami itself. Don't expect extraordinary insight -- no artist has yet properly mined our historical wealth of weirdness and penchant for playing some role in seemingly every major scandal and national tragedy for its art potential.
Law Office, parachuting in, is no exception. But that's the point. Law Office's vision of Miami and, by a case of reluctant osmosis, South Florida, is -- purposely -- CNN's vision, and thus the world's: The breakaway banana republic and playground for the fabulous at the tip of the nation. Catapulting from the phrase ''fountain of youth,'' Law Office free-associated its way through Miami's image. Not terribly original, but fun nonetheless. Note the made-up flag of Miami above the door at Locust Projects.
The most obvious link to South Florida, aside from De La Cruz's name, is Anthrax Painting, a giant black-and-white painting of West Palm Beach's American Media building, where the first post-Sept. 11 case of anthrax poisoning was reported. In the painting, which looks like a postcard from a bygone era, the building is as luridly pristine and tranquil as a hospital, belying its history.
Pedro Velez's Marta Traba VF, a wall drawing/installation, is perhaps an oblique way of referencing Miami's history as a Latin American art hub. A framed, melancholy newspaper picture of Traba, an Argentine art critic, social activist and novelist of the '60s and '70s whose writings put Latin American art on an international stage, commands attention at the center of a wall. Reaching out from the picture's borders, a wall drawing of cryptic text reminiscent of Van Halen font completes the piece's feel of a devoted teenager's private shrine.
Marta Traba VF is juxtaposed with Ann Lee Picture, a photograph of a young woman tacked to an adjacent wall, that makes reference to Art Basel, the newest chapter in Miami's art history. The photograph is a spoof, covered as it is with a sardonic scrawled message to French artists Pierre Huyghe and Phillippe Parreno, the duo who bought the rights to a Japanese anime character, named her AnnLee and used her as the focal point of a series of works by themselves and other artists, then retired her with a fireworks display during Basel. ''Phillippe, Pierre: You cannot kill Ann Lee!'' reads the statement against the tyranny of French artists. ``She is alive and well in Puerto Rico. Go fuck yourselves. L.O. & P.V.''
By Jason Foumberg
January 28, 2009
Pedro Velez fashions himself as an art world muckraker. He seems to enjoy bullying the in-crowd, stripping the tenuous links between business and art, pulling the sheets off the back-scratching orgy and generally stirring the shit till it stinks. But “I’m trying to be nicer,” he says with a smirk. After spending the past five years in his native Puerto Rico on an extended “vacation,” Velez is back in Chicago, and he marks his return with a show at Western Exhibitions.
Velez has a history of upsetting people. “You’ll never work in the U.S. again!” shouted über-collector Rosa de la Cruz at Velez after he appropriated her name for one of his artworks, a showcard for a fictional exhibition in which she was unwittingly listed as a participant. Velez’s fake exhibition announcements are one of his more potent forms of critique, and they seem to instigate the most dramatic responses. He’s been making them for years, in both Chicago and Puerto Rico. The cards and fliers resemble typical gallery press for group exhibitions, and Velez “curates” an imaginary cast, which has included art world superstars Maurizio Cattelan, former Art Institute curator Okwui Enwezor, Eva Hesse, Jan Vermeer, and often includes topical news items, such as Elian Gonzalez, the Cuban boy whose mother drowned bringing him to the U.S. in 1999, and the endangered coral reef.
Velez relates the story of Rosa de la Cruz’s upset with a bit of pride, for her outburst reveals a lot about the international art community. Certain cities hold prominence in the social history of art. Paris in the nineteenth-century gave way to New York City as the twentieth-century’s cultural capital. In the last thirty years, the number of biennials in far-flung corners of the Earth, from Gwangju to São Paulo to Istanbul, has grown steadily, giving the jet-set curatorial class a sense of purpose. Unfortunately, you’ll often see the same artist roster no matter the region. It’s a story of increased global wealth, where biennial organizers can afford the “best” artists, and, as some see it, is an iteration of the colonize-and-conquer mentality.
The biennial franchise opened shop in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in 2004. Being just a hop from Miami, where the art crowd convenes every December for its massive art fairs, the island is conveniently exotic. Its unique Latin flavors, sunny beaches, favor-trading politicians and lax regulations on entrepreneurship make it easy to forget that Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory—its residents being American citizens. Surely Rosa de la Cruz forgot this when she threatened to excommunicate Velez from U.S. soil.
For being a self-made gatekeeper, de la Cruz wasn’t very knowledgeable about her terrain. Nor were the curators, says Velez, who swept in to take stock of the culture, and export it. Velez believes the art community, including curators, collectors and dealers, has a responsibility to respect its locale. But Puerto Rico quickly became an over-harvested field whose roots have been pulled, and the changing winds of taste blew away all that remained. “Puerto Rico’s art scene dried up,” says Velez. Likewise, in Chicago, he’s complained about curators who don’t bother to take stock of local culture.
As a working critic, curator and artist, it’s often difficult to parse out Velez’s various practices, although the critical edge is ever-present. Is the fake exhibition announcement his art or his curatorial work, or is it an artful form of critique? The term “remote control curators” appears in both his critical writings and his art, referring to exhibition organizers who curate via email in territorialized countries, not bothering to see either the art or the site in person. Somewhat similarly, Velez’s fictional exhibition announcements, which he hands out at art gatherings or shows in the gallery, pluck famous figures from the news feed, and the exhibition venue is never listed (leading to some frustration if you don’t get the hoax). Critic Michelle Grabner interpreted this as Velez idealistically dreaming the perfect exhibition, recalling André Malraux’s 1950 book “Museum Without Walls,” wherein a show is conceptualized using only reproductions of famous artworks.
But Velez is not sitting around waiting for some postmodern fantasy wish fulfillment; his practice focuses on uncomfortable social situations and the problem of inflated cultural capital. Many of the posters in his current show feature images of girl-next-door type porn models sporting bruises and black eyes. These girls embody the spectacle of pillaging—Velez’s art is necessarily un-beautiful. The list of implicated public figures, what he calls the “unwilling performers,” this time includes Puerto Rican condo developer Arturo Madero, Roger Clemens, even Blago. Above it all, a designer store’s shopping bag hangs upside-down in a signal of distress.
Velez is working in the tradition of the artist-as-watchdog, much like artist Hans Haacke’s 1971 exposé on underhanded Manhattan real estate sales, which was framed as an art piece. Velez says that Illinois’ current political troubles would barely make waves in Puerto Rico. Its art scene reflects widespread ill maneuverings, and while a true regulation of any country’s art dealings, from its auctions to VIP lists, would surely topple it, for Velez, to be critical is a performance itself.
Photographic vinyl banner
5' x 4'
1/1 (not an edition)
Letter to the Editor; Re: The Bad Review
Large installation piece that consists of three photographic banners- collaged and painted on its surfaces- and one wall/ceiling mural made in graphite and yellow acrylic. The work is my critical review of Allora & Calzadilla and and how the US Pavilion in Venice was curated by corporate lobbyist. The cryptic text and graffiti also refers to the erasures and manipulations enacted in political rhetoric and corporate media. Especially that of the NY art press.
"Letter to the Editor; Re: The Bad Review" was made specifically for "Eraser," an exhibition curated by Rachel Furnari for Magnan Metz Gallery in May 2011.
The Day of the Corrupt: Our fathers left US shit