Raelis Vasquez "A Land Between Rivers" @ PM/AM, London
Frieze Week in London is bringing out some great shows around the city. One we are especially excited about is Raelis Vasquez at PM/AM, which has been open a few weeks but is getting relaunched. Vasquez draws on historical, political and personal narratives to create figurative compositions that conjure the complexity of the Afro-Latinx experience. The subjects of his work inhabit a state of vulnerability that encourages the viewer to question their positions on class, race, and geography. The paintings in Raelis’ solo show with PM/AM in London continue to reflect his ever-changing relationship with the Dominican Republic, and his attempts to present an accurate representation of its convoluted histories. They concentrate on his neighbourhood, El Pueblo de Dios, in the city of Mao, Valverde province—‘tierra entre rios’, land between rivers.
This body of work places particular focus on water, a fundamental resource that is a fixed point in the cultural lives of all Dominicans, linking the historic, indigenous people of Mao to his family's everyday existence in the present day. The unique and personal interactions between communities and their water sources, for life and leisure, reflect our own reliance, our own memories and experiences with this life-giving resource. "One of the memories that I have most vividly is of the large blue round tanks of water that were in our backyard to be ready when the water goes out," the artist notes. "This water would often be for the rivers. Today when my family and I go back, the river is a setting that we usually end up in… It is a place of leisure and of community."
The theme of water goes beyond an aesthetic concept and treads far into symbolism and meaning, both personally and universally. It can represent freedom and movement and it connects people. In unifying the work this way Raelis activates a tool to illustrate the interconnectedness of his culture and a celebration of people and place.