On the Cover: The Mahican Bowl—Is It Art or Is It a Skate Park? | October 2020 | General Arts & Culture | Hudson Valley | Chronogram Magazine
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On the Cover: The Mahican Bowl—Is It Art or Is It a Skate Park? | October 2020 

A New Interactive Installation at Art Omi

Last Updated: 10/01/2020 10:12 am
click to enlarge BRYAN ZIMMERMAN
  • Bryan Zimmerman

On the cover this month, photographer Bryan Zimmerman captures skateboarder Justin McDowell in a moment of fierce, wild bliss and impeccable balance, leaving socially distanced onlookers of all ages standing spellbound. You can almost hear the crack and zing of his wheels re-engaging with the curvaceous bowl, not quite like any you've seen before.

Chemi Rosado-Seijo's Mahican Pearl-Hole (The Mahican Bowl) is a site-specific sculptural installation that opened on July 27 at Art Omi in Ghent. "Yes, that is a fully functional skate bowl—as the skateboarders who have already descended on the piece will attest," says Art Omi Communications Director Jessica Puglisi. "To the question of whether this is 'art' or did Art Omi just build a skate bowl, the answer is simply 'Yes.'"

Rosado-Seijo, a 1997 graduate of the Puerto Rico School of Visual Arts, deploys painting, video, installation, construction, and performance in the creation of conceptual, multimedia projects; his goal is to strengthen communities from within through art. "I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing when there's a chain reaction of people getting inspired and excited, and then they add to the creation," he says. Another boarding-themed work, History on Wheels, is a traveling installation, juxtaposing text with white-painted skate ramps scored by the scratches of a thousand whizzing wheels.

click to enlarge Photos of Chemi Rosado-Seijo’s Mahican Pearl-Hole - (The Mahican Bowl), which opened on July 27. - BRYAN ZIMMERMAN
  • Bryan Zimmerman
  • Photos of Chemi Rosado-Seijo’s Mahican Pearl-Hole(The Mahican Bowl), which opened on July 27.

Mahican Pearl-Hole is Rosado-Seijo's second bowl piece; the first, sculpted in 2006, is in the La Perla community between the walls of Old San Juan and the Atlantic. Skaters and surfers from all over Puerto Rico and beyond joined locals to sculpt the island's first boarding bowl from an abandoned swimming pool, now filled with water each weekend so the local kids can splash. "Nowadays the bowl is an international canvas for skateboarders, grafiteros [graffiti artists], movies, and commercials," co-conspirator Roberto "Boly" Cortez told the website Monster Children in 2016. The La Perla bowl, Rosado-Seijo says, is "the father" of the Mahican Bowl; a friend at Art Omi who shared his love of shredding helped fan the spark that drew boarders and builders into concerted, joyful effort.

Activist collaborations have always been part of Rosado-Seijo's artistic aims. In 1998, fresh out of school, he co-founded a gallery that was then turned into a nonprofit art space, and he's been instigating ever since, exploring the space where art and activism become lived experience: organizing a space swap between an exhibition hall and a public school classroom, for example. His apartment in the Santurce section of San Juan has served the Puerto Rican arts community as an exhibition space and nerve center since 2009.

Come try the bowl out for yourself or admire those who do; it's open dawn `til dusk. (To skateboard, you'll need to sign a waiver, available online.) "Everyone that sees the piece can be a co-creator; it grows as a project if it helps them," says Rosado-Seijo. "I love the fact that something artistic and 'artsy' can reach and unite different people, skateboarders, architects, art world people—all those people together, mixing and exchanging information? It's a tiny revolution. So many big revolutions have failed. We try to create thousands of little ones."

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