Ranchos, Planchas y Gallinas (“Ranchos, Cutting Boards and Chickens”) is an artistic intervention by Engel Leonardo (Dominican Republic 1977), curated by Pablo León de la Barra in collaboration with the Davidoff Art Initiative. The event is taking place on Wednesday the 30th of March at 4 p.m. at Pabellón de Venezuela, designed by Alejandro Pietri for the Fair of Peace and the Confraternity of the Free World of 1955 in Santo Domingo.
During Art Basel in Hong Kong, I sat down with Albertine Kopp, manager of the Davidoff Art Initiative, to discuss their upcoming project in the Dominican Republic, and I had the chance to talk later with Pablo León de la Barra and Engel Leonardo.
Mara Sartore: We’re here in Hong Kong, and you’re going to fly almost directly to Santo Domingo to follow the upcoming project Ranchos, Planchas y Gallinas. Tell us, what will happen there on Wednesday the 30th of March?
Albertine Kopp: As you know, the centerpiece of the Davidoff Art Initiative is the residency program. After the residency we try to stay in touch with all the artists and follow the projects that are happening in the Caribbean, and also how the residency influences them. It is important to support them on an international level, but also we do not want to forget the local environment.
The idea started from an ongoing discussion between Pablo and Engel. The project consists of an exhibition by Engel and also a “mini-museum.” From the very beginning, the idea was to revitalize the space, in that case the Venezuelan Pavilion in Santo Domingo, and put it back on the map of the places that are forgotten. The whole project is based on a conversation between tradition and the contemporary world. For example, we are only going to serve rum and coconut water, to keep close to the Dominican traditions.
At the same time, we are ending this week the international residency in Altos de Chavón and are lucky that the invited curators, such as Lorenzo Benedetti from Italy, and Natasha Ginwala, who is working with Adam Szymczyk on Documenta, are visiting the DR and can visit the show, as well as the four artists in residence: Paolo Chiasera, Louis Henderson, Oscar Santillan, and Jimmy Robert. So the international audience can be part of a local project. This is for us very important, to close the circle and mirror the aim of the Davidoff Art Initiative, which is to create an exchange between the Caribbean and the rest of the world.
MS: Where is the title coming from, Ranchos, Planchas y Gallinas?
Engel Leonardo: The title is in relation with the last show I did at the Museo del Hombre Dominicano, based on the idea of numbering and naming the things by their name. Ranchos is referring to favelas in Venezuela; planchas is referring to the main material I am using; and gallinas is because when I was there in 2013, I saw them all over the place, and also refers to the idea of the coexistence of rural environment in a modern scenario.
MS: Tell us a bit more about this place?
EL: I chose the place because of the beauty of the architecture, and it is for me the best modern tropical example that you can find in the Caribbean. I wanted to confront these architectural masterworks with typically associated with the tropics, the Caribbean. Marginality with these architectural elements. Overall it was important to me, because of the necessity to create awareness regarding the danger of loss of this important pavilion. We need to reintegrate them into our artistic heritage.
MS: Can you tell us where the idea is coming from?
Pablo León de la Barra: The idea to do this exhibition is the product of an ongoing dialogue with Engel. When I came to the Dominican Republic for the first time in 2013, I visited with Engel the Museo del Hombre Dominicano. A year later, Engel was doing a show at the museum. It was not a new practice for him; this is something that he had done with Laura Castro in the past through the tropical biennale. This progressive dialogue was in the end something that led to the next step, which is today Ranchos, Planchas y Gallinas. The idea was how to deal with the history of the building, a building that is representing the political implication of the time and is also about the future of the use. And the other important thing was the dialogue between the architecture and Engel’s work. This is why we created as well a micro museum that shows the history of the pavilion. This gives to the visitor a certain context of the whole place.
MS: How long will the exhibition in Santo Domingo last?
AK: We will open to the public on Wednesday the 30th of March, so today, and it will be an event open to everyone. We think it’s very important for the pavilion, because we want to promote it with the people. We had a conversation on whether we should have an exclusive opening, but we decided that this place should be open to everyone. The exhibition will then go on for ten days. We need to see the reaction of the people and understand how the community is taking it. Of course we have a huge support from the Dominican artists’ community in general. Another thing I’d like to mention is that Engel Leonardo, Laura Castro, and Quisqueya Henríquez have started a new artist group called Sindicato. The idea is to stage artists’ performances, interventions, and exhibitions in the city in unexpected places, and they are looking for an artist space, which hopefully we’ll see on Thursday. They thought about this project last November, and since then they have started working together more and more. The artistic community has been growing in the past year, and we look forward to many new dialogues between the Caribbean, Latin America, and the rest of the world.
- Pablo Leon de la Barra, Albertine Kopp, Engel Leonardo
- Engel Leonardo at the Venezuelan Pavilion, Santo Domingo
- Pavilion of Venezuela under construction in 1955. Courtesy of the Laboratory of Dominican Architecture (LAD) and Rubén Hernández Fontana.
- Pavilion of Venezuela, designed by architect Alejandro Pietri. Inaugurated on January 6,1956 for the Feria de la Paz y la Confraternidad del Mundo Libre (Peace and Confraternity Fair of the Free World) in Ciudad Trujillo (Santo Domingo).