Eleta J. Caldwell and Rodney M. Gilbert Memorial Gallery

Two Spirits Takeaway and Promo Image low res

Two Spirits

Curated by Jo-El Lopez
Eleta J. Caldwell and Rodney M. Gilbert Memorial Gallery, Gallery Aferro
April 7 – May 26, 2018
Opening Reception April 7th 7-10pm @ Gallery Aferro

Featured Artists:
Luis Carle
Gerardo Castro

Though in Western tradition, gender is understood as male and female, many world cultures, especially Native American culture, do not have such a precise division. Instead there is provision for, movement back and forth between genders. “Two Spirits” refers not just to the two artists exhibiting, but also evokes a body simultaneously housing both a masculine and a feminine spirit. This exhibit is also inspired by the interplay between spirituality, activism, and queerness, as seen in the longing felt by many people of indigenous descent to connect to this earlier, lost heritage.

Borinquen artists Geraldo Castro and Luis Carle’s works evidence how the radical influences pop culture, including ongoing pushback and questioning of gender roles. Castro painting of visually masculine nude men adorned in feminine trappings juxtaposes roles and notions of traditional beauty. Photographer Luis Carle’s nostalgic imagery recorded gay life and activism in New York City in the early eighties, and revisiting this work now reminds us of the necessity of more activism, as we see what has changed and what has not.

These Two Spirits, and other men like them, take on an important role in the art community; they are healers, visionaries and valued for their balanced perception of existence and a way of being.

Luis Carle was born in Puerto Rico and moved to New York City in 1984. Carle first studied photography at Parsons School of Design and worked as artist and photographer’s assistant to various well-known photographers including Rebecca Blake, Michel Haddi, Mark Liddell, Arturo Melero and others. In the 1990s, Mr. Carle started working for various magazines and newspapers including: Latina Magazine, CRN Magazine, Footwear News, El Diario La Prensa, San Juan Star and El Nuevo Día. Mr. Carle joined advertising campaigns like Cutty Sark, AT&T, OBRI Cosmetics, and participated in many documentary films. In 1992 he founded and directed O.P. Art, Inc. (The Organization of Puerto Rican Artists, Inc.), a not-for-profit artist’s collective, that has been recognized as an important source of Latin art by the New York Regional Center of the Smithsonian Institute (1999), The Museum of Modern Art (2006), the NYC Library, and accepted by NYFA’s Fiscal Sponsorship program. Luis was the visual arts curator for the NuyoRican Poets Café in the East Village, New York.

Carle’s photographs have captured the essence of a life well lived and have been included in The New York Times, Daily News and other art magazines. His artwork has appeared in galleries and museums in New York, including the Museo del Barrio’s first S-Files Biennial (1999), The African American Museum, Centro Gallery at the Center for Puerto Rican Studies (Hunter College), MOCADA: Museum of Contemporary African Diaspora Arts, and The Museum of Modern Art; and abroad, in The Caribbean Museum (St. Croix, Virgin Islands), Museo of Contemporary Arts (Puerto Rico), Museo de las Americas (Puerto Rico), The Hague Arts Center (The Hague, Netherlands) and the Sarkowsky Gallery (St Petersburg, Russia). He has photographs in the permanent collections of The National Portrait Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution (Washington DC) and the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art (New York).

He writes: “For decades, the dominant cultural image of masculinity has included heterosexuality, physical strength, financial success, having many children, manly mannerisms and not crying or showing emotion. Society has coded intellect, passivity, softness, emotional intelligence, compassion, care-taking, and sensitivity as feminine, and therefore weak. Being masculine or feminine doesn’t make us less of a man or a woman. Masculinity is not inherently better than femininity; the two are different, and both hold special, powerful aspects. In the Latino culture there’s a belief that men need to be hyper-masculine, domineering, controlling, and without the slightest hint of femininity.”

Gerardo Castro was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico and earned his MFA from Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY in 1996. His work has been exhibited locally, nationally and internationally, including Cuba, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Spain, and major US Cities. For close to 20 years Gerardo taught Color Theory, Design and Painting courses at New Jersey City University, Jersey City, and has lectured on the influence of Santeria and other Afro-Cuban religions on contemporary art. In 2008, Gerardo and his partner opened an art supply store, Newburgh Art Supply in Newburgh NY, where he currently resides. Castro organizes the yearly Newburgh Open Studios tour, now in its 8th year and also curates The Lightbulb Project 2012 /2018, a public art project, where 104 artists painted 4-foot wooden light bulbs as a Public Art event in Newburgh, NY.

Castro has exhibited in the following selected art shows, galleries and museums. Biblioteca Nacional, Havana Cuba; Wilmer Jennings Gallery NY, SOMArts Cultural Center, San Francisco, Human Rights Institute, Kean University, NJ: Aphrodisiac ‘Agua’, Santo Domingo, DR; In Search of Queer Gods, Root Division, San Francisco, Museum of the History of Ponce, PR, Social Justice: St. Mary’s College Museum of Art, Morago, CA; Niger to Afrofuturism, Westfield State University, Westfield, MA; The World After January 20, 2017, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY.

In Castro’s current series, rather than concealing features that would be deemed unattractive beneath the male gaze, he glorifies them, posing questions around whether masculinity is nature or nurture; passed down through generation to generation, or individually assumed and often hidden behind. Castro has created images rooted in ethnicity and gender as well as culturally dominant fantasies about masculinity and sexuality that have escaped the trappings of popularized constructions of Latino identity; work that enables a connection to history and his roots, a courageous confrontation of meaning and mysticism. Castro seeks to uncover the hidden culture of machismo, a conflict between two identities; gay and Latino: a tension between identity and reality that can be incredibly detrimental to the Latino community; tragedy of machismo is that a man is never quite man enough.



Curated by Jo-El Lopez
Eleta J. Caldwell and Rodney M. Gilbert Memorial Gallery, Gallery Aferro
April 7 – May 26, 2018
73 Market Street, Newark NJ
Opening Reception April 7th 7-10pm @ Gallery Aferro

Featured Artists:
Juan Gutiérrez
Ernesto Rodríguez
Wali Vidal

In the Spanish language DIMELO means “tell it to me” or in the colloquial terms: “talk to me”. Artists Ernesto Rodríguez, born in 1964, Juan Guitiérrez, born in 1968, and Wali Vidal, born in 1982, all in Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic, use traditional and modern artforms to describe a new moment of globalization, dismantling stereotypes and inviting street viewers inside Caribbean culture.

Juan Guitiérrez studied plastics Arts at Escuela de Bellas Artes, and maintains ongoing studies at Altos de Chavon in Dominican Republic, which is associated with Parsons, The New School for Design. He has been exhibiting since 1996, in solo and group exhibitions nationally and internationally. He was the recipient of a prize given by the Governor of Maryland, for his support, through artmaking, of women with AIDS.

Ernesto Rodríguez is a multidisciplinary artist, working in materials such as wood, clothes, metal, mud, etc. He has exhibited and traveled extensively including at Centro Eduardo Leon Jimenez, Dominican Republic, the Bienal Nacional de Artes Visuales, and in Rome, Italy. Rodriguez is also considered as one of the most important ceramic artists of the Dominican Republic. He is also a cultural manager and has worked on educational projects in different places including Rafey Prision, located in Santiago de Los Caballeros, Community Center Centro Cumunal Puertoriqueño, located in Puerto Rico and at workshops given in New York City, NY, USA.

Wali Vidal was born in Santiago in 1982. From a very young age he was interested in arts, participating in workshops with prominent artists. During 2001 to 2002 he was introduced to the technique of lost wax by the artist Leo Núñez. Later on from 2003 to 2005 Wali Vidal took ceramics with the artist Ernesto Rodríguez, and in the fall of 2006 he completed a workshop in Criticism of Artworks at the San Alejandro School of Art, Habana, Cuba. At the end of the same year he returned to Dominican Republic where he took engraving, installation and video art clinics with the artists Carmelo Sobrino, Pepón Osorio and José Alejandro Restrepo at Centro León, Santiago. To formalize his studies, Wali applied to the School of Design Altos de Chavón in La Romana, Dominican Republic obtaining an A.A.S. degree in arts in 2010. He has participated in national and international art projects including at the Center of Culture of Santiago and at the Theater House of Santo Domingo, Lex56 Art Studio, New York, NY, Centro León, Santiago, Center City Gallery, NJ, and the Bronx Museum, New York, NY. In 2010 his painting “La Escolta” became part of “Genesis and Trajectory”, Permanent Exhibition at Centro Leon, Santiago.


Well Hung

a Multifaceted Interrogation of Stereotypes

Eleta J. Caldwell and Rodney M. Gilbert Memorial Gallery, Gallery Aferro
February 10 – March 16, 2018
Curated by Jo-El Lopez
Opening Reception February 10th 7-10pm @ Gallery Aferro

Participating Artists:
Mashell Black
Anthony E. Boone
Willie Cole
Kevin Darmanie
Victor Davson
Jerry Gant
Steve Green
Ben F. Jones
Suliman Onque
Ron Powell
Kern Samuel
Ceaphas Stubbs

Gallery Aferro and Newark Arts are honoring the lives of two powerful and much-beloved Newark culture workers: Rodney Gilbert (July 27, 1967- November 8, 2017) and Eleta J. Caldwell (June 13, 1945 – December 13, 2017). Ms. Caldwell was Mr. Gilbert’s teacher, and both were working artists passionately committed to cultural leadership in Newark, and to mentorship of the artistically inclined youth of the community. The new Memorial Gallery, located within Gallery Aferro’s downtown location at 73 Market Street, is an intimate space appropriate for visual arts exhibits, poetry readings, screenings, and other sorts of gatherings where people connect with ideas and each other. The gallery is a place to linger, and a place for remembering.

The public is joyfully invited to join us on February 10 for the gallery dedication and opening reception curated by Jo-El Lopez, as well as two other exciting exhibitions. RSVP is not required and there is no charge to attend and enjoy.

The inaugural exhibition, running February 10 – March 16, 2018, curated by Gilbert’s friend and colleague Jo-El Lopez, explores Black male identity and showcases the talents of local, Black male artists. Lopez writes: “My friend Rodney Gilbert and I spoke about creating the “Well Hung” show numerous times before he passed away this December. The title that I suggested in jest took on a life of its own as we spoke about the overwhelming need to highlight nuanced portrayals of African-American male identities. He reminded me of the importance of creating an art show like this. He wanted to take on a powerful stereotype and give it a totally different direction. I want to create something influential, evidencing an extraordinary range of personalities, impulses, and ideas too complex to ever be contained or constrained. This show in Rodney’s memory is about the African-American Male artist: his power, identity, joy and his trajectory for the future.

In selecting these artists, ranging from established, mid-career, emerging and novice, I focused on artists who have had positive influences and are great role models to their community. Our working definition of these criteria differs from the reactive pressures sometimes put on artists to make exclusively “affirming images;” we instead find that when people are their most authentic, idiosyncratic and personal, they lead the way by showing others that it is possible to live freely.”

For Gilbert and Caldwell’s contemporaries and (now-grown) mentees, the dedication of the gallery is evidence that another new generation of youth will be inspired by the lives these two led, what they accomplished and the example of public service they modeled. Gallery Aferro, being close to Arts High School, is a frequent destination for students to visit, both informally as well as with field trips, and as such is a space where moments of inspiration and discovery happen for youth on the verge of believing they, too, can succeed. As an LGBTQ-led space, we also can honor the legacy of those who lead proud, out, professional lives. Planned exhibits throughout 2018 showcase the extraordinary talent and stylistic range of Newark-affiliated artists.

About Ms. Caldwell: Born in Chapel Hill, NC, Eleta J. Caldwell moved to Newark in the late 1940’s and graduated from Arts High School. She began drawing at age 3 and went on to earn a Bachelors and a Masters of Fine Arts from Montclair State University. She began her teaching career at Weequaic High School and then went on to Arts High School, where she was first a teacher, then a Department Chair, and then the principal. She began exhibiting her work in the 1970’s with Gladys Barker Grauer’s AARD Gallery, and exhibited extensively including at the Newark Museum, the Studio Museum in Harlem, City Without Walls, Clocktower Gallery, Art in the Atrium, and others. She dedicated most of her work, time, and life to the city of Newark, NJ, and is remembered as a tireless and powerful mentor, advocate, and culture worker by countless former students as well as by her colleagues. Eleta wrote: “My parents raised six children with love and respect. My father was a Pullman Porter, while my mother worked occasionally her primary obligation was the home. It was a major sin to be “idle” in my household. My father would give you a boring domestic chore if he caught you doing nothing. Therefore we all had interests: reading, art, sewing or music. We had a great deal of freedom, and that freedom was based on trust and respect. Art has always been my first love. During junior year my college class visited West Kinney Jr. High to observe a class and I was assigned an art class (of course), and I fell in love! I loved the teaching, the atmosphere, and especially the aura emanated by the students and their teacher. I felt a strong connection to my hometown, the city of Newark, where I received a great education. How better to give back to the city than to teach- I’m so glad I did it! I created my art while I pursued my teaching- it was an excellent marriage. I believe education is synonymous with experience. For me, exhibiting and teaching go hand in hand. I wanted to give my students a broader experience. Art was my tool to emphasize a holistic approach that combined creativity and critical thinking. I began painting in a representational genre; I loved the African and American face and figure. My family members were often the subject for my figurative works and portraits. I drew and painted Black faces incessantly. My work started to lean towards a more abstract presentational style. I painted women and our contributions, historically, spiritually and physically. I still focus on women’s unrecognized contributions but now employ mixed media to broaden my statements.”

About Mr. Gilbert: In 2003 Rodney M. Gilbert founded Yendor Productions in Newark, NJ to meet the challenges of the underserved artists and communities. As CEO of Yendor Productions he developed, oversaw, and produced arts education programming and events and consulted on numerous projects. As one of the leading teaching artists in the tristate area, he provided acting instruction for numerous institutions. A professor in the Theatre Department of Drew University, an arts educator for the Kennedy Center’s Wolftrap Program, and the Director of the Writers Program for Playwrights Theater, he developed the afterschool arts education program “ZOOM” for the City of Newark, NJ and provided professional development for the Caucus Educational Corporation’s Stand and Deliver Program. He conducted workshops as far as Johannesburg, South Africa.

As the Senior Program Manager for the Newark Murals Program, He was directly responsible for many of the murals that enhance the esthetic of the City of Newark. He advocated tirelessly for equal pay for artists raising awareness for a better Newark through the Arts. He curated many art shows throughout the City of Newark focusing on new and developing artists as well as showing established ones. Yendor Productions provided many arts activities to Newark children in the form of outdoor activities as well as summer arts programs. Mr. Gilbert, a Newark Arts High School graduate, earned a BFA from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia in 1989. A member of the Actors Equity Association, a Leadership Newark Fellow, and a Audelco Award Nominee and recipient of numerous awards including the Civic Engagement by Drew University. In 2014, he was appointed by Mayor Ras J. Baraka to serve as one of the first members of the City of Newark’s LGBTQ commission.

In remembering and honoring both Ms. Caldwell and Mr. Gilbert, we are inspired by how many lives they were able to make a positive impact on, and by how affectionately, and vividly, both are remembered by so many people.