Counter Flags

June 24–August 22, 2021

Counter Flags reflects on the performativity and choreographed gesture of creating flags. Beyond ideas of nationalism(s), this exhibition explores the relationships to place, historical narratives, identities, borders, language, and the utility of this object. How can the design and presentation of flags be acts of resistance to colonial paradigms? This exhibition offers counternarratives around these ideas and features work by Lizania Cruz (Dominican Republic), Kahlil Robert Irving (USA), Edra Soto (Puerto Rico), Carlos Martiel (Cuba), José Castrellón (Panama), Jason Mena (Puerto Rico) Melissa Raymond (Canada), René Sandín (Puerto Rico), María Lulú Varona (Puerto Rico), Ricardo Cabret (Puerto Rico), Esperanza Mayobre (Venezuela), and Esvin Alarcón Lam (Guatemala).

Presented as part of La Residencia

Curated by Natalia Viera Salgado

Edra Soto's Let Love Win will be on-view in the Abrons' garden, located on the lower level.

La Residencia is a co-located residency program in partnership with Pública. A cultural space in Santurce, Puerto Rico, Pública aims to provide a platform for local and international artists to strengthen relationships between Puerto Rico and a global audience. Over the course of eighteen months, Pública Co-Director Natalia Viera Salgado will serve as Abrons’ 2020-21 Curatorial Resident and will support the development of projects at Abrons and Pública.


Natalia Viera Salgado is a Puerto Rican curator and curatorial consultant based in New York City. She is also the co-founder of :Pública Espacio Cultural, an independent art space in Alto del Cabro, Santurce Puerto Rico. Her art historical research focuses on contemporary art in relation to decolonial practices, architecture, social and environmental justice, and new media with a keen interest in hybrid and interdisciplinary projects. She has worked at the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture, El Museo de Barrio , Art in General, Socrates Sculpture Park and The Nathan Cummings Foundation. Viera holds a MA in Curatorial Practice from the School of Visual Arts and is currently the Assistant Curator at Americas Society, New York.

Lizania Cruz is a Dominican participatory artist and designer interested in how migration affects ways of being & belonging. Through research, oral history, and audience participation, she creates projects that highlight a pluralistic narrative on migration. Cruz has been an artist-in-residence and fellow at the Laundromat Project Create Change (2017-2019), Agora Collective Berlin (2018), Design Trust for Public Space (2018), Recess Session (2019), IdeasCity:New Museum (2019), Stoneleaf Retreat (2019), Robert Blackburn Workshop Studio Immersion Project (SIP) (2019), A.I.R. Gallery (2020-2021), BRIClab: Contemporary Art (2020-2021), Center for Book Arts (2020-2021), and Jerome Hill Artist Fellow, Visual Arts (2021-2022). And a finalist of the New York Artadia Award (2021). Her work has been exhibited at the Arlington Arts Center, BronxArtSpace, Project for Empty Space, ArtCenter South Florida, Jenkins Johnson Project Space, The August Wilson Center, Sharjah’s First Design Biennale, Untitled, Art Miami, Concurso de Arte Eduardo León Jimenes among others. Most recently she is part of ESTAMOS BIEN: LA TRIENAL 20/21 at el Museo del Barrio, the first national survey of Latinx artists by the institution. Furthermore, her artworks and installations have been featured in Hyperallergic, Fuse News, KQED arts, Dazed Magazine, Garage Magazine and the New York Times.

Kahlil Robert Irving (b. 1992, San Diego, CA) is an artist currently living and working in the USA. He attended the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Art, Washington University in St. Louis (MFA Fellow, 2017); and the Kansas City Art Institute (BFA, Art History and Ceramics/Sculpture, 2015). His work has been exhibited at the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas; the Arizona State University Art Museum, Phoenix; and the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Rhode Island, among others. Irving participated in the 2020 Great Rivers Biennial hosted by the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis, where he presented a solo exhibition entitled “At Dusk” that closed on February 21st, 2021. In the fall of 2021, Irving will participate in the New Museum Triennial entitled “Soft Water, Hard Stone”, co-curated by Jamillah James and Margot Norton, opening October 27th. Recently, Irving was awarded the Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Grant and the Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant. In 2018, Irving’s first institutional solo exhibition took place at Wesleyan University’s Center for the Arts, Connecticut, and was accompanied by a full-color catalogue with essays and an interview. Currently, he is presenting a large-scale commission in the lobby at the Contemporary Art Center, Cincinnati, Ohio. Irving's work is also featured in Making Knowing: Craft in Art, 1950–2019 and Nothing is so Humble: Prints from Everyday Objects at the Whitney Museum of American Art. His work is in the collections of the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas; the RISD Museum, Rhode Island; the Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh; and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York.

Puerto Rican born, Edra Soto is an interdisciplinary artist and co-director of the outdoor project space The Franklin. Recent venues presenting Soto’s work include Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art's satellite, The Momentary (Arkansas); Albright-Knox Northland (New York); El Museo del Barrio (New York); Smart Museum (Illinois); and the Museum of Contemporary Photography (Illinois). Recently, Soto completed the public art commission titled Screenhouse currently at Millennium Park. Soto has attended residency programs at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Beta-Local, the Robert Rauschenberg Foundation Residency, Headlands Center for the Arts, Project Row Houses and Art Omi among others. Soto was awarded the Efroymson Contemporary Arts Fellowship, the Illinois Arts Council Agency Fellowship, and the inaugural Foundwork Artist Prize and the Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Grant among others. Between 2019-2020 Soto exhibited and traveled to Brazil, Puerto Rico and Cuba as part of the MacArthur Foundation’s International Connections Fund. Soto holds an MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and a bachelor’s degree from Escuela de Artes Plásticas y Diseño de Puerto Rico.

Carlos Martiel (born 1989, Havana). Lives and works in New York and Havana. He graduated in 2009 from the National Academy of Fine Arts “San Alejandro,” in Havana. Between the years 2008-2010, he studied in the Cátedra Arte de Conducta, directed by the artist Tania Bruguera. Martiel’s works have been included in the Biennial of the Americas, USA; 4th Vancouver Biennale, Canada; 14th Sharjah Biennial, UAE; 14th Cuenca Biennial, Ecuador; 57th Venice Biennale, Italy; Casablanca Biennale, Morocco; Biennial “La Otra”, Colombia; Liverpool Biennial, United Kingdom; Pontevedra Biennial, Spain; Havana Biennial, Cuba. He has had performances at the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands; La Tertulia Museum, Cali, Colombia; Centro de Arte Contemporáneo, Quito, Ecuador; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, USA; The Museum of Fine Arts Houston (MFAH), Houston, USA; Museo de Arte Contemporáneo del Zulia (MACZUL), Maracaibo, Venezuela; Padiglione d’Arte Contemporanea, Milan, Italy; Robert Miller Gallery, New York, USA; Nitsch Museum, Naples, Italy. He has received several awards, including the Franklin Furnace Fund in New York, USA, 2016; “CIFOS Grants & Commissions Program Award” in Miami, USA, 2014; “Arte Laguna” in Venice, Italy, 2013. His work has been exhibited at The São Paulo Museum of Art (MASP), São Paulo, Brazil; The Museum of Latin American Art (MOLAA), Long Beach, USA; Zisa Zona Arti Contemporanee (ZAC), Palermo, Italy; Patricia and Phillip Frost Art Museum, Miami, USA; Benaki Museum, Athens, Greece; National Museum of Fine Arts, Havana, Cuba; among others. His works are in public and private collections such as The Solomon R Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), Miami; Museu de Arte do Rio, Rio de Janeiro.

José Castrellón (Panama, 1980) works with photography, video, found material and language, moving between the conceptual and documentary realms. Through research, he takes history as a point of departure to inquire into and express anthropological and sociological concerns. He identifies with cultural changes and the impact they have on different places, the cultural modification of people and society, as well as the physical transformation of landscapes, brought about by commercialism, colonialism, geopolitical conflict and interventions. He has participated in many group exhibitions such as Pacific Standard Time LA/LA, the 38th Biennial of Ireland "EVA International," the Mercosur Biennial and the Central American Biennial. His work has been shown in institutions like the Tate Modern, the Museum of Modern Art of Medellin (MAMM), the Museum of Art and Design (MAD) in New York, the Museo del Barrio in New York and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Rome (MACRO).

Jason Mena is an interdisciplinary artist working in Mexico and Puerto Rico. His research-based practice challenges the boundaries and the structural correspondence between art, politics, and financial capital while touching upon ideas of faith, ownership, as well as the cult of wealth in contemporary society. He holds a BFA in painting from the Escuela de Artes Plásticas y Diseño de Puerto Rico and attended the Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts Low-Residency Program at Bard College in Annandale-on-Hudson, before completing an MFA in Art Practice from the School of Visual Arts in New York City. He has been awarded residencies at The Studios at MASS MoCA, North Adams; B.P.S.22 Musée d'art de la Province de Hainaut, Belgium and BACO-Batuco Arte Contemporáneo, Chile. Notable grants include the Lexus Grant for the Arts and The Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant.Mena has participated in numerous individual and group exhibitions at venues that include Palais de Tokyo, Paris; CCA Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing; Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Argentina; Museo de Arte y Diseño Contemporáneo, Costa Rica; Hessel Museum of Art, New York; Museo de Arte Carrillo Gil, Mexico City; Museo d'Arte Contemporanea di Roma, Italy; Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco; Museo Rufino Tamayo, Mexico City; Delaware Art Museum, Wilmington; Museo de Arte Moderno de Santo Domingo; Museu das Comunicações, Lisbon; Patricia & Phillip Frost Art Museum, Florida; Museo de Arte Contemporáneo, Puerto Rico; Museu Mineiro, Brazil and invited to international events, such as the Karachi Biennale, Pakistan; 1st & 2nd edition The San Juan Poly/Graphic Triennial, Puerto Rico and Getty’s Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA, California. His work has been featured in prominent publications by Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes de Mexico, Museum of Latin Melissa Raymond (Montreal, Canada, 1980)

and René Sandín (San Juan, Puerto Rico, 1980) have been presenting work together as an artist couple since 2009. Their artistic practice is nourished by an intercultural approach through a body of work based on encounter, documentation, reproduction and appropriation. In recent years their work has focused on the research of color associated to territory, through which they address themes of Puerto Rican identity and the political, geographic and sensorial properties of the colors of Puerto Rico’s public infrastructure and the Governor’s mansion.b nThey have presented two solo exhibitions: Caribe Geopolitical Bliss (2019) at Diagonal, and Turismo Interno (2019) at El Lobi, both in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Their work has also been presented at the Museum of Art of Puerto Rico - Entreformas (2021), curated by Abdiel Segarra Ríos, and El Espacio Común (2019), curated by Vanessa Hernández Gracia, - and at Km0.2 gallery in San Juan - Landmark (2020), curated by Karlo Andrei Ibarra and Yiyo Tirado Rivera, and I’m not Drunk (2019), curated by Radamés “Juni” Figueroa. They also formed part of the 2da Gran Bienal Tropical (2017), co-curated by Marina Reyes Franco, Radamés Figueroa, Jesús Negrón, Stefan Benchoam and Pablo León de La Barra, and two editions of the Muestra Nacional de Artes (2015 & 2013), organized by the Institute of Puerto Rican Culture.

Maria Lulú Varona (b. 1993, San Juan, Puerto Rico) lives and works in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Varona learned her embroidery techniques from her grandmother growing up applying it to make works addressing contemporary conditions. She has exhibited at Bronx Art Space, New York (2017) Roberto Paradise, San Juan, Puerto Rico (2017), Flux Factory, Brooklyn, NY (2019), MACO Feria de arte, Mexico City (2020), Embajada, San Juan Puerto Rico (2020), amongst other group shows at independent galleries spaces. Also have participated in art-residencies such as International Studio and Curatorial Program in Brooklyn, NYC (2018), Flux Factory in Queens, NYC (2019), Program for Independent studies at the Contemporary Arts Museum of Puerto Rico (2020) and at Artist Cooperative Residency and Exhibitions in rural southwest Wisconsin (2021).

Ricardo Cabret (b. 1985, Puerto Rico) works primarily through computer science, code, and painting. His love for language, not only in vocabulary but also in numerous iterations like computer languages, cryptography, data visualization, and even flow-charts, has sparked a decade-long investigation. Cabret paintings often depict software processes via abstraction. In many of the works, flow-chart-like structures predominate the compositions. Just like in flow-charts, lines point to connections between different planes and configurations. These connections narrate the story and define the relationships and purpose of the various planes seen in the work.

Esperanza Mayobre is a Brooklyn-based artist that grew up in Caracas, Venezuela. She is a recipient of the Smithsonian Artist Research Fellowship, Lower East Side Printshop Keyholder Residency, Jerome Foundation travel grant, International Studio and Curatorial Program, Smack Mellon Studio Program, the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council Workspace, and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. She has exhibited at the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, La Caja Centro Cultural Chacao Caracas, the Bronx Museum, Hallwalls, MIT, BRIC, The Art Museum of the Americas, Washington D.C., the Contemporary Museum of El Salvador, the Incheon Biennial Korea, The State University of New York at Westchester Community College, Museo Eduardo Sivori in Buenos Aires and the Queens Museum. Her work has been in Artishock, Bomb, The Brooklyn Rail, Hyperallergic, Creative Time Reports, Arte al Día and Art in America. Her work was currently exhibited at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art Cornell University and at the Fuller Craft Museum.

Esvin Alarcón Lam (Guatemala, 1988) works in different media including sculpture, installation, photography, painting, video and performance. Many of his projects involve a mediated relation with history and political notions related to people's movement. His work has been exhibited at the XXI Bienal Internacional de Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia (2020); Amarica: América Invertida, at Universidad Pública de Brasília (2019); MARICAribe, Playa de Gibara, II Taller Casa Tomada, Casa de las Américas (2018), La Habana, Cuba; A LA DEFENSIVA, Bienal en Resistencia, Guatemala (2019); Ultramarino, Hidrante, Puerto Rico (2018), Osage Art Foundation, Hong Kong (2018); the Bienal de Arte Paiz, Guatemala (2016); SPACE Collection, Irvine, CA (2016); Materia Cruda, Galería de Arte de la Universidad Rafael Landívar, Guatemala (2016); Líneas de la mano, Sicardi Ayers Bacino, Houston, TX (2015); 5 Revoluciones por minuto, 9.99 Gallery, Guatemala (2015); Spatial Acts, The Americas Society, New York, NY (2015) and 5 dias: puertas abiertas, Centro Cultural de España, Guatemala (2013). The artist lives and works in Guatemala.


Counterflags is presented by the Abrons Arts Center as part of La Residencia which is a collaborative residency partnership between Abrons Arts Center (New York, NY) and Pública​ (San Juan, PR) and made possible with funds provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This exhibition was also made possible with support from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. The 2020-2021 Season at Abrons Arts Center is supported, in part, by generous grants from the Howard Gilman Foundation, the Mertz Gilmore Foundation, the Harkness Foundation for Dance, the Jerome Foundation, the Scherman Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Jacques and Natasha Gelman Foundation, the Jerome Robbins Foundation, the Trust for Mutual Understanding, and other generous Henry Street Settlement funders. This program is also supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs and support from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. Image credit: Palo Encebao by José Castrellón