Born in Utuado, Puerto Rico as Adal Maldonado, he relocated to New York City at seventeen, and was trained as a photographer and master printer in San Francisco. He is the co-founder and co-director of Foto Gallery in SoHo, NYC, an experimental gallery solely devoted to photography and photo-derived works as a fine-arts medium. His punning on literal meanings has become the primary artistic principle in his work, allowing him to address a tricky characteristic of his own biography – his double cultural allegiance as Nuyorican. He describes his own art as a journey of self-discovery, the conflicts between his experiences as Nuyorican and Puerto Rican culture. His work alludes to the phenomenon of the Puerto Rican diaspora in New York, problems of identity, the political status of Puerto Rico, and the perception of Puerto Rico abroad.
Out of Focus Nuyoricans (1996)
This is a series of twenty out-of-focus black-and-white photographic portraits of Puerto Rican artists, community members, and activists, accompanied by Pedro Pietri’s poem ‘Nuyoricans Out of Focus’ (1966). This installation also depicts artifacts from the conceptual nation ‘El Spirit Republic de Puerto Rico’, a politically charged nation in the vein of the Chicano nation Aztlán, the governing center of this nation being El Puerto Rican Embassy, developed by Pietri and Adál, rather than a White House. The Puerto Rican Embassy is meant to elevate the position of Puerto Rico from colony to equal nation, since only sovereign nations direct embassies. The out-of-focus Nuyoricans serve as ambassadors of the Embassy.
El Puerto Rican Embassy (1994)
Adál collaborated with poet Pedro Pietri on this artistic endeavor, founding a website, www.elpuertoricanembassy.org. This encompassed a ‘Puerto Rican passport’, naming ambassadors to the arts, and composing a national anthem written in what is known as ‘Spanglish’. El Puerto Rican Embassy, described as a ‘sovereign state of mind’, affirmed Puerto Rican Identity in the metropolis, proclaiming artistic liberation by challenging the confines of Puerto Rico’s colonial condition which deprives islanders of their own citizenship and diplomatic and political representation.