A Grain of Salt | Un Grano de Sal at ELM

Featured Artist

Styrofoam Cristalizador de Sal | Styrofoam Salt Crystalizer, 2023. © Fernando Ruíz Lorenzo / Artist Rights Society, 2023

A Grain of Salt | Un Grano de Sal, the new exhibition at the Boiler in ELM Foundation features Fernando Ruíz Lorenzo’s new body of work—a series of paintings and installations with solar salt, styrofoam, acrylic, and aerosol paint. Ruíz Lorenzo’s work merges the history and political narratives of Puerto Rico’s colonial relationships to Spain and the United States.

Please guide us through the show.

A Grain of Salt | Un Grano de Sal is a series of new paintings and site specific installations made with salt brought from the salt flats of Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico. My salt paintings are a direct reference to Las Salinas de Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico in my father’s hometown. I call my paintings Cristalizadores, another name for the salt flats, where the saltwater bakes under direct sunlight and crystallizes to become solar salt. The surface of my paintings are made from these raw grains of salt. The salt flats are by the Caribbean Sea and were used by the Taínos, the indigenous people of the land before Spanish conquest, colonization and the exploitation of the salt for trade and commerce. For me, Las Salinas de Cabo Rojo was where the idea of colonial subjectivity began. The salt is physically the land. The land has been a colonial and imperial territory of Spain and the United States for over 520 years. The salt is a pathway to understanding our own internally compounded colonial subjectivity.

Cristalizador de Sal | Salt Crystalizer, 2022. © Fernando Ruíz Lorenzo / Artist Rights Society, 2023

The color on the salt is painted with aerosol and acrylic paints that represent the coral pinks and reds of the bacteria formed on those salt flats at the hottest peaks of the day. The ice blues represent the reflection from the sea and sky at cooler temperatures of the day. The whites references the foam created by the sea winds moving the water crack and forth in the salt flats. The salt painting is crystallization of the land and decolonial thought on one surface, a potential decolonial moment for the viewer.

Cristalizador de Sal | Salt Crystalizer 3, 2022. © Fernando Ruíz Lorenzo / Artist Rights Society, 2023

The painting and installations are found materials that I select based on their relationship to Puerto Rico and its historical and current material and climate realities. I started to use styrofoam while thinking about how my family would survive the extreme flooding of Hurricane Fiona. Styrofoam is waterproof and floats. Then I began to paint and carve maps while thinking of the uses of Styrofoam during a hurricane. Painting and carving into the surface was a way to alleviate my worries about my family’s safety on the archipelago.

Creating this exhibition with materials of industry and trade, composed iconography, and compelling texture, these paintings, and installations paired together with the industrial nature of the the Boiler gallery located between the neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Greenpoint, with their history of Puerto Rican migration, offer a seamless continuation to my exploration of Puerto Rico and its diaspora.

Styrofoam Cristalizador de Sal | Styrofoam Salt Crystalizer, 2023. © Fernando Ruíz Lorenzo / Artist Rights Society, 2023

A Grain of Salt | Un Grano de Sal A new body of work by Fernando Ruíz Lorenzo February 25th – March 11th. ELM Foundation | The Boiler  191 North 14th St. Brooklyn, NY All activities held in The Boiler, go to fund programming for the kids of ELM Foundation.

About the Artist

Fernando Ruíz Lorenzo was born of Puerto Rican parentage in the Washington Heights section of Manhattan and raised in the High Bridge Section of The Bronx. His work has been exhibited at the International Center of Photography (New York), The California Museum of Photography (Riverside), Photographic Resource Center (Boston), and Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art. Since 2007, Ruíz Lorenzo has exhibited a series of visual artworks exploring Puerto Rico and its diaspora. Such exhibitions include Emperial – Since 1898 (2007), El Pintor Del Pueblo: Homenaje a Rafael Tufiño (2008), Guánica (2010), Escritura at Reem Kayden Gallery, Bard College (2011), La Ciudad Letrada (2012), Skybridge Gallery, The New School, Oratorio (2013), Diáspora (2014) in El Viejo San Juan, Aquí Se Habla (2015), Caña Brava (2015) and Ciudadano at La Galería, Villa Victoria Center for the Arts, Boston (2017). His studio is based in the Upper Hudson Valley and New York City.