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Title:The politics of display: identity and state at the San Juan Print Biennial, 1970-1981
Author(s):González, Maria Del Mar
Director of Research:Vázquez, Oscar E.
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Vázquez, Oscar E.
Doctoral Committee Member(s):Rodriguez, Richard T.; Weissman, Terri; Basilio, Miriam M.
Department / Program:Art & Design
Discipline:Art History
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):art biennials
art and politics
graphic arts
Puerto Rican art
Latin American art
20th century art
cultural policy
Abstract:This dissertation, The Politics of Display: Identity and State at the San Juan Print Biennial, 1970-1981, is the first comprehensive study of the Bienal de San Juan del Grabado Latinoamericano (BSJ, 1970-2001) of Puerto Rico, and its reincarnation as the Poly/Graphic Triennial (2004 - Present). As the Caribbean’s first art biennial, the creation of the BSJ was not only innovative, but also a strategic, bold project on the part of its organizers in their attempt to insert Puerto Rican graphic media production more forcefully into Latin American art history and in a clearer spotlight on the stage of global exhibitions. Organized by Institute of Puerto Rican Culture (ICP) with expert assistance from the New York Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) and the Museo de Arte de Ponce (MAP), the BSJ was established to legitimize and promote the island as a competitive force within the postwar biennial circuit and international art market. While examining its structure, historical context, and the role of key players in fashioning the BSJ as an emblem of Puerto Rican national identity, this dissertation sheds light on the relationship between the promotion of printmaking as a national medium, and populism as a political strategy in the 20th century. It critiques the strategies for forging a collective identity and presents a postcolonial reading of the ways in which BSJ organizers intended to convert San Juan into the epicenter of Latin American graphic art, by inserting Puerto Rico into both the international biennial circuit and the larger art historical narratives of Latin America. By focusing on moments of disruption, struggles, and even failure of the institution, which include a “counter biennial” and the shift from a biennial to a triennial model, this study goes beyond the particularities of the BSJ and shows the fissures of the models and categories of the larger biennial circuit, allowing for a more intricate history to emerge. Acknowledging the complexity of the BSJ as a physical institution, display site, and an ideological apparatus, this dissertation combines close analysis of the history, interconnected with a selection of BSJ general editions and their corresponding homage artist exhibits, exhibition catalogs, awarded prints, and critical reception. This study combines that approach with careful attention to archival materials that include unpublished correspondences and manuscripts, internal ICP-BSJ documents, interviews, as well as periodical articles and criticism. I contend that even though the Bienal de San Juan has not been afforded the same attention as numerous European-based biennials, as a “minor” moment in biennial history, its critical examination, challenges the established narratives of art biennials and of the U.S. and Puerto Rico, while simultaneously shedding further light on the complex cultural and political relations of the contemporary global art map. In these ways, The Politics of Display will engage in conversation not only with art historians, but sociologists, historians of contemporary Latin America and Latino Studies, as well as with scholars interested in cultural and visual theories as they touch upon the politics of exhibitions, arts institutions and prints.
Issue Date:2013-08-22
Rights Information:Copyright 2013 María del Mar González
Date Available in IDEALS:2013-08-22
Date Deposited:2013-08

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