(As seen from top to bottom in the painting)
Drums: Joseph "Sickfoot" Rodriguez
Guitar: Steven "Albizoo" Maldonado
Bass: Arturo Rodriguez
Vocals: Taina Asili
We the ghetto dwellers
Gonna rise outta the cellars
Love and liberation
Elevation of the nation
of the free....
We will not be silenced
By your institutional violence!
excerpt from "Fight"
Love+Revolution, Uprising Records, 2004
(Allow an average of 2-3 weeks for the arrival
of prints. Giclee prints are special-ordered and will take around
buy page for more information on purchasing. )
13 x 19" inch print on watercolor
Archival Giclee Print, approx
Elevation of the Nation
Ricanstruction: Soul Rebels series
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
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.
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