Juan José Barboza-Gubo




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Praise Shadows Art Gallery is honored to present Return-Eternal-Return by Juan José Barboza-Gubo, a Peruvian artist based in Lima and Boston. Created predominantly in Peru, where the artist drew inspiration and assembled natural materials from the jungles of the region, the exhibition features new sculptures, paintings, and installation made for the exhibition. Paiche scales from the common freshwater fish native to the Amazon basin, wood, and extracted liquid rubber are some of the materials featured in exquisitely assembled forms. The experience brings to mind an interior jungle, where one is invited to enter a space—informed by the collective energy of animals, water, sounds—that has been a sanctuary for the artist for many years.

According to Barboza-Gubo: “Over the last 10 years I have returned to the Peruvian jungle regularly. In each journey, I am guided by the power of nature in the search for the essential, or rather, the essence of myself. While each trip is a return, I never emerge the same. This exhibition had to be created and produced in Peru in order to be charged with the right energy, where the most important gifts and teachings from the jungle are translated and abstracted through material, form, color, and light.”

A centerpiece of Return-Eternal-Return, the vessel for our journey, is a large, full-scale, hand-carved boat titled Retorno (Return). Made of found wood elements that extend nearly eight feet long and reach more than six feet into the sky, it cascades onto the floor as if moored along the natural detritus and currents on the banks of a river. The sculpture is an expertly assembled installation that comes to life through generously proportioned carved acrylic and cement leaves that ripple throughout the sinuous limbs enveloping the boat. The visual tension between the brown wood and the exuberantly painted greens of the acrylic invite the visitor to imagine a journey. Did someone run the boat into the banks of the river long ago? Is it being reclaimed by the jungle, newly reincarnated in its vegetated form as a spiritual totem of the river bank? Does it hold memories of voyages in the Amazon river, gliding alongside the animals that live abundantly in the habitat? Is it living, dead, or neither?

The notion of cyclical time, central to the experience of the exhibition, is represented in the sublime hoop-shaped sculpture made from carved acrylic and Paiche scales entitled Dia-tarde-noche-dia (Day-afternoon-night-day). It emerges elegantly from the wall, like a halo resembling a flowering desert plant, an animal, an anthropomorphic mythical being. Though the circular form is a familiar metaphor for the eternal return, the multiplying fish scales suggest growth, metamorphosis. In fact, as the artist stated earlier, we can return to the same place, but we do not return the same as before.

Juan Jose Barboza-Gubo (Peru, 1976) received his Bachelor’s Degree at Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru (graduating with honors). He received MFA degrees in Painting and in Sculpture, both from Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Solo exhibitions include: Museum of Contemporary Art, Peru; Memory Museum, Peru; The Museum of Sex, New York; Inter Kultur Foto Art; Instituto Francés de Stuttgart; Museo Colonia Bogota Colombia; Galeria German Kruger Espantoso ICPNA-Peru; The Fitchburg Museum; among others. Recent awards of note include the 2019 Fellowship in Photography from the Mass Cultural Council, 2019 Icpna arte contemporaneo second award, 2018 Photolucida Critical Mass: Top 50, 2016 Rhode Island State Council on the Arts Fellowship in Sculpture, 2015 Rhode Island State Council on the Arts Fellowship in Painting, and others. In 2014 he was named the Breakout Artist of the Year by Artscope Magazine. His exhibitions have been reviewed in publications such as The Boston Globe, Artscope Magazine, Artsy, PRI’s The World, The Huffington Post, The Advocate, The Houston Press, El Comercio (Peru), and Lenscratch.

Barboza-Gubo currently teaches at Massachusetts College of Art and Design.


Artwork credit: Juan José Barboza-Gubo, Retorno, 2022, found boat, carved wood, carved acrylic, cement, 92 x 78 x 43 in, image courtesy the artist and Praise Shadows Art Gallery.