El Museo del Barrio’s “Urban Martyrs and Latter-Day Santos” is the first museum survey of the Nuyorican artist Rodríguez Calero and the second in a series of five women-artist retrospectives in El Museo’s current five-year plan.

Rodríguez Calero forges her powerful and unique style from the richly varied traditions of her own background. Born in Puerto Rico and raised mainly in New York City, she received her artistic education at San Juan’s prestigious Escuela de Artes Plásticas and the famed Art Students League of New York. After living and studying abroad, in both France and Spain, she returned to New York where she became a participating artist in the historic Taller Boricua.

Availing herself of both classical and deeply contemporary elements including surrealist collage, Catholic iconography, medieval religious painting, and hip-hop street culture, Rodríguez Calero creates vibrant and multilayered canvases that defy easy categorization. Her work offers a masterful balance of the abstract and figurative, sacred and profane, the meditative and boldly graphic. Her unerring use of dazzling color might be the first thing that attracts us to a Rodríguez Calero work, but it’s her depth of thought, complex imagery, and humane, empathetic gaze on society that draw us ever deeper in, stopping us in our tracks.


Rodríguez Calero’s original technique is called “acrollage,” a technique of layering glazes of luminous colors with rice and other kinds of paper. The blending of fermenting surfaces and stenciled patterns attains lustrous color and texture. Guest-curated by Alejandro Anreus, the installation includes 29 large acrollage canvases, 19 smaller collages, 13 fotacrolés (altered photography) on canvas board, and 3 works of mixed media on paper. The exhibition will be accompanied by a brochure and a scholarly catalogue.


A member of the same generation as Juan Sánchez and Pepón Osorio, and highly regarded by her fellow artists and many curators, Rodríguez Calero has not received the attention she deserves. El Museo is proud to address this omission by mounting the first museum survey of her work. Rodríguez Calero has also received awards, honors, and fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. She was awarded residencies from The New York State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2006, she was featured in New Jersey Networks Public Television State of the Arts Series, “Sign Of The Times,” and in 2008-2009, she received the prestigious Joan Mitchell Foundation Grant in painting. She has exhibited in galleries and museums across the USA, in the Caribbean and China and her works are in many private and public collections.


As with every exhibition, El Museo will organize a series of public programs around “Urban Martyrs and Latter-Day Santos.” These programs include education activities for families and school children (art-making workshops, bilingual guided visits, storytelling), as well as program offerings for adult audiences (artist talks, panels, dance and music performances). A major concurrent event will be the summer festival, “Uptown Bounce: Summer Nights @ 104th & Fifth.” A free, three-week festival, carried out collaboratively by El Museo and the Museum of the City of New York, welcomes thousands of visitors, and hosts weekly musical performances, gallery talks, art-making workshops, and break-dancing demos.

CURATOR & ARTIST: A Conversation | To read, click here.

RODRIGUEZ CALERO: Urban Martyrs and Latter Day Santos is made possible thanks to the generous support from The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Foundation, series sponsor of El Museo del Barrio’s Women Artists Retrospective Series. With additional public support from the New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito.