For decades Boricuas have been bringing their little pedacito de la isla to New York’s gritty urban spaces. From the casitas of el Bronx to bomba jams on the Lower East Side, the cultural bridges between the island and New York’s cityscape run deep – and thanks to the female Puerto Rican artist collective Moriviví, they just got a little deeper.
This week, Moriviví wrapped up a whirlwind residency in New York, where they used their art to reflect on the parallel struggles of Puerto Rico and US at a moment of deep uncertainty. On their first stop, the ladies of Moriviví created a series of collaborative murals inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement for Williamsburg’s El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice. Featuring black bodies that seems to melt into space, and a silently powerful gaze that challenges the spectator from the canvas, the murals will line the walls of El Puente’s main building while also serving as banners for upcoming BLM protests.
From El Puente, Moriviví made their way across the bridge and way uptown to the heart of El Barrio. There, on the side of an abandoned building on 116th Street, they put together a powerful recreation of Old San Juan’s landmark Puerta de la Bandera in its most recent black-and-white incarnation. On their Facebook page, Moriviví spoke to the importance of giving visibility to Puerto Rico’s struggles on the mainland while creating a dialogue between the island and the diaspora, insisting that the black flag is “much more than a symbol of mourning.” “It proposes a new construction of our [national] symbols,” they asserted, “and an evolution of our collective identity.”
Moriviví is comprised of four artists who studied together at Puerto Rico’s Escuela Especializada Central de Artes Visuales, and began collaborating on large-scale public projects back in 2013. They takes their name from the so-called shameplant that is embraced as a symbol of femininity in the Puerto Rican countryside. Most recently they made headlines when they responded to the defacement of an anti-domestic violence mural with a topless protest on the streets of Santurce.