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    The art liberation and the praxis of death / Elizam Escobar
    Huellas: Avanzada Estética Por La Liberación Nacional. --  Chicago, IL: Talleres Gráficos de Editorial El Coquí, 1988.
    p. 45 - 53 : ill.
    Book/pamphlet article – Essays
    Escobar, Elizam. “The Art Liberation and the Praxis of Death.” In Huellas: Avanzada Estética Por La Liberación Nacional, 45–53. Chicago, IL: Talleres Gráficos de Editorial El Coquí, 1988.
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Puerto Rican artist Elizam Escobar applies semiotic and Marxist theories to analyze social value in art occurring in an historical era that proclaims itself both postmodern and postcolonial. He observes that such discourse renders people oppressed by colonial power that is invisible and speechless. Art, however, has the capacity to transcend hegemonic discourse by “deconstructing” and/or destroying conventional sign systems. Artists have, what Escobar calls, “praxis of death” at their disposal; the question is how to use it toward progressive, liberating ends. The artist contends that Puerto Rican artists must begin by exposing the contradictions of prevailing discourse regarding either Puerto Rican national identity or political status. He proposes that artists must confront the death of the Puerto Rican subject in order to revive it.


Born in 1948 in Ponce, Puerto Rico, Elizam Escobar is a painter, printmaker, theorist, and professor of fine arts at the Escuela de Artes Plasticas in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He migrated to New York City in the mid-1970s, and was active in Puerto Rican artist collectives, such as Taller Boricua in El Barrio, as well as was deeply committed to Puerto Rican independence. A member of the militant group, called Fuerzas Armadas de Liberación Nacional [Armed Forces for National Liberation, FALN], Escobar was arrested on charges of seditious conspiracy in 1979, and sentenced to sixty-eight years in a United States Federal prison. Escobar continued to write and create art while incarcerated. He wrote, “El Arte de Liberación y La Praxis de la Muerte,” while serving time in the federal prison of El Reno in Oklahoma. Escobar and ten other Puerto Rican political prisoners were given clemency in 1999 by President Bill Clinton.

Yasmin Ramirez
Courtesy of Juan Sánchez, Guariken, Inc., Brooklyn, NY
Center for Puerto Rican Studies, Hunter College, New York