1680 Lexington Avenue, at 106th Street
Through Oct. 16
This fall, more than a dozen New York galleries and a number of individual artists have participated in a national gesture of support for Mumia Abu-Jamal, the Philadelphia-based journalist convicted of killing a police officer and in jail on death row since 1982. His supporters, who believe him to have been unjustly convicted, are demanding a new trial at a crucial juncture in the appeal process.
The three-man exhibition titled ''Dead Time=Tiempo Muerto'' at Taller Boricua was timed to open as part of this event, and coincidentally it also overlapped with the recent pardon by President Clinton of 15 Puerto Rican nationalists in United States prisons. One of those prisoners, Elizam Escobar, is in fact an artist in the exhibition. (He is now in Puerto Rico.)
Mr. Escobar produces exquisite small paintings and drawings, some multipaneled and shrinelike in format. The figures, many of them portraits of the artist himself, are highly colored and meticulously detailed. Their emblematic scenarios, accompanied by texts, have an intense, nose-to-the-surface, diaristic feel.
The installation by Antonio Martorell, which fills two rooms, was created in part as a tribute to the jailed nationalists well before their release, though it also addresses the larger subject of political imprisonment.
In this case, prison bars are transformed into decorative columns, carved from tropical wood by a Puerto Rican craftsman, Roberto Antonio Cortes. And a long table has been set for the prisoners themselves. Their portraits have been painted on their plates; their knives, forks and glass goblets hang like a sparkling cloud above, ready to descend for a celebratory supper.
Mr. Martorell's past work, including superb woodcut prints and an installation in the 1997 Whitney Biennial, has shown him to have a poet's eye for materials and ideas. ''Communion'' fully supports that impression.
Dread Scott's installation, titled ''Historic Corrections,'' is of a different kind: didactic, literally hard-hitting. Against an enlarged 1918 photograph of a racial lynching, he has placed a wooden electric chair and a set of electronically powered police clubs that beat down rhythmically on four ''heads'' covered in black cloth. Mr. Scott, who raised political hackles a decade ago with a piece titled ''What Is the Proper Way to Display a U. S. Flag?'' pulls no punches here, in work as straightforward as a protest poster.