Artist Daniel Lind-Ramos Immortalizes His Hometown at MoMA PS1

Portrait of Daniel Lind-Ramos. Image courtesy of the artist.

Legend has it that Loíza, a small town that sits on the northeastern coast of Puerto Rico, takes its appellation from a Taíno kasike, or tribal chieftain, called Yuiza. She changed her name to the more Spanish-sounding Luisa after marrying Pedro Mejías, an Afro-Spanish conquistador who accompanied the first wave of European colonizers in the 1500s. Over the next five centuries, her geographical namesake would witness the arrival of Yoruba tribe members brought to Puerto Rico as enslaved Africans, the birth of the bomba and plena musical traditions, and the loss of hundreds of lives and homes to Hurricane Maria.

Daniel Lind-Ramos, Baño de María (Bain-marie/The Cleansing), 2018–22. Photography by Steven Paneccasio. Image courtesy of the artist and MoMA PS1.

Daniel Lind-Ramos was born in Loíza 70 years ago to a family of seamstresses, carpenters, and mask-makers. Throughout his decades-spanning practice, the assemblage sculptor has made work from, about, and for the place where he grew up and still lives, the island’s unofficial capital of Afro-Puerto Rican culture. Using found and gifted objects—palm fronds, rusty pickaxes, blue FEMA tarps, and DVD players—he constructs monumental figures that trace the traditions, tales, and traumas of Afro-descendant communities in Puerto Rico and beyond. “Even though the works are inspired by Loíza, and Loíza is the filter through which I experience life, I am sure these experiences are shared by humanity,” the artist says. “For me, objects are charged with experiences, whether they’re personal or collective. That is what interests me in my work: how memories manifest through them.”

Daniel Lind-Ramos, El Viejo Griot (The Elder Storyteller), 2022–23. Photography by Steven Paneccasio. Image courtesy of the artist and MoMA PS1.

This spring, MoMA PS1 presents “Daniel Lind-Ramos: El Viejo Griot—Una historia de todos nosotros,” the artist’s largest exhibition to date. The show weaves together long-standing and recent themes in Lind-Ramos’s practice through a presentation of 10 large-scale works. These include Centinelas de la luna negra, 2022-23, and El Viejo Griot, 2022-23. The first is a meditation on mangroves and their role as buffers to persistent erosion in a changing climate, and the latter refers to an “elder storyteller,” a character in the Fiestas de Santiago Apóstol, a celebration that takes place in Loíza each summer. Through the exhibition, the artist uses sculpture as a means for storytelling, refiguring rhythms past and present, and reflecting humanity in all of its textures.

"El Viejo Griot — Una historia de todos nosotros" is on view through September 4, 2023 at MoMA PS1 in New York.