Opposite the readymades hangs Please Hold Me (2015), a jumbled assortment of hand-painted signs, the likes of which you might spot on the street alongside a member of the homeless community. Emblazoned with messages in both English and Spanish, the signs humorously call attention to the decidedly not humorous state of the Puerto Rican economy and environment. As of late June, the nation owed approximately $72 billion dollars to foreign lenders, all the while suffering from a massive drought that is affecting over 2 million people (or nearly 60% of the roughly 3.5 million inhabiting the U.S. territory). Figueroa’s street signs petition for everything from money and work to beer and iphones, with snarky phrases like “necesito dinero para producir arte, mi pais esta jodido...please help me” (“need money to make art, my country is fucked”), “trabajo x agua, will work for water, $ please help $” “soy un pobre diablo de una isla tropical en banca rota” (“I’m a poor devil from a tropical island in bankruptcy”), “will xchange masterpiece for art studio rent.”
All at once, Figueroa touches upon the failing capitalist system, the environmental crisis, and the struggle that artists face in seeking compensation for their labor. He reminds us that amid this bright, blossoming, tropicalized urban landscape, the sinister truth about the slow drain of our vital resources lurks beneath.