Art Exhibitions

Dr. Vanessa K. Valdés donates edited volume to the CUNY DSI library

We are grateful to Dr. Vanessa K. Valdés, Associate Provost and esteemed scholar who purchased and donated a copy of her book: Racialized Visions: Haiti and the Hispanic Caribbean (SUNY Press, SUNY series, Afro-Latinx Futures 2020) to the CUNY Dominican Studies Institute Library. 

Racialized Visions: Haiti and the Hispanic Caribbean is the first volume in English to explore the cultural impact of Haiti on the surrounding Spanish-speaking nations of Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico.

Valdes book

To check Dr. Valdés's most recent project, please visit the exhibition: Juan de Pareja, Afro-Hispanic Painter at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) in New York City. To learn more about the exhibit, please click here

By Prof. Sarah Aponte and Librarian Jhensen Ortiz

Delightful Visit and Conversation with Gina B Voices

It was a pleasure meeting and spending time with Gina Bess-Bonilla who shared information about her family history, including Dominican musician Ramón E. García (1907-1989).

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From left to right: Dr. Vanessa K. Valdés, Prof. Sarah Aponte, Gina Bess-Bonilla, and Librarian Jhensen Ortiz, April 3, 2023

To see photos that feature Ramón E. García, you can visit A History of Dominican Music in the United States website:

  1. Press photo of Ramón García's band the Conjunto Típico Cibao, please click here
  2. Ramón García with Angel Viloria y su Conjunto Típico Cibaeño performing at the legendary Palladium Ballroom in New York City with Haydee Malagon in 1953, please click here
  3. Ramón García with Dominican bandleader Josecito Roman and his orchestra Quisqueya in 1949, including his brothers Brunito Garcia (1909-1972), José Garcia (1904-1965), Tito Garcia, Nino Garcia, sisters Ana Luisa (1905-2002) and Ligia García (1921-2005), please click here
  4. Ramón García with brother Brunito Garcia and Dominican percussionist Luis Quintero in Washington D.C. at the Dominican embassy in 1953, please click here 
  5. Front cover of the concert program for the "Merengue Songbook/Cancionero del Merengue" which took place on September 29, 1951, please click here
  6. Press photo of Angel Viloria y su Conjunto Típico Cibaeño where Ramón García is pictured with the alto saxophone, please click here

 Gina Bess-Bonilla is the voice narrator for the exhibition Juan de Pareja, Afro-Hispanic Painter at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MET) in New York City. To learn more and hear the Audio Guide, please click here. The exhibit was co-curated by Dr. Vanessa K. Valdés, Associate Provost at the City College of New York (pictured above).

By Prof. Sarah Aponte and Librarian Jhensen Ortiz

Opposing the Dominican Architectural Past and Present

Prof. Sarah Aponte would like to thank Architect Sachi Hoshikawa and PhD candidate Jennifer A. Báez for their recent donation related to Dominican architecture and the 1955 Dominican Republic’s Peace and Confraternity of the Free World Fair during the Trujillo regime.

Báez, Jennifer. “Constructing the Nation at the 1955 Ciudad Trujillo World’s Fair.” Athanor XXXII (2014): 93-101. (Athanor is a magazine published by the museum of fine arts and art history department of Florida State University) 

Download Baez_Constructing the Nation (1)

Architecture in the path of the sun004

Arquitectura en el trayecto del sol: entendiendo la modernidad dominicana/ Architecture in the path of the sun: Understanding Dominican Modernity. Santo Domingo, República Dominicana: Fundación Laboratorio de Arquitectura Dominicana, 2014. Print.

Few published articles and books compile in such a chronological way the ideology, history, and aesthetics of modernity in the Dominican Republic. The book was published as a complimentary piece to the Venice Biennale exhibit in 2014, one of the premier cultural events in the world displaying new art trends. This volume contains a compilation of texts and images to give readers a comprehensive idea of the rise of the particularities of Modern Architecture in the Dominican Republic. It provides a concrete analysis using a “historical synchronic frame” in others words a sense of the evolution of Dominican architecture; while attempting to deconstruct the notion of modernity within specific ideological and political contexts. The periods of Dominican architecture evolution are broken down into the following sections: the beginning of the twentieth century, the Trujillo dictatorship, the governments of Joaquín Balaguer and the recent years. In addition, many students and professionals in architecture will find this book particularly useful for its thoughts and reflections on ethics and aesthetics that are embedded in the new language of design in the Dominican Republic at different political circumstances.

Arquitectura en el trayecto del sol acknowledges the inherent identification of the “Peace and Confraternity of the Free World Fair,” where Dictator Rafael Trujillo celebrated his 25 years of power, as a sort of zenith of the construction of Dominican modernity. The article “Constructing the Nation at the 1955 Ciudad Trujillo World’s Fair.” implicitly talks about this as well, this construction of the nation and the fair as a medium for the dictatorship’s power and presence. The article mentions how the fair shaped the idea of the nation and defining modernity in the structure of hierarchical relationship between the city and the colonial quarters. While Báez’s article focuses on how the conception of a Dominican nation was cultivated during the Free World Fair and simultaneously carving a distinct cultural and spatial geography in relation to Haiti, I believe there are interesting parallels in both the article and the book. The fair was the channel for this discourse on Modernity at a very critical time in the Dominican Republic because of the anti-communist rhetoric in the Western hemisphere. The Trujillo regime needed to promote modernity and progress, in its own terms, but also attempted to align State ideology with Cold War discourse.

Furthermore, the article discusses the role of la zona colonia (colonial quarters) as a model of our architectural heritage, but it also gave spectators a contrast of past and present. I recommend this article if you want to understand how the fair forged this perception of the Dominican nation within the international panorama, but also in its relationship to Haiti. The book will give you more information and contributes critically to the discussion on the fair in the chapter “Modernity and Power” by Gustavo Luis Moré.

On another note, if you happen to be in New York, do not miss Latin America in Construction: Architecture 1955-1980, an exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art. Commemorating and celebrating the 60th anniversary of “Latin American Architecture since 1945,” a landmark survey of modern architecture in Latin America. Now the Museum returns to the region to offer a complex overview of the positions, debates, and architectural creativity from Mexico and Cuba to the Southern Cone between 1955 and the early 1980s. The show is on view until July 19, 2015.

Sachi Hoshikawa, an architect and real estate advisor who holds a Master in Design Studies in Real Estate Finance and Development from Harvard University, is the collaborator and executive producer of Laboratorio de Arquitectura Dominicana (LAD) a non-profit organization based in the Dominican Republic and New York City.

I highly recommend that architectural students specifically take advantage of the above discussed resources and the exhibit. The resources also serve those that may be studying history, political science, and art history. There are many photographs of the beautiful architecture over the years in the Dominican Republic so for those doing photography don’t be shy, come and visit the library.

Jhensen Ortiz
Assistant Librarian



Carlos Jesus Martinez Dominguez donates his artistic production to the CUNY DSI Library

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Professor Sarah Aponte would like to thank graffiti and teaching artist Carlos Jesus Martinez Dominguez (FEEGZ) for personally donating exhibition programs, newspaper clippings, and flyers that document his work over the years in the U.S. and abroad. Carlos is athought-provoking artist who draws inspiration from the culture and related histories of Hip Hop, New York City, and the Caribbean. He describes his agency as an artist born out of the intersection of his own identity as a Dominican-Puerto Rican American man and the inherent tensions that exist within our systemically ingrained system of beliefs.

Last year he was awarded the Proclamation award from the city of New York for his efforts in the arts at Ydanis Rodriguez District Office in Washington Heights. Here is a link to a piece written by freelance writer and art enthusiast Roz Baron on his recognition and exhibition Displaced Vandalism NYC.

According to Uptown Arts Review, FEEGZ is very socially and politically engaged, and he seeks to create a dialogue around the issues of naming and how communities are formed by their access to knowledge about their own history as well as basic human needs like housing and education. Associations of Research Libraries (ACRL) have been spotlighting the inextricable connection between graffiti and street art as a legitimate source of academic study. Explaining this view by saying “it is being studied as a reaction to injustice and disenfranchisement, a cry for revolution, a way to create awareness of socio-political issues, an expression of hope for the future, an effort to reclaim public spaces, or an attempt to beautify the urban environment, among others.” These are themes he raises in his art; Carlos has been an outspoken advocate for this kind of inclusion.

In 2011, the issue of graffiti as an under-recognized artistic form was discussed as part of an artist talk at the Northern Manhattan Arts Alliance. Carlos expressed in the Manhattan Times how graffiti is an important vehicle for the youth to announce “I exist”. He shares these views with the after-school graffiti art class he teaches to students at the Children’s Arts and Science Workshop. His response raises deeper questions on how graffiti is perceived in our society and the youth whose creative expression is often judge through race, class, gender, ethnicity, nationality, etc. It is important to mention that graffiti emerges from a period of fiscal crisis and restructuring in New York City during the 1970s under this context we can understand racial structure that is put in place for the criminalization of youth and underestimate this art form. In terms of the “public sphere” for graffiti and street art few places remained as New York City restructured itself in the 70s and into the present. Political leaders continue to make alliances with the business community to privatize these public spaces in the service of capital accumulation.

Graffiti has always been accessible to everyone and it is important that we maintain the same accessibility to their works through preserving the documentation of graffiti artists like Carlos Martinez in our library.

For those who want to see Carlos Martinez’s work and hear him speak about his art you can visit his website .

Jhensen Ortiz

Assistant Librarian

“Condition / Condición" My place my longing” at DSI Gallery



The DSI Gallery presents a groundbreaking exhibition of sculptures, watercolors and embroideries by Leslie Jiménez and Julianny Ariza. The exhibition will be on display from September 13 to November 13, 2013.

This dual exhibition is comprised of 12 works that range from sculptures and paintings to installations and handicrafts such as embroidery. The artists’ multidisciplinary approach is best summarized in the selection of the materials: fabric, thread, ink, graphite, acetate, coloring pencil as well as plaster on canvas wood and plastic.

Daring, stimulating, fragile and imaginative, “Condition: My Place My longing / Condición: Mi Lugar Mi Anhelo” brings together two artists from the Dominican Republic who are engaged in a dialogue of sorts that confronts —without any hint of sentimentality— subject matters rooted in both the historical and personal realms: oppression, sensuality, violence, racial stereotypes, beauty, gender, longing, identity, biculturalism among others. Overall, this is a kaleidoscopic experience that incorporates different techniques and ways of seeing. In the email interview that follows, Leslie Jiménez and Julianny Ariza discuss the creative process and the relationship between language, migration, everyday life and art. 


What kind of research did you do for this project?

Leslie Jiménez: Constantly I read stories that bring about notions of psychological aspects of human behavior— for example, the weekend newspaper during the weekdays— and use my own experiences as an immigrant to inform my work.

Julianny Ariza: From the start—and based on our interest to link our work with migration issues that we face and since the Dominican Studies Institute at CUNY share these objectives—we were doing brainstorming and expressing situations and experiences of ourselves and of others that we see around. We researched events and everyday news that may affect and get involved in our daily behavior and our emotions. These were news from the United States and the Dominican Republic, and other countries in general too. We ran through this process, comparing similarities and differences between the two countries and how they determined human behavior.

JuliannyArizaJulianny Ariza [Photo courtesy of the artist]

How do you choose the materials?

Ariza: I use materials such as textile, thread and embroidery. I hand sew and glue materials because of the homemade and familiar feelings that they recreate in me and connect me to the family history of many of us. I also use toys and objects from our childhood that we don’t often see these days due to the changes brought about by globalization and technology, but especially because of processes of cultural mixing.

Jiménez: The materials I use come as an extension of my own curiosity and creative process. Usually I have a variety of materials in my studio and suddenly ideas pick them as the medium needed for them to be born. I don’t always work with the same set of materials since each idea may have a different requirement. I love the fact that I can have the freedom to work in with all the materials I can get.

Photo 281 (1)Leslie Jiménez [Photo courtesy of the artist]

What social, artistic, political, spiritual and personal perspectives inform your work?

Jiménez: My work is informed by the social disparity between the construction of the self-image and issues of ethnic liminality: The contrast between the externally-imposed and the internally-embraced that has to do with race and ethnic identity. I take my experiences lived both in the Dominican Republic and in New York as a critical battlefield, here I question what I have been raised to believe and challenge the truth in it to find a way to understand this complicated subject.

Ariza: I explore the human being in her personal moment when expressing vulnerabilities and the social function of emotion. My work reaffirms that all social problems and all action are associated with an emotional component: in the process, it recreates their idealizations and weaknesses in oneiric contexts. And in this case, pointing out these contexts originating as the consequences that occur when living either physically and / or emotionally in different places.

What is the role of bilingualism in your art?

Jiménez: Bilingualism? Love this word! The intentions of it in my work is to breach the community of Spanish speakers with the English speaking population who often can’t reach the message at the same pace for the exclusion of one or the other language in the same context.

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"The Last Desire of Carmencita" by Leslie Jiménez

I find that some words lose strength when translated from its original language in the scenario of visual arts. It is almost like I need it in Spanish and there’s no other way to convey the real sense of what I’m willing to say. Through bilingualism I feel as if I’m unifying two separate worlds, a situation I lived on my own flesh when I was not able to speak English.

Ariza: It is a key factor that generates new challenges and reasons why, how and for whom to create

Finally, how does the immigrant experience influence your work?

Jiménez: The experience as an immigrant influences my work hugely!

Everyday I have material to work with, being able to navigate a land where I wasn’t born and find my place in it with struggle is definitely the ground where it all starts when I look at myself and feel the need to make art. It is not an easy task to deal with discrimination, isolation, discouragement, and pay attention to the magical moments that enable you to dream and little by little make things happen in this journey. I feel as if it is my responsibility to communicate to other immigrants who are living similar stories as mine; that work and heart might never be separated for the tears we may drop. The fight should be won by those who work hard; those who believe they are capable and who realize the world needs their contribution no matter how small they may think it is compared to the barriers we face in the process.


Unbreakable"Unbreakable" by Julianny Ariza

Ariza: That experience has a lot of weight in what I do. Since it is present in our daily lives, our behavior and concerns combined consciously and unconsciously in my themes: The themes of family and home as a starting point; the loss of family and cultural traditions, for example: when we inherit our grandparents’ furniture when we get married or on a Sunday afternoons when we wear the dresses that our mothers sewed for us. Behind these practices is an emotional component that determines our daily behavior. When you move from one place to another, others cultures and people, this either generates changes or makes you more aware of your own identity. Among some of the themes that motivate me to create these works are dwelling, longings and absences. So far, the human component is my priority in my work.

Amaury Rodriguez/Guest contributor



The CUNY Dominican Studies Institute Gallery (CUNY DSI Gallery), housed in the multipurpose room of the Institute's Archives and Library facility at The City College of New York, is the only exhibit space in New York City devoted exclusively to works of art by and about people of Dominican descent. The Gallery celebrates and showcases artists who have a unique perspective on the Dominican experience.

The hours of operation for the Dominican Archives, Library and Gallery during the Fall 2013 are as follows:

Fall 2013

(September 3 - December 23)

Monday             9:00 a.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Tuesday            9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Wednesday      9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Thursday          9:00 a.m. - 8:30 p.m.
Friday                9:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
Saturday          12:00 p.m.- 5:00 p.m.
Sunday             CLOSED

Closed the following dates:

Monday, October 14 (Columbus Day)

Thursday, November 28-Saturday November 30 (Thanksgiving)

Silvano Lora: His legacy lives on

Silvano-Lora-artistaPhoto courtesy of Taller Público Silvano Lora

This year marks the 10th anniversary of the death of Silvano Lora (1931-2003) who left behind an immense and exquisite body of work that is still as relevant as ever before. Ten years later, the legacy of this non-conformist artist and social activist is being celebrated and re-assessed in the media, art venues as well as academic institutions by intellectuals, artists, friends and relatives marked by his unique, interdisciplinary artistic vision and towering personality.


Silvano Lora and Pachito stage a protest in opposition to the official celebrations of the 500th Centenary of the conquest of the Americas[Photo courtesy of Taller Público Silvano Lora]

In June, for example, the Autonomous University of Santo Domingo and the Association of Constitutionalist Combatants [of the 1965 revolution and civil war] held a ceremony to pay tribute to both Silvano Lora and Jacques Viau Renaud, the Dominican-Haitian poet and educator and one of the martyrs of the armed conflict. Another tribute and re-assessment of Silvano’s legacy was his first posthumous individual show (on display from July 25-September 10, 2013) at the Galería Nacional de Bellas Artes [Bellas Artes National Gallery] in Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. The show won praise not only from art critics but the general public.

Crossing the Ozama River in remembrance of the 500 years of indigenous resistance in the Americas [Photo courtesy of Taller Público Silvano Lora]

 Sivano Lora: un arte combatiente [Sivano Lora: A Combatant Art] encapsulated the artist’s approach to art and life by showcasing a series of paintings, collages, assemblages and even texts penned by others who knew him. Among the items on display was a raft canoe built in collaboration with the craft artist Pachito. In 1992, on the eve of the official celebration of the 500th anniversary of the conquest of the Americas—known with the anachronism of “discovery”— both artists sailed the Ozama river to bring attention to the plight of indigenous people not only in Dominican Republic but also throughout Latin America. This retrospective was organized by the Taller Público Silvano Lora [Silvano Lora Public Workshop] in conjunction with the Bellas Artes National Gallery under the direction of art critic Marianne de Tolentino.

The 1992 protest staged by Silvano Lora overshadowed the official celebrations of the 500th Centenary of Columbus arrival [Photo courtesy of Taller Público Silvano Lora]

In Santiago, the second largest city, Centro León organized a panel on Silvano Lora which included among other panelists, his daughter, the historian Quisqueya Lora Hugi, Marianne de Tolentino, and the art critic and author Danilo de los Santos.

An aesthetic of rebellion

Trained in the school of Western classical painting, Silvano Lora eschewed academicism, idealism and tradition, embarking in what later became an ongoing artistic search for experimentation that lasted a lifetime. And while his art took cues from the latest trends within the international avant-garde, he was able to develop a true aesthetic of rebellion. In fact, his art was not only grounded in theory but in concrete reality. This was personified in the concrete reality of the barrios in the post-dictatorial era; overcrowded urban spaces that lacked both basic services and political freedoms. The Trujillo dictatorship (1930-1961) has left the country in shambles as many political exiles like Silvano Lora could attest. (He was exiled in Paris, France for a while. There he took part in the Algerian anti-colonial struggle).

RevolucionariosA scene from the 1965 revolution [From the book Historia gráfica de la Guerra de Abril (1981 edition) by Fidelio Despradel]

In the early 60s, Silvano Lora was instrumental in bridging the gap between art and politics in a time when students, intellectuals and ordinary people pushed forward for more democratic reforms and freedoms. Like his peers, Silvano took part in poetry recitals, self-publishing and collective art-making as well as exhibitions that brought art to the masses: First, as a member of the Arte y Liberación [Art and Liberation] group, and second, as one of the leading members of the short-lived but far-reaching cultural action committee known as Frente Cultural Constitucionalista [Constitutionalist Cultural Front].

[From the book Historia gráfica de la Guerra de Abril (1981 edition) by Fidelio Despradel]

During the 1965 popular uprising that opposed the 1963 coup, the Frente Cultural made posters, organized art exhibits and published a collection of poems entitled Pueblo, sangre y canto [literal translation: People, Blood and Song]in which poets expressed their unconditional support to the revolutionary cause. A statement signed collectively by Frente Cultural in support of the ideals and goals of the revolt first saw the light of the day in the first edition of that book. According to Juan José Ayuso, a poet, historian and former Frente Cultural member, “the book appeared in September of 1965”. In 1985, a second edition published by Autonomous University of Santo Domingo was released to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the revolution.

[Click here to read the English translation of the Frente Cultural 1965 statement and here to read the original version in Spanish]


Poster by the Frente Cultural circa 1965 [From the book Historia gráfica de la Guerra de Abril (1981 edition) by Fidelio Despradel]

PosteruasdA mural by Silvano Lora at UASD university

After the revolution, a twelve-year semi-dictatorial regime imposed terror in the streets. Combatants and unionist were murdered. Others like Silvano Lora were forced to go into exile. But he never became disengaged from his place of birth, denouncing the state terror facing Santo Domingo whenever he went. At the same time, Silvano continued to produce art in places like Panama where he gave talks to artists and young people and collaborated with plastic artists to create participatory art spaces such as murals.

Scene from the Bienal Marginal [Photo courtesy of Taller Público Silvano Lora]

Upon his return, Silvano continued his social art practice. Some of his long lasting contributions are a film festival, a rural museum in Baoruco province as well as the Bienal Marginal in Santa Bárbaraa working-class neighborhood located in the Colonial City of Santo Domingo which showcased work produced by ordinary people, among others.


La inmensa humanidad de Silvano (2003)  by Alberto Lara available for perusal at the DSI Library

The artist, writer, filmmaker, revolutionary combatant, activist and father remained committed to social change until the end. What was truly admirable was that at no point in his prolific career, his art was driven by the dehumanizing desire to accumulate lucre but instead, it was driven by a collective desire to change the status quo. Ten years later, his work remains vital.  Never a pessimist, Silvano Lora was— in the words of his friend Marianne de Tolentino — “an untamed artistic rebel who never believed in lost causes”.

Amaury Rodriguez/Guest contributor