Portrait, Lionel Cruet Studio © Lionel Cruet, 2020. Image by Youi Shih Photography

Portrait, Lionel Cruet Studio © Lionel Cruet, 2020. Image by Youi Shih Photography 

Portrait, Lionel Cruet Studio © Lionel Cruet, 2020. Image by Youi Shih Photography 

Details, Lionel Cruet Studio © Lionel Cruet, 2020. Image by Youi Shih Photography 

Lionel Cruet Studio © Lionel Cruet, 2019. Image by Spaceworks 

Lionel Cruet Studio © Lionel Cruet, 2020. Image by Spaceworks 

Floods Aftermath and Other Hurricane Stories I and IV, 2020, full view, acrylic and house paint on polyethylene blue tarp; 243.8×182.9 cm ©Lionel Cruet, 2020. Image by Faction Art Projects

Floods Aftermath and Other Hurricane Stories IV, 2015, acrylic and house paint on polyethylene blue tarp, 96 × 72 in; 243.8 × 182.9 cm, © Lionel Cruet, 2017. Image by RUBBER FACTORY

Interference, 2018, full view and detail of painted vegetation mural with seven digital photo collages 12 x 12 inch and 8 x 10 inch, multiple dimensions © Lionel Cruet 2018. Image by Art Omi

Interference, 2019, full view and detail of painted vegetation mural with seven digital photo collages 12 x 12 inch and 8 x 10 inch, multiple dimensions © Lionel Cruet 2019. Image by Youi Shih

Paradis, 2018. digital photo collages 20 x 30 inches each © Lionel Cruet, 2018. Image Lionel Cruet Studio

Reverb Space 2018, interactive installation, multiple materials, metal tubes, strings, translucent fibers, blue tarp and sand ©Lionel Cruet, 2018. Image by Socrates Sculpture Park

Reverb Space, 2018, detail of interactive installation, multiple materials, metal tubes, strings, translucent fibers, blue tarp and sand ©Lionel Cruet, 2018. Image by Lionel Cruet Studio

Entre Nosotros (Between Us), 2017, full view, audiovisual installation row boat, floor of sand, variable dimension © Lionel Cruet 2017. Image by Samuel Morgan Photography

Entre Nosotros (Between Us), 2017, composition, audiovisual installation row boat, floor of sand, variable dimension © Lionel Cruet 2017. Lionel Cruet Studio

Entre Nosotros (Between Us), 2017, full view, audiovisual installation row boat, floor of sand, variable dimension © Lionel Cruet 2017. Lionel Cruet Studio

Making Windows on Walls, 2015, full view, Audiovisual installation, © Lionel Cruet, 2015. Image by Lionel Cruet Studio and Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts

Making Windows on Walls, 2015, detail, Audiovisual installation, © Lionel Cruet, 2015. Image by Lionel Cruet Studio and Saltonstall Foundation for the Arts 

Outros registos:

Pedro Batista

Coletivo Artístico Pedra no Rim

José Almeida Pereira

Nuno Cera

Vanda Madureira

João Ferro Martins

Mattia Denisse

Catarina Patrício

Bruna Vettori

André Silva

Manoela Medeiros

Tiago Madaleno

Catarina Cubelo

Bruno Silva

HElena Valsecchi

Diogo da Cruz

José Costa

Maria Bernardino

Melissa Rodrigues

Tânia Geiroto Marcelino

Xavier Ovídio

André Alves

Adrian Conde Novoa

Samuel Silva

Rui Castanho

James Newitt

Mariana Gomes

Daniel Fernandes

Diana Carvalho

Giammarco Cugusi

Rita Senra e João Pedro Trindade

Catarina Domingues

Cristina Regadas

Lionel Cruet

Pedro Vaz

Luís Nobre

Joana Taya

Angel Ihosvanny Cisneros

Rodrigo Gomes

Ludgero Almeida

Francisco Sousa Lobo

Letícia Ramos

Valter Vinagre

Andrés Galeano

João Pedro Fonseca

Pedro Proença

Tiago Baptista

António Guimarães Ferreira

João Seguro

Isabel Madureira Andrade

Fernando Marques Penteado

Virgílio Ferreira

Antonio Fiorentino

Alexandre Conefrey

Filipe Cortez

João Fonte Santa

André Sier

Rui Algarvio

Rui Calçada Bastos

Paulo Quintas

Miguel Ângelo Rocha

Miguel Palma

Miguel Bonneville

Ana Tecedeiro

João Pedro Vale e Nuno Alexandre Ferreira

João Serra

André Gomes

Pauliana Valente Pimentel

Christine Henry

Joanna Latka

Fabrizio Matos

Andrea Brandão e Daniel Barroca

Jarosław Fliciński

Pedro Gomes

Pedro Calapez

João Jacinto

Atelier Concorde

Noronha da Costa

Pedro Valdez Cardoso

João Queiroz

Pedro Pousada

Gonçalo Pena

São Trindade

Inez Teixeira

Binelde Hyrcan

António Júlio Duarte

Délio Jasse

Nástio Mosquito

José Pedro Cortes







Lionel Cruet is a visual artist born in Puerto Rico and currently based in New York. He works mainly with digital media and audiovisual installations, having received in 2013 the audiovisual award Juan Downey at the Bienal de Artes Mediales in Santiago de Chile. Since then, he has participated in numerous group exhibitions and projects in the United States and Latin America. In addition to his artistic practice, Lionel Cruet also works in the field of arts education for the New York Department of Education, especially with immigrant communities arriving in the city.
In conversation with Sérgio Parreira, Lionel Cruet tells us about his last exhibition, the result of research on the “economies of the catastrophe”, as well as his collaborative process of working in the studio, his imagery and his current projects, which focus on “climate concerns, the means of new geographies, altered landscapes and the conceptions of space in the digital era.”


An interview by Sérgio Parreira






SÉRGIO PARREIRA (SP): You currently have a selection of works at a group show which opened on Saturday February 15th at Fraction Art Projects in NY / Harlem. Can you tell me a bit about those series and the subject matter of these works in particular?

LIONEL CRUET (LC): The artworks exhibited on the show are titled, Floods Aftermath and Other Hurricane Stories, 2015, a series of paintings where I used as a support the infamous/useful blue tarps. The first set is comprised of four paintings that depict a sequence of interconnected tropical landscapes - almost underwater - and made through an obscure color palette of only black. On each painting a house appear submerge in the landscape as a way to remind of living spaces that has been stranded after the effects of natural disasters. Each of the houses -have open windows that are defined by a lighter tone- on the paintings are treated with a lighter tone that defines the windows of the structures. The inference of light coming from the interior of the structures and at times reflected on the flooded environment offers the viewer an anchor point of emphasis and an attention to reimagine these spaces. The intention of the work came after an extensive research on the subject of the economy of disaster, therefore a direct comment on the material of the blue tarps itself and the relationship that exist after a catastrophe, the temporary solution and the architectural alternative that becomes part of a new landscape patched with blue.
The most recent paintings are comprised of four, and they were created in 2020. These offer a continuation of the ones from 2015, a new chapter. In this case, the imagery draws attention to brushstrokes that simulate landslides or sinkholes as well an atmospheric treatment on the superior portion that suggest the cloudy skies. 
Despite they both have the same title; they reference directly the compelling stories of the loss upon a natural disaster as well open question on what is the future of climate? How can we envision resilience, if we are part of it, and how a new landscape is being created as these events take place?  From the material standpoint: Who is the benefactor on the production of these tarps? these are just questions that the artworks aim to open up. 


SP: How do these works relate to the rest of your body of work?

LC: As for me, and the members of my studio, all the projects, artworks and the practice itself, are built upon each-other, they are extensions of a rhizomatic way of thinking, researching and producing. 


SP: Before we move on, can you please contextualize who is who, when you refer to “the members of my studio”? Do you work as a collective or you are referring to someone that somehow helps you, Lionel, to develop your personal practice?

LC: What I refer is that every-time there’s a project in production a team of people come together, they are already members of my studio. Those take on different tasks, logistics, installation, requests, promotion, communication and so on. It’s exciting because there’s always a point when one learns and expand.  I'm a true believer that ideas have to be in discussion and it’s great with a team of people that can certainly facilitate that process. I do not call it collective because from time to time and depending on the type of project different people join and it’s not always the same. 


SP: Stepping back, it’s quite interesting what you mentioned regarding the material of the blue tarps and what seems to have a direct relation to the “catastrophe scenario”. How Come? Additionally, what would be this architectural solution you also refer to?

LC: Absolutely, blue tarps have been around for a while; it’s a material used worldwide, and you can see them in factories, farms, bags literally everywhere and it’s because it’s extremely versatile. The reference that I'm connecting is on how this material becomes part of the emergency assistance package given to people post natural catastrophes. In Puerto Rico this material has become part of the landscape as its populating people’s houses and it’s the most affordable material to cover the roofs that have been severely damaged from storms, at time is used to build temporary walls or structures to offer shelter. I have seen and documented how these are changing the landscape. Working with this material has not been an easy task as its loaded with meaning, functions that people have assigned to it and it’s not a traditional painting material. 



Floods Aftermath and Other Hurricane Stories I, 2020, acrylic and house paint on polyethylene blue tarp, 96 × 72 in; 243.8 × 182.9 cm, © Lionel Cruet, 2020. Image by RUBBER FACTORY, Lionel Cruet Studio




SP: You are originally from Puerto Rico; tell me about your origins, how are you still connected to them?

LC: That’s true, reaffirmation is great. For those who still get it confused, yes, I was born, grew up and study in Puerto Rico. It’s not up to now - my adult life - I'm here, there and everywhere. I'm still connected to the island since my whole family lives there, my studio and I share a strong emotional connection and turmoil with the island. I guess that is where true love emerges. I have spent a substantial amount of time in my life, and still do, in connection to natural environments, ecosystems and remote places and I guess that’s also reflected through my artwork. 


SP: I assume, please correct me if I am wrong, that the tropicality you mentioned initially, as well as the disasters and catastrophic landscapes, are both related to Puerto Rico… 

LC: They are larger terms and if you may, they can be connected but are not specific to any place. They are – not like the result of a mathematical equation. When it refers to the 'tropics' one has to think that it’s a worldwide belt of ecosystems that sustain itself based on particular conditions and relations; those, experience conditions that are particular to their geographical location and the politics of a particular place. For instance, the Northern part of Brazil and parts of the Caribbean included in the western hemisphere are 'tropics', but also Malaysia or Indonesia. At times, they share similar landscape and challenges that generate new modes of survival.  I'm curious on these ideas. The images created through the series of paintings that I mention before can relate and rapidly identify to those who share the same landscape and can see themselves in them.  


SP: I first had contact with your work, when I saw the installation “Entre Nosotros II (Between Us)”, can we call it installation? Would you like to explain the concept behind this work and its materialization?

LC: Entre Nosotros II (Between Us) 2017, was indeed an installation, but it was also a multilayered project that I did along with Sofia Reeser del Rio. We both conceptualize and generated the logistics of the project towards what you experienced on site. At that time, we had a handful of research points from scientific to social ones that explored our relationship to the oceans, and even topics around towards immigrants’ crossings maritime borders, their cultural rituals and such. From all that research we created the ideas for the installation. We were interested also on referencing certain materials, even ones used before in other works. For instance, the truncated sunset that is perceived is aesthetically aligned with a series of prints Fractured Light produced in 2015. For Sofia and for me the beach has been an integral part of our lives and our upbringings and having the time to metaphorically bring it to life through an installation was our major motivation. 


SP: If one goes through different images of several of your works, there is a recurrent iconographic element, the palm tree. Besides the previous mentioned tropicality, why is the palm tree such a strong reference in your work?

LC: It’s indeed an iconography element defining a unity. I have always said that the projects and artworks I produce are like chapters and continuations that relate and build on each-other. 


SP: … And the sun, fire, wind, water/ocean…

LC: I will list and explain these individually. 
The Sun is crucial for life on Earth and I have been fascinated with the Plato's philosophical idea of the cave presented originally in his work Republic. The fact that humans are tied in a cave and they can only perceive the world as cast shadows of original objects it’s such a great point of departure for me. The Sun is presented as the pure blinding light that its elsewhere out of the cave. Fire can be seen through the recurrent imagery in the works. Wind is atmosphere and I translate it to sound in the installation and I will add water, they are all an exploration of elements with great characteristics that connect conceptual inclinations and intentions. 


SP: Does the human reference have a place in your imaginary? How do you allow and/or invite the “human” into your “paradisiac landscape”?

LC: I can tell you that the presence of an audience is important. It depends on the projects, at times audiences become part of it even before the projects are made, through pre-participatory strategies. None of the works have the presence of a human imbedded in the work, perhaps depictions of them, through audio, or other elements. I don't want to distract from what’s important to discuss and what the artworks are attempting to come across. Nowadays, we are living a crisis of representation and I don't want the work to become a token of that. Furthermore, I would not call it ’paradisiac' because that infers a certain idealism that allude to perfection and stability in the most banal to the most religious means and the projects that I produce are the complete opposite. They subvert those ideas and explore metaphoric references, issues and mitigations between humans in the environment.


SP: I completely understand your point, however, commonly, palm trees, bright warm sun, and the ocean, tend to report to Paradise and I would risk saying this matches most people references of an idyllic vacation destination… additionally, these connotations emanate warmth and comfort, …

LC: In what regards to the work, those images are displaced, obscured and in other context there as a reference to other things; those elements you mentioned never stand alone in any of the works, as they are intersected by other pictorial images or even sounds that alter preconceived ideas. At times audiences have reported unsettling feeling when they enter the work. An interesting anecdote, not to long ago, the installation Making Windows on Walls, 2015 was presented in the exhibition “Isla Imaginaria 2018” curated by Natalia Viera Salgado. I remember how multiple people came up to us tearing and expressing strong feelings towards the installation and the experience. (space)
For the conversation, I would like to refocus this concept and notion of a 'paradise' by echoing Krista A. Thomson's publication An Eye for the Tropics (Duke University Press 2006). In this text she precisely unpacks these terms of “tropical” paradises in relation to the Caribbean islands and explores the historical implication on the creation of images that dates back 1880's and the construction of that very image of the palm tree, sandy beaches and warm water as purely crafted representations that supported a touristic industry and have been embedded in our collective subconscious. Unveiling the autonomy of these images and representing a rather alternative or more realistic view is important.  


SP: Last year, you had a public art installation at Socrates Sculpture Park in Queens NY as part of their visual arts programming, which is mostly dedicated to emerging, mid-career, and internationally renowned artists. The work you presented required a great interaction from the "audience"; how was this project overall and the response from the visitors?

LC: That’s true, it seems like it was last year but it was actually in 2018 and it concluded early 2019. The program offered support and a budget to develop a sculptural project that was going to stay on view at the park. I immediately thought that this was a great opportunity to create something of a greater scale that it was welcoming to the audiences that visit the park daily similarly to previous projects that I have done in the past. This one presented a great challenge because most of the projects I have done incorporate technology; however, for this one the challenge was to include no technology. After a few brainstorming and design sessions Reverb Space was born a multi-sensory installation cube that invited visitors enter. Each wall of the cube had the potential to produced sound by touching them, taking as inspiration abstracted and minimal forms from musical instruments. The floor was covered with sand and other surfaces with translucent materials that allow the light to filter through as it interacted with the environment through the day. 


SP: Besides your artistic practice you also work as an instructor for the NYC Educational Department. How does your educational/tutorial “job” entangle with your artistic creation?

LC: That’s true. I have been in the field of arts education for a decade now. From private, to nonprofits to government, and I have learned a lot. Basically, the type of work that I create has a process of investigation, and what a better place than the academic environment. Most of the time I'm in contact with a community of immigrant young adults who are newly arrived at New York City. I write an implement curriculum that focuses in the appreciation of aesthetics, visual arts and social justice. For me it’s an extension of my artistic practice, and at time some of these individuals become participants and assistants to the creation of works. In the education field there’s always discussions of reaching better models to assess growth, maximize engagement and communicate ideas and concepts through the most effective formats and that’s also the means to pursuit towards a project, installation and an artwork in the making. 


SP: Would you like to share any ongoing and upcoming art projects?

LC: Yes, there are things happening. Right now I'm planning on a new benchmark of goals, projects, partnerships and activities for the next two years, which is exciting. Last year I worked on multiple projects, exhibitions and residencies such as TrueQue Residencia in Ecuador, a group exhibition in the Hamptons, East End Culture Club, an exibition 'Geografias de lo singular' curated by Ana Rosa Valdez for the Funka Fest in Ecuador, in the summer I was in Berlin on a residency and exhibition program with Kulturschöpfer. Towards the end of the year there’s was two highlights, with participation on the exhibition "The Syncope" curated by Kathie Halfin at the Bronx River Art Center exhibition and also an exhibition titled "Bootleg" curated and organized by DOC! Paris and French Embassy NYC. As it was envisioned, this year there will be a continuation of the artworks and research that happen during these. 
I’m working with some of my team members developing research panels on subjects of interest such as climate concerns, the means of new geographies, altered landscapes and the conceptions of space in the digital era.