El Principio: Drawings 1975 – 1985

lq_v1Raymond and Carmen Quinones were among the first residents to move to the newly-constructed Alfred E. Smith Houses at 10 Catherine Slip in 1954, where they raised four children in a three bedroom apartment on the 15th floor.

Both natives of Ponce, Puerto Rico, they met on the island after Raymond, a World War II veteran, returned from U.S. Army service, and married in 1949. With the advent of opportunity in the work force and affordable airfare, they joined the wave of more than 25,000 Puerto Rican immigrants who came each year to New York after the war. By 1955, nearly 700,000 Puerto Rican were living in New York City. In 1960, Carmen returned to Ponce to give birth to her youngest son, Jorge Lee Quinones. Lee and his mother reunited with his father and siblings in Manhattan one year later.

The Smith Houses are the southern-most projects in lower Manhattan, referred to as the “Lower Lower” by the local population, bordering Wall Street, the financial capital of the world. Lee grew up with the best view in town at the foot of the Brooklyn Bridge. He awoke to the New York City sunrise from his bedroom window facing east, and watched idyllic evening sunsets from the west-facing window. It was in this apartment, that he began to cultivate his artistic skills.

By the 1970s, Lee’s childhood neighborhood, once a vibrant hub of Italian, Irish, and Puerto Rican culture, had completely deteriorated. As a teenager, he responded with a series of abstract color and black and white drawings that became templates for his paintings on MTA subway cars. The figurative subjects of the drawings were inspired by Marvel and DC Comics, while conceptually, Lee drew from the issues he was surrounded by in the buildings referred to as the Dark Side — fear, poverty, politics, addiction, environment, and the hypocrisy of organized religon.

For El Principio Lee shows 24 original full-color works in their native environment – the very apartment he grew up in and where his mother resides. Nine of these drawings were developed into whole subway cars on the IRT #5 and RRs. Iconic pieces such as the “Heaven is Life, Earth is Hell” car that Lee constructed in 1977 depict the essence of Lee’s emerging talent as a painter.

These works were schematics for Lee’s prolific subway masterpieces, which ultimately provided the impetus for creativity as a means for survival among destitution. He has saved hundreds of drawings from this era, when his burgeoning art career took shape over a decade on the New York transit system. Lee intends to reveal the entirety of these works in a future career retrospective.

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Published by admin, on November 22nd, 2009 at 9:41 pm. Filled under: HERESAY,Uncategorized Tags: , , , , , , , , 1 Comment