El Cartel/The Poster: Puerto Rican Graphics at Ben Shahn Center for the Visual Arts

A selection of printed posters created by leading Puerto Rican and Nuyorican printmakers between 1960 and 2013 will be on view in the exhibition El Cartel/The Poster: Puerto Rican Graphics at the William Paterson University Galleries in the Ben Shahn Center for the Visual Arts from January 30 – May 5, 2023. Gallery hours are Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and select Saturdays (April 1 and April 29) from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission is free. Curator Alejandro Anreus will give a talk on Wednesday, February 15 from 2 to 3 p.m. in the South Gallery, followed by an opening reception for the exhibition from 3 to 4 p.m.

Curated by Alejandro Anreus, WP professor of art history and Latin American and Latinx studies, El Cartel will be on view in the South Gallery. This exhibition showcases printed posters created at the Taller de Artes Graficas of the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña in San Juan, Puerto Rico under the leadership of master printer Lorenzo Homar, and at the Taller Boricua in New York City, between 1960 and 2013. Printmakers represented in the exhibition include José Alicea, López Alomar, Luis Alonso, Isabel Bernal, Gloria Rodríguez Calero, Jose Rosa Castellanos, Fran Cervoni, Wilfredo Chiesa, Gilberto Hernandez, Lorenzo Homar, Carlos Irizarry, Antonio Martorell, Rafael Rivera Rosa, Fernando Salicrup, Carmelo Sobrino, Jorge Soto, Rafael Tufiño, and Manuel Vega.

Drawn from an impressive print collection formed and recently donated to the William Paterson University Galleries by artist Gloria Rodríguez Calero in memory of her late husband Angelo Antolino and in honor of Professor Anreus, these works capture the issues and reflect the conscience of Puerto Ricans living on the island and in the diaspora over a half century when graphic design became entwined with the movement for independence. Central to this focus on printmaking was the development of one of the most sophisticated and effective uses of the silkscreen (serigraphy) technique.

The commitment of Latin American graphic artists to independence is visible through the use of indigenous, pre-Columbian, as well as African-derived imagery; signs of national identity and pride in resisting Spanish colonialism and the U.S. occupation of the island. Recognizable imagery pays tribute to the September 23, 1868 Lares uprising and the patriots Ramón Emeterio Betances and Segundo Ruiz Belvis, labor leaders and social rights activists including Luisa Capateillo, Juana Colón, and Simón Bolivar, and Puerto Rican flags. Other familiar cultural iconography includes the vejigante, a folkloric character mainly seen during carnival time in Puerto Rico, and carved wooden saints hand-painted in the folk art tradition.

The designs on view are as diverse as the subjects, ranging from abstraction to figuration, silkscreen to offset to computer techniques, and from the bold colors of the Puerto Rican flag to dreamy, psychedelic rainbows of hues. According to Anreus, “These works are beautiful examples of graphic design and screen printing art, but they are also more than that. The iconography and images celebrate and affirm a sense of identity based on social justice and independence which are clearly evident in the Taino and vejigante images and noble portraits of Betances and Albizu Campos.”

In addition to individuals, these posters pay tribute to the academic institutions and printmaking communities that supported and provided exposure to Latin American graphic artists during the late 20th and early 21st centuries, including Colibri Gallery, El Museo del Barrio, Escuela de Artes Plásticas, Taller de Artes Graficas, Institute of Puerto Rican Culture, Taller Bija, Taller Boricua, and Taller Lagartijo Magenta, among others.

El Cartel is one of three exhibitions on view concurrently in the William Paterson University Galleries. Ink, Press, Repeat: National Juried Printmaking and Book Art Exhibition will be on view in the Court Gallery from January 30 - March 24, 2023. The exhibition was juried by artist and master printmaker Susan J. Goldman and showcases a variety of print media by 50 artists including etching, intaglio, lithography, monoprint, screen printing, and woodcuts.

This exhibition is supported in part by funds from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts. The William Paterson University Galleries are wheelchair-accessible. Large-print educational materials are available. For additional information, please call the William Paterson University Galleries at 973-720-2654.