A Political Print Shop in New York
This exhibition celebrates the 50th anniversary of the founding of Taller Boricua/The Puerto Rican Workshop, bringing together works by artists who actively participated in the first 12 years of its existence, between 1970 and 1982. Still in operation today, Taller Boricua is a collective studio and alternative space that was established in East Harlem, one year after the opening of El Museo del Barrio in 1969. Both organizations emerged in the context of the U.S. civil rights movement as projects of self-determination by New York City’s Puerto Rican community and in response to the indifference of the cultural establishment.
Organized in four sections, the exhibition begins by examining the relationship between the two institutions, their common members and shared ethos, and how the artists from Taller Boricua participated in the early years of El Museo through exhibitions and the creation of its visual identity. The next gallery explores Taller Boricua’s deep commitment to printmaking practices – more specifically to serigraphy and its DIY spirit,through a series of posters that employ political iconography and address topics such as the Puerto Rican independence movement, the struggle for workers’ rights, and solidarity with the then-called Third World. Graphic designs in support of different activities and organizations of the Puerto Rican movement in New York, including Taller itself in its different iterations, are presented in the exhibition’s third room.
The last gallery in the exhibition shows paintings, drawings, collages and assemblages by Marcos Dimas (b. 1943), Jorge Soto Sánchez (1947–1987), and Nitza Tufiño (b. 1949) that reflect how these artists created an experimental aesthetic combining references from the history of Western art with Taíno and African culture. In this sense, both El Museo del Barrio and Taller Boricua expanded the Eurocentric construction of the historical avant-garde, creating a narrative committed to promoting indigenous and African visual sources.
Taller Boricua – A Political Workshop in New York is the first in a series of exhibitions in 2020, 2021 and 2022 that reflect on El Museo’s early history and its foundational values. It also testifies to the institution’s continued commitment to the graphic arts, featured in important shows from throughout its exhibition history, from La historia del cartel puertorriqueño/The History of Puerto Rican Posters (1973) to Pressing the Point (1999).
Most of the works included in this exhibition are from El Museo’s Permanent Collection and were generously donated by the artists themselves. The Museum would like to express gratitude to these artists, without whom this exhibition would not be possible.
Curated by El Museo’s Chief Curator, Rodrigo Moura, with co-organization by Permanent Collection Manager, Noel Valentin. Leadership support for this exhibition is provided by Tony Bechara. Generous funding is provided by The de la Cruz Martínez Family and Encarnita Valdes Quinlan and Robert C. Quinlan. Additional support is provided by Richard Torres. Special thanks to Taller Boricua/The Puerto Rican Workshop.