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Jardinero Urbano (Urban Gardener)
2011. Painted concrete sculpture
Jardinero Urbano (Urban Gardener) is a real-size model of Puerto Rico's street cleaners. From 2008 on, when the crisis erupted in the island, Negrón was struck by the increasing of street cleaners throughout the country, of what he perceived as the government's "solution" to the economic turmoil. Both gardeners and street cleaners are professions carried out in the hot tropical climate, which translates in a particular work uniform and dressing strategies aimed at protecting the worker from the sun. Having worked in both positions, and fascinated by the this dressing creativity, the sculpture also references the tradition of garden sculptures or unpretentious monuments to celebrate this quotidian public figure.
Negrón furthermore links this piece to an anecdote of the Ninja history in Japan. In order to reduce the ninja's power, the emperor decided to hire them as gardeners of the Royal Palace, given their notable discipline. Street cleaners are called "ninjas" in Puerto Rico due to their use of
t-shirts as balaclava to protect their face from the sun. The parallelism goes further given the fact that workforces in both cases are mostly criminals turned to gardeners at the service of power.