In Praise of the Disappeared

Marta Pérez García's printmaking as Caribbean Baroque

In Praise of the Disappeared (1992) by Marta Pérez GarcíaMuseo de Arte Contemporáneo de Puerto Rico

Marta Pérez García (b. Arecibo, Puerto Rico 1965) is an artist and activist who has developed her practice through painting, drawing, installation, sculpture and, most notably, printmaking.

She is well known for her impressive use of the reduction process in printmaking, in which an artist creates a multi-colored, layered print using a single print block. One such piece is In Praise of the Disappeared (1992).

Pérez García’s technique of printmaking acts as a metaphor of the violence her subjects endure. The carved wood is obliterated into pigment to create the final image.

The title of the piece confronts the viewer with a historical reality within the Americas in which many persons have disappeared and are presumed dead, their bodies never being recovered. 

The emphasis on the US flag within the work's composition, as part of the body of a being that seems to prey on the suffering, white-clad central figure, signals a certain adjudication of responsibility. 

The figure is enveloped by the immense wingspan of the sinister creature. Could this be a reference to Operation Condor, the US-backed campaign of political repression and state terror that also resulted in thousands of disappearances in the Southern Cone of South America?

In this case, the disappeared refer to those lost at sea on the journey from the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico, in hopes of eventually making their way to the United States. Beginning in the 1960s, very prominently during the 1990s, and peaking in the year 2000, a great number of Dominican immigrants arrived in Puerto Rico for political, economic, and social reasons.

Dangerous sea voyages often had dire consequences, such as shipwrecks, arrests, and deaths. The mourning of migration is itself part of our history as Caribbean people seeking better living conditions. 

In Praise of the Disappeared pays homage to the lives lost, to the ancestors that bind us, and places us in a sea of deaths connected by the  journey.

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