Papo Colo

(born 1947, Santurce, Puerto Rico; lives and works in New York, New York and Puerto Rico)

Papo Colo works in a variety of media including painting, graphic design, performance, and theater. A co-founder of the alternative art center Exit Art (1984–2012) and a founder of the arts organization Cultural Space (1991–93), Colo views his professional activities in a political light. He states: “I am an artist that is a cultural impresario…. Puerto Ricans are boxers, baseball players, but they never got to cut the cake…. So I decided to be an impresario as a political statement.”

Colo’s often endurance-based performance works also refer to socio-political realities. In Superman 51 (1977), for example, he ran down the deserted West Side Highway dragging behind him 51 wooden sticks attached to his body. Written on each of the sticks was the name of a state as well as that of Puerto Rico, Colo’s birthplace. He performed this action several times to protest the rejection of President Gerald Ford’s proposal to grant statehood to Puerto Rico in 1976. In Jumping Fences (2007),he jumped 51 fences in New York and around the world, wearing a mask-like disguise, to call attention to the ways in which fences and borders divide human communities.


Papo Colo’s practice includes painting and graphic design but also extends to performance art and theater. He founded the arts organizations Cultural Space and Trickster Theater as well as cofounding the interdisciplinary art center Exit Art. His solo exhibitions include Jumping the Fences, Galeria de la Raza, San Francisco (2009); Paintings, Tyler School of Art, Temple University, Elkins Park, PA (1997); Will, Power, and Desire, 1976–86, Exit Art, New York (1986); Lost and Gained Paradise, Just Above Midtown Gallery, New York (1982); Untitled / Anonymous, El Museo del Barrio, New York (1980); and Contradiction, Spanish Institute, New York (1977). Select group exhibitions include 100 Years (version #2, ps1, nov 2009), P.S.1 Contemporary ArtCenter, Long Island City, NY (2009); Negritude,Exit Art, New York (2009); Arte ≠ Vida, El Museodel Barrio, New York (2008); Re-Shuffle: Notions of an Itinerant Museum, Art in General, New York(2006); The Downtown Show, Grey Art Gallery,New York University (2006); globe>miami<island,Bass Museum of Art, Miami Beach, FL (2001); Will/Power, Wexner Center for the Arts, OhioState University, Columbus (1992); NY: The Next Generation, Carnegie Mellon Art Gallery, Pittsburgh (1991); Out of Abstraction, Islip Art Museum, East Islip, NY (1990); Dirty Pictures, White Columns, New York (1982); Illegal America, Franklin Furnace, New York (1982); Ritual and Rhythm, Kenkeleba House, New York (1982); VARS at JAM, Just Above Midtown Gallery, New York (1981); Marking Black, Bronx Museum of the Arts, Bronx, NY; Variations on Latin Themes in NY, Center for Inter-American Relations, New York (1978); and Roots and Visions, Smithsonian Institute, Washington, DC (1977).

Interview with Papo Colo (audio)

Papo Colo in conversation with Martha Scott Burton, Studio Museum Curatorial Intern, August 2013