Mindscapes by Nayda Collazo-Llorens:
The Poetics of Opposition
by Deborah Cullen
Companion essay to the exhibition Mindscapes
Space Other, Boston, MA, 2006
The work of Nayda Collazo-Llorens probes the processes of seeing, remembering, and communicating. As she examines how we find our place in space and time, she both links and differentiates these cerebral, yet oftentimes irrational, operations. Her work evokes the vast histories we each carry within, and explores our endless return to formative impressions, even as we process each new moment.
Collazo-Llorens was born in San Juan, Puerto Rico. While she currently lives and works in New York, she remains closely affiliated on the Island. Her work has a semi-autobiographical but non-explicit core; thus, simultaneity and displacement are central themes. Fruitfully engaging this recurring poetics of opposition, Collazo-Llorens juxtaposes the pace and weight of the urban metropolis with that of the Caribbean environment. She emphasizes internal and introspective rhythms in marked contrast to the furious pace and crushing magnitude of the external world. Language, a critical element in her works, shifts easily between Spanish and English, and incorporates counterpoints that range from diaristic, poetic snippets to snatches from advertising, signage, or the news.
It is within this rich field of investigation that Nayda Collazo-Llorens creates her newest project, Mindscapes, an installation set within a site-specific wall work, that includes selections from an ongoing suite of drawings, a three-dimensional hanging installation, and three recent works in video. At the entrance to the space, the digital video Infinito (2005, 1:25) sets the tone of Mindscapes. In this mesmerizing, brief loop condensed on a monitor, the multiplying wheels of a bicycle race whir across blacktop. The camera stays pointed on a forward arrow painted on the pavement which the cyclists appear to follow, but the blurry images advance almost in a suspension of time. Finally, they pass, leaving the arrow to remain; after a quiet pause, clapping is heard. The image fades and the caption—“every straight line is the arc of an infinite circle”—evokes the linked and circling trajectories of life.
Entering the galleries, Collazo-Llorens unites the space through a sweeping wall work that begins quite subtly, but becomes a darker, denser presence as one penetrates deeper into the space. This backdrop indicates the artist’s intention that the exhibition be understood as a Gesamtkünstwerk, or total work, in which all the individual pieces of the project relate to and amplify one another. Employing colored tapes and transfer letters, she produces an environmental setting that is both graphic and topographic. Directional lines, numerical symbols and words activate the space and engage the visitor in the unfolding, a situational mapping in which the viewer collaborates in “reading” the physical installation space, which, in some ways, echoes and expands the small fragment of pavement we have just seen in Infinito. Progressions and transformations, graphed lines and angles, meditate on memory just as the durational experience of viewer in the gallery, decoding the wall piece, is an experience of time, physical movement, and of images coalescing and forming meaning in the mind’s eye. 
On a monitor set against this diagrammed space, a second digital video, Roaming (2005, 5:18) furthers the viewer’s perceptual exploration of Collazo-Llorens’ world and penetrates into space. Utilizing the camera’s point-of-view, this video take the viewer on a slow climb up and around a unique playground structure. The playset is built from metal poles and red rope joined by S-clips, forming honeycombed, hexagonal shapes. The camera captures the red geometric shapes against a clear blue sky. The images lazily transmogrify from biomorphic, cell-like abstractions into tunnels penetrating deep into the heavens. Blinding sun is inter-cut with images of seagulls stuttering upwards in the sky. A brief glimpse of little girl, climbing far at the top, coupled with the sense of a warm, beach-like setting, creates a mood of nostalgia, of memory. As the camera gradually rotates upward through this system of interconnected linearity, the total environment of the installation, and its allusions to interdependency and structural, organic progressions, is recalled.
While Collazo-Llorens’ iconographies can verge on the abstract or even the mathematical, and her tools are often technological, at heart her work is intimate, natural, and subjective. Organic and earthly subject matter and feeling, as well as nature’s richly mottled and sensual colors, are the cruxes of her artistic language. In the spirit of her dialectical mode of working, there is always an urge to order, to contain the unruliness of nature and life to an arithmetic or progressive series that might contain and control it. Thus, she often utilizes a framework of repetition and variation, and accumulation within a grid of recurrence. After observing the earth, the environment, and then piercing towards the sky, a linear sequence of thirty-five, nine-by-six-inch drawings and a circular installation piece return us to a more intimate, diaristic conceptual space.
An accomplished printmaker, Collazo-Llorens is a sophisticated draftsperson who commands elegant lines and combines color and affixations to powerful effect. She has been producing these personal, visceral drawings on a daily basis over several years. Small but intensely powerful, they are compact expressionistic worlds comfortable simultaneously in the language of the bodily and the schematic. These fluidly elegiac and mysterious drawings—here, a small selection from the vast body of drawings is presented—also contain notes and sketches linked to other works. They are installed in relationship to the ever-more-complex wall work opposite. Travelling deeper within the space, the work Ceremony #2 (2000/2005) hangs from the ceiling.  Approximately ten feet in diameter, it is composed from a series of hanging branches that the artist has worked with gesso, notated with graphite and silk screen, and, at times, altered with carved signs or wire attachments. One may circle the periphery of this ritualistic oval, or retreat inside it to meditate on the subtle variety of limb shape and marks.
The last of the three video works is a two-channel video projection-installation, Channels V4 (2004, 4:32) that is the conceptual heart of the project. This work is an ambitious and moving poetic study in all the opposing forces that Collazo-Llorens has previously touched upon.  Side-by-side images contrast and synch, offering slices of quotidian imagery made hypnotic through graceful framing and confidently paced editing. Snow falls against the dark winter night while the bright sun blazes across a field of summer-green grass. The drive-by smear of sandy cliffs along a coastal isle road contrast with the swiftly passing images seen through gritty subway windows. The goggle-eyed view one sees, emerging from the waters of an in-ground pool, is opposed to a landing plane’s sweep through the open air, across San Juan’s rooftops, with the sparkling ocean horizon behind. These environments are made sinister through references to mortality: spots of what appear to be blood work or elements from a violent crime scene turn to bright lights, and sickness, paranoia, and love are equally and feverishly alluded to.
Again, language plays a central role alongside these images. Stream-of-conscious-style captions and crawls provide glimpses of emotion, while also recording fragments from the barrage of information to which we are subjected daily. Passing thoughts, memories, facts, and feelings spill across this mural-sized, cinematic diptych. Like Collazo-Llorens’ monumental outdoor interventions and her previous, three-channel video installation projections, Channels V4 allows the spectator to experience different registers of time, surging and cascading.  Unable to completely grasp the dual sets of text and image projections at once, and perhaps unable to even understand all the texts as they shift between Spanish and English, the viewer thus experiences the images, content, and the structure itself of the poetics of opposition in which Collazo-Llorens traffics. And in this, she successfully submerges the visitor to Mindscapes in her formally and conceptually rich artistic territory.
 Collazo-Llorens has, over the past two years, developed related wall works, including Eco, 2004 (transfer with carbon paper on wall, dimensions variable), created on site at the International Print Center New York, for the group exhibition, ¡Impresionante! Innovative Prints by Contemporary Puerto Rican Artists (2004) as well as the environment of her solo exhibition, Configuraciones, Galería Raices, San Juan, Puerto Rico (2005).
 The original installation of this work was included in Collazo-Llorens’ solo exhibition, Tiempo+Consequencias, Galería de Arte Universidad del Sagrado Corazón, San Juan, Puerto Rico (2000).
 This work was first presented in Hartford, Connecticut at Real Art Ways in the exhibition, None of the Above: Contemporary Works by Puerto Rican Artists (2004) and in San Juan at Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico (2005).
 Time (1999) and April 10, 2003 (2003) were both urban interventions, projected outdoors in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on the façade of Galería Raices, in—respectively— its previous and current locations. From the Memories Series: Dream (2000) was a three-channel video installation projection, presented in the group exhibition, Here & There / Aquí y Allá: Six Artists from Puerto Rico, at El Museo del Barrio, New York (2001) and the Blaffer Gallery, the University of Houston, Texas (2002).