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Washington Heights Artist's Vision Finds Latino Spirit in Andy Warhol's Soup Cans

By Carla Zanoni | June 18, 2010 7:28pm | Updated on June 18, 2010 7:27pm

By Carla Zanoni

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

WASHINGTON HEIGHTS — “What if Andy Warhol Was Latin?” asks the title of Washington Heights’ artist M. Tony Peralta’s latest cycle of work.

Fusing two worlds— Washington Heights, where he grew up on West 187th Street, and the Dominican Republic, from where his family immigrated nearly four decades ago —this mixed-media artist is focused on confronting issues of assimilation, culture and politics, using an easygoing, pop-art style.

“When I was growing up, it was different from how it is today with people celebrating being Dominican,” Peralta, 35, said. “I didn’t grow up listening to meringue and salsa, I listened to hip-hop. Now it’s like my work combines my cultural background.”

Progressing from his first work, which featured “Goya” bean cans stacked in formation reminiscent  of Warhol’s Campbell Soup cans, Peralta moved on to religious prayer candles in bright colors -- a step that again harkens back to Warhol.

Peralta said he grew up watching his mother light candles for luck and prayer and once viewed it as “Latin people being superstitious."

But now, Peralta says, he recognizes it as a spiritual practice no different from meditation or positive affirmations. He also said he sees the candles as a quintessential representation of New York City.

“The great thing about those candles is that not only religious people like my mother know about them,” he said, “but anyone who lives in New York has seen them in the supermarket or bodega.”

Peralta’s newest work was unveiled on Thursday night at Locksmith Wine & Burger Bar on Broadway, between Fairview Avenue & 192nd Street, during a spirited and sometimes raucous viewing of the final NBA Championship game between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Boston Celtics.

The exhibition is part of a “Art Trek: Uptown,” a rotating art show placed at retail businesses throughout the Inwood and Washington Heights put on by art group the Sound of Art. Peralta’s work will be on display through July.