An exhibit at Longwood Art Gallery in Hostos Community College launched during Hispanic Heritage Month in October, celebrates the life of the late artist Jorge Soto Sanchez.
Patrons marveled at the colorful abstract paintings Sanchez left behind.
“I’m in visual heaven. My senses are kicking in,” said Osaretin Ugiagbe, a self-proclaimed artist who works at Lincoln Hospital. “This is pure emotion and genius.”
Most of Sanchez’s works feature the human body stripped to the bone. While the opening reception brought many distinguished Bronx artists, others less familiar with Sanchez’s work said they felt a connection with it nonetheless.
The exhibition pays homage to the artist, who died almost 30 years ago, and of the South Bronx’s Puerto Rican art movement during that era. Sanchez, who was born in East Harlem, moved to the South Bronx when he was five. He was the director of Taller Boricua, a Puerto Rican artists’ collective that used art to get through to communities. Sanchez studied Puerto Rican art history before debuting his first solo exhibition at Galeria Tanama. He later had solo exhibitions in New York, and put on his last major show at El Museo de Barrio in 1979.
Sanchez left a large collection of work, most of which had never been publicly viewed before the show at the Longwood Gallery. With the help of a personal friend who curated the exhibit, Glady Pena-Acosta, and The Bronx Council on the Arts, Hostos Center for the Arts & Culture and El Museo del Barrio were able to partner to create the exhibition, showcasing all of Sanchez’s work. Pena-Acosta collected Soto’s work from private collections and El Museo de Barrio.
“I walked in and my mouth fell open, said the late artist’s wife,” said Betty Soto. “I am feeling very happy and excited about this exhibit for my late husband, I bet he’s smiling down from heaven and he’s here. It really is a complete history of Jorge’s work because it shows all the different mediums he worked with.”
John McElwee, director of the Bronx Council on the Arts, said the exhibit is the largest collection of Soto’s work to be collected since his death.
“This is a very important exhibit to have and recognize in our community,” McElwee said, adding that the work is a reflection of Puerto Rican identity as evidenced by the artist’s repainting of African motifs from famous works.
“Jorge, I feel was a master as a PR artist and he really represented the community and the love of his heritage. He was concerned with social issues and he wanted to make a statement through his work,” said Betty Soto.
The exhibition closes in early December.