Newark, NJ – Gallery Aferro is pleased to present a major solo show by New Jersey-based painter Jo-El Lopez. Born in Juncos, Puerto Rico and raised in Paterson, New Jersey, Lopez uses the visual storytelling of traditional realism to convey complex commentary on the intersection of faith and modernity, the strength of family, and the multidimensional contemporary urban experience in his very first solo show, Speaking In Tongues. I met Jo-El several years ago, his pieces were shown at two galleries during arts Open door Stigmata, and Market Market Street Convergence and featured in JerseyCity, Hoboken and Paterson at The Artist walking tour. Each piece he has produced yield explosive colors with compelling movement in the subject. I am pleased to see he finally gets his own curated show. In his featured pieces Jo-El, shows us “Humanity” and “Women Power”. His Humanity series Through a series he made images of gang members of the bloods his subject. “In this series, he said, ” I saw gang members and families affected by the consequences of their affiliation such as imprisonment.
Women Power exhibition Jo-El, presented his portrait of AnaAnacaona. Anacaona, a Taíno chief meaning “golden flower”. The story goes, that during a feast organized by 84 regional chieftains to honor Anacaona, who was friendly to the Spaniards, the Spanish Governor Nicolás de Ovando ordered the meeting house to be set on fire to burn them alive. Anacaona and her Taíno noblemen were arrested — all accused of conspiracy for resisting occupation and executed.
Prior to her execution, Anacaona was offered clemency if she would give herself as concubine to one of the Spaniards which was common in the era. Standing with her fellow Tainos in solidarity, the Caribbean indigenous female leader (cacica) chose execution over colluding with her Spanish enemy, her refusal cementing her legend. Anacaona remained rebellious and independent until her violent public death. Jo-El portrait capture the majestic presence of such a historic character of the indigenous population of the Caribbean.
The decades the artist spent under the Pentecostal doctrine, a bold color palette informed by both abstract painting as well as older traditions of icon-making, all meld to create Lopez’s kaleidoscopic worldview. The collection of artworks on view from January 27 – March 12, 2016 reveal a restless, deeply engaged spirit closely observing not only his immediate environment, but the larger historic trajectory of national news. Lopez asserts, “Originally, I studied business and fine arts at Kean University and at Montclair State University and was prepared for a life in the corporate arena. But my life’s journey has led me back to art making and my true passion. My work shows my voyage from that life choice to now.” In just four years since leaving the business world to focus on art, Lopez’s work has appeared regularly in tristate area exhibitions at The Bronx Art Center, Gallery Aferro, The Center for Contemporary Art, New Jersey City State University Gallery, Rupert Raven Contemporary, and Jersey City’s City Hall. Speaking In Tongues assaults the senses: acid greens, bright pinks, and golden tones vibrate against each other. The artist’s instantly recognizable sense of irony, the wit that is at turns ruthless and affectionate, can be seen in works such as “The Kiss at the 16th Avenue Baptist Church,” “The Black Face Jesus,” and “The Virgin Miracle.” Yet in works like “Walking on Water,” Lopez tackles his subject with restraint and reduced composition to compliment the visceral sentiments of life’s journey. There is a willingness to reveal yearning, and a desire for emotional transparency. Racial and ethnic identity, gender and sexual politics, and parallel as well as conflicting cultural traditions and narratives all are in play when Lopez turns his attention to a new canvas.
Educators and activity planners are encouraged to contact the gallery to book a free tour of the exhibits for their youth or adult groups.