MoMA PS1 exhibition of early works by Puerto Rican artist Papo Colo is centered around his Superman 51. In this 1977 performance the artist drags a collection of fifty-one wooden sticks attached to his body with ropes, as he runs shirtless down a deserted stretch of Manhattan’s West Side Highway until collapsing from exhaustion.
Colo performed this symbolic action several times to protest the rejection of President Gerald Ford’s proposal to grant Puerto Rico statehood in 1976.
The Cleaner, his latest performance is also part of the show. But outside PS1's walls. It will take place in New York’s Chelsea neighborhood. To be more precise, on the corner of 23rd Street and 10th Avenue each Saturday through July 4, between 4pm and 6pm.
Just like his endurance-based Superman 51, this new street performance also refers to socio-political realities. It connects money laundering issues in Latin American tax havens to the stereotype of Latinos working as “cleaners” in the American economy. “Wearing a white suit and Panama hat, Colo will mop and scrub the sidewalk before placing fifty dollar coins on the ground, which he will then proceed to clean one by one.”
“I am an artist that is a cultural impresario,” he once stated. [...] “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.”
Papo Colo, MoMA PS1, Queens. Through August 29.