Jesús “Bubu” Negrón creates sculptures and performances by inserting small gestures into the everyday landscape: for example, creating a carpet out of cigarette butts collected by street sweepers, or mending a cracking bronze public sculpture with a plaster cast. Negrón is inspired by workers who are experts in one area — for example, street sketch artists, gardeners, and artisans — and sees their work not just as a paying job, but as a cultural practice. Negrón himself has worked among experts in these fields, blurring the lines between “artist” and “artisan,” and questioning art world traditions.
For the High Line, Negrón presents a new iteration of his project The Back Portrait, an ongoing drawing project wherein he draws the backs of willing visitors, and then gives the sitter the original drawing, keeping a photocopy for himself. Sitters are accepted on a first-come-first-served basis.
This work was conceived for the Fiesta de la Calle San Sebastián in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 2000, where Negrón took on the role of a street sketch artist, but solely focusing on visitors’ backs. He sold each portrait on a sliding scale, depending on the financial situation of the participant. When the project travelled to Art Miami in 2002, The Back Portrait became Negrón’s act of rebellion within the art fair, displayed among high-priced, inaccessible artworks.