“Armario de la Memoria (Storage of Memory),” Daniel Lind-Ramos’s recent show, featured seven sculptural assemblages that meditate on time, meaning, and memory by means of collecting, gathering, and building. These larger-than-life works, drawn from daily life in Loíza, Puerto Rico, where Lind-Ramos lives and works, inundated the gallery with an island presence. Constructions recalling roadside altars, shrines to African deities, and the giant, mask-covered vejigantes or sentinels of local festivals combine natural materials with objects recycled, inherited, or donated by friends and family. Palm tree branches and trunks, dried coconuts, concrete blocks, rope, burlap, plastic tarp, picks, shovels, and machetes gain an evocative presence, taking on broader associations that allude to Lind-Ramos’s personal experience and to Caribbean history and tradition.
Vencedor #2, 1797 (Victorious #2, 1797) (2017–20)—the title refers to the year that Black Puerto Ricans routed the British—seems to shape-shift from a kneeling supplicant to a horse-riding warrior and, depending on the viewpoint, a strange hybrid insect. Intricate knotting and wrapping with synthetic fabrics and painted burlap add color and texture, while witty juxtapositions, such as a single shoe near a wooden stick resembling a pirate’s peg leg, a rubber-gloved hand offering a coconut that looks like a bomb, and a long dreadlock tail holding a ladle, join the detritus of daily life with the tools of insurgency.
Several pieces incorporate references to cooking and gardening, and by inference, to nurturing and sustenance, strength and fortitude. Piñones (2013) includes two casseroles; and in Figura Emisaria (2020), a handmade washboard-shaped grater for preparing yucca is suspended in a vitrine and crowned with a crescent-shaped head, bringing to mind a ceremonial reliquary like those of the Kota in Central Africa. In Figura de Cangrejos (2018–19), a large grater used for coconuts or cassava serves as the head of a Madonna-like figure whose body is formed from a cooking pot, drum, coconut, and palm leaves. Mounted on a chair and surrounded by brooms and claw hammers wrapped and painted to resemble oars, this hybrid figure (inspired perhaps by the crab of its title) appears to be on a voyage of safe passage.
Lind-Ramos’s assemblages are incongruously poetic, inviting multiple associations. Armario de la Memoria (Wardrobe of Memory) (2012) conjoins tools used for domestic labor and harvesting (machetes, picks, and shovels) with tools of communication, leisure, and invention (including a TV monitor and a DVD) to become both an altar and a tall idol-like figure. Figura de Poder (2016–18), takes a cautionary, yet hopeful note. Patterned fabrics seem to float about, suggesting a ghostly presence, while cascading buckets, cinder blocks, a sledgehammer, and bags of sand and stone act as a creative reconstruction and exorcism of Hurricane Maria and its deadly devastation. These same materials also fashion a figure with a ceremonial headdress whose gloved hands shake a maraca and beat on a drum and buckets, as if summoning the aspirational rhythms of bomba, a drumming tradition that originated in Loíza.
The restorative rejoinder of drumming is also celebrated in the large installation Con-junto (The Ensemble) (2015). A colorful backdrop made from an awning becomes a stage set for three figures. Constructed from many of Lind-Ramos’s signature materials, including graters, casseroles, coconuts, machetes, palm tree trunks and branches, and stacks of wood, as well as found materials such as a stereo speaker, trombone parts, rebar, brooms, brushes, a trowel, bongos, cymbals, a music stand, a lamp shade, basketballs, and even a pair of shoes, this lively grouping of shapes and forms is filled with percussive rhythms and harmonies seen and nearly heard.
Lind-Ramos has described his work as “resistance through remembering.” Inspired by Puerto Rican history and daily life, each piece becomes, through his performative process of savvy repurposing, a haunting repository infused with both personal symbolism and collective social meaning.