Gas station sent to art rehab in Alvarezs TOTAL INTERVENTION
By Enrique Olivares
Special to the Daily Sun
It’s hard to find something interesting in a dilapidated, out-of-service gas station, but Margarita Alvarez saw a work of art waiting to be born.
TOTAL INTERVENTION is the brainchild of the 23-year-old artiste and it’s described as “the first of many Pop-up galleries” which aim to create physical artistic spaces across urban areas. On Thursday, at an abandoned Total gas station in Miramar, metropolitan inhabitants got a taste of this new, and daring, visual endeavor.
Dozens of art connoiseurs and enthusiasts showed up at the site, many of them scratching their heads and asking Alvarez: “where’s the art?” Little did they know that they were standing smack in the middle of it.
The Rhode Island School of Design graduate, with the help of a few art-mad friends, took the broken remains of a condemned gas station and remade and remodeled the infrastructure in a guerrilla-style manner, transforming a once- useless plot of land into a cultural hotspot.
The “gallery” consists of newly painted exteriors, with stylish and slick faux gas pumps and other artistic accoutrements such as a cargo ship container stuffed with beer boxes and garbage and a knocked oil can with a “BP” imprint running around its side. Thankfully, this minor spill was easily contained.
Backyard bands also managed to create a sonic space. Naranja and Carambola blasted danceable beats while Los Niños Estelares revisited familiar songs and local favorites Campo Formio machine gunned through yet another power- packed show.
The expo also sported a series of banners with modern-type font messages and proverbs by local artists, replacing traditional beer advertisements. Phrases such as “no es facil la vida en el trópico” (life in the tropics isn’t easy) and “la piña está agria” (the pineapple’s sour) adorned wooden posts, commenting and forcing the gallery goers to reflect on the island's current socio-economic situation.
An excited, if not electric, Alvarez was juggling conversations to and fro while trying to enlighten slightly dazed gallery members about what is the ethos and agenda behind this “happening.”
“It’s an initiative. It’s about renewing and reimagining areas. Transforming spaces into art,” said the young woman.
Referring to her blitzkrieg, go-in-for-the-go-for-it type of approach of sending the rubble to art installation rehab, she mentioned that she still had to scrounge through the bureaucratic nightmare of requesting permission from the French petrol magnate to stage an intervention.
“We’re lucky we were permitted to do this. I had to present the project point by point to them, and because the French have always had a longstanding, and fulfilling, art tradition, they let us do it. It also didn’t hurt that it wasn’t going to cost them a dime,” explained Alvarez.
Establishing spaces via installations, commented the RISD grad, is not only intriguing and daunting but practical, since most local contemporary galleries have turned to selling traditional art pieces in these trying economic times, shunning more avant-garde works.
When it comes to the nitty gritty of the installation, the exposition is brilliantly planned. Though it will not necessarily move people with more traditional aesthetic sensibilities, the work is crafted with finesse. The stylish gas pumps and vestiges of all-white infrastructure are sure to captivate the eye as will the austere, yet harmonized, “in the works” construction interior. Regardless of the aesthetic quality of the work, the piece excels because of its mobilization against urban decay. It uses its remnants as a canvas to explore the limits of art and its involvement in life.
More importantly, the installation embodies the pro-active spirit which art aims to be, crafted with a quest for renewal, concepts that have been the elusive Holy Grail in the 21st century pseudo eco-friendly era. It is clear that the medium is the message, regardless of how new or shiny it looks.
Alvarez hopes that this intervention motivates future artists to revitalize the urban zones. This up-and-coming artist has set up the launch for a more adventurous foray into contemporary art. Other collaborating artists for this project were Michael Linares, Carolina Caycedo, Jesús "Bubu" Negrón, Josue Pellot, La Ele, Kristen Fink, Christopher Rivera, Katalina Iturralde, Sebastián Vallejo, Chaveli Sifre, Mónica Rodriguez and Radamés "Juni" Figueroa.
For more info on Alvarez, visit her blog at www.miaprojects.blogspot.com.