yasmin hernandez welcome



Ricanstruction:
(As seen from top to bottom in the painting)
Drums: Joseph "Sickfoot" Rodriguez
Guitar: Steven "Albizoo" Maldonado
Bass: Arturo Rodriguez
Vocals: Taina Asili
Vocals: Not4Prophet


We the ghetto dwellers
Gonna rise outta the cellars
and unite
Love and liberation
Elevation of the nation
of the free....
We will not be silenced
By your institutional violence!


-Ricanstruction
excerpt from "Fight"
Love+Revolution, Uprising Records, 2004

PURCHASE PRINTS:

(Allow an average of 2-3 weeks for the arrival of prints. Giclee prints are special-ordered and will take around 4 weeks.See buy page for more information on purchasing. )

Bookmarks, $2:

13 x 19" inch print on watercolor paper, $40:
Archival Giclee Print, approx 24"x30":
Size/ Media

 



Elevation of the Nation
Ricanstruction: Soul Rebels series

2005
Acrylic, oils, collage on Masonite
76 " x 19"


Break the chain of shame, of pain and blame
Like a famed refrain from Colón or Coltrane
Sing a different song, try to write the wrong
In this foreign land, that never gave a damn


The above excerpt, from Ricanstruction’s song "Mad Like Farrakhan" summarizes the mission of Soul Rebels and the power of music, poetry + art in general to expose injustice and incite action to overturn it. Harlem-based Puerto Rican punk band, Ricanstruction fused all the sounds of their urban Boricua environment to unapologetically provide a soundtrack for displaced, downpressed, poor people everywhere. Working with the anti-authoritarian, anti-system, do-it-yourself aesthetic of Punk, Ricanstruction redefined Puerto Rican nationalism within an anarchistic context that is both utopian and realistic, practical yet idealistic. Slain Puerto Rican freedom fighter Filiberto Ojeda Rios once said: "I am a dreamer because I am a revolutionary". The revolutionary dream world as envisioned by Ricanstruction dissolved racism, imperialism, colonialism, fascism, classism, elitism, capitalism, consumerism. Anarchism recognizes no boundaries, man-made borders or man-led governing systems. Ricanstruction's work recognizes no such borders either, treating all struggles of oppressed people as their own. With that said, the title of the painting, lyrics from their song "Fight", could very well be Ricanstruction’s mantra.

Given Ricanstruction's radical politics and their staunch anti-corporate stance, don't expect to see their videos on MTV or hear their messages on corporate radio stations. It is a beautiful thing to take a radical approach towards exposing injustice and scaring the powers that be in the process, however sometimes that includes your own people who do not want to admit that their daily conveniences and comforts are but a distraction from our true condition and struggle. For this reason the DIY element of Ricanstruction's work takes on a much greater scale. Without funding, without endorsements, without large scale-support, Ricanstruction, on its own and with limited means, fueled every element of their movement. Without outside music to incorporate all of their political ideologies on one album, they wrote it, performed it, recorded it and circulated it. Without outside literature to support their stance, they wrote it, published it and circulated it. Without outside films to document their struggle, they created them and so on.

I first heard Ricanstruction on July 25th, 1998, at a demonstration at the United Nations protesting the centennial of the US invasion of Puerto Rico. After at least a decade of listening to punk and hardcore music and having heard African-American bands like Bad Brains and Fishbone with conscious messages, it was an overwhelming victory for me to have finally found the perfect blending of my identity and politics in the music of Ricanstruction. I immediately purchased their first CD, Liberation Day, and similar to the story with Soul Rebel Piri Thomas, that CD became my other soundtrack for bus and train trips between New York and Philadelphia. By the time I had moved back to New York City I knew that CD like the back of my hand. Painting Ricanstruction for the debut of this project at El Museo del Barrio was quite fitting since it was at El Museo that I saw my 2nd Ricanstruction performance.

Painting a group of young Puerto Ricans where the members are featured with their instruments is radical in itself. In today's corporate, mainstream music industry, musicality and musical talent no longer seem to be a priority. Computer generated beats seem to have replaced individuals with instruments. For this reason supporting and promoting the work of talented musicians who take their art seriously and who intensely study their craft and the history of those who came before them is crucial. Collectively Ricanstruction members serve as a sort of musical encyclopedia with knowledge on the best of the best in Latin, jazz, funk, soul, blues, be-bop, trio, bomba, reggae, punk, hardcore and other musical forms. In addition to their musical diversity, the painting pays tribute to the vast tradition of struggle whose legacies inform Ricanstruction's work. This is represented, in the tradition of my other paintings, by an elaborate collage including Pedro Albizu Campos, Lolita Lebron and other Puerto Rican Nationalists, Che Guevara, the Young Lords, the Black Panthers, Malcolm X, Mumia Abu Jamal, the EZLN, Subcomandante Marcos and the Zapatistas, and, most visibly, anarchists of color Luisa Capetillo, Martin Sostre and Lucy Parsons-Gonzales. Text and images of these revolutionaries are incorporated within layers of Ricanstruction literature including flyers for various political prisoner fundraisers, rallies, and shows at El Museo del Barrio and CBGB. Speaking of CBGB, the legendary NYC home of punk music, the cut and paste element of the collages are a tribute to the Punk aesthetic and the plastered, layered, flyer-ed walls of CBGB. Also a tribute to the punk aesthetic is the stenciling of the Ricanstruction lyrics on the top and bottom of the panel. The white text over the black background is consistent with the colors of all Ricanstruction press literature, black being the color of anarchism.

Including the Puerto Rican flag in the composition was essential. However it was necessary to reinterpret the flag with their boundary-less approach to struggle and resistance. It was highly important that this portrait capture Ricanstruction’s anchored position within black struggle: the fact that Ricanstruction doesn't identify our struggle as Puerto Rican and black but that as Puerto Ricans we ARE part of the Black struggle. This message is blatant in their lyrics, political work and musical sound. All this contributed to the recreation of the Puerto Rican flag with the pan-African colors of red (blood), black (black people) and green (land/ Africa). These colors and their significance were promoted by Black liberation leader Marcus Garvey. The black star of the flag is also a reference to Garvey and his Black Star Liner, part of his plan to promote self-sufficiency and liberation for black people globally. In addition, Ricanstruction's long time use of the Machetero logo informed my decision to replace the star of the flag with this logo. The flag used by the Puerto Rican clandestine armed organization Los Macheteros is also red, black and green. However a whole other element contributed to the color scheme of this panel and all the other Soul Rebels panels. Whereas many of my previous works in the spiritual gallery are dominated by the colors blue and yellow and other characteristics of the female Yoruba orishas Yemeya y Ochun, my more recent work has been much more influenced by the warrior orishas Eleggua and Ogun whose colors are red and black, and green and black respectively. As mentioned above, red, black and green, are also the colors of the African liberation struggle and for the Yoruba people, the colors of war. This painting was completed in the second week of September. Two weeks later Machetero Commander, Filiberto Ojeda Rios was assassinated by the FBI, affirming that we are still very much at war.

© Copyright 2005-09, Yasmin Hernandez. Under no circumstances should any of the images or content of this site be downloaded, printed or reproduced without direct permission from the artist.