Fernando Palma Rodríguez (Mexican, b. 1957) combines his training as an artist and mechanical engineer to create robotic sculptures that utilize custom software to perform complex, narrative choreographies. His works respond to issues facing indigenous communities in Mexico, addressing human and land rights, violence, and urgent environmental crises. Palma Rodríguez lives in the agricultural region of Milpa Alta outside Mexico City, where he runs Calpulli Tecalco, a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation of Nahua language and culture. This marks the first solo museum exhibition of the artist's work in the US.
Central to the Palma Rodríguez’s practice is an emphasis on indigenous ancestral knowledge, both as an integral part of contemporary life and a way of shaping the future. Drawing on Aztec mythology and pictorial codices—as well as colonial histories—his works reframe language through the physical activation of these linguistic symbols. He often brings together evolving traditions with present-day concerns through a mix of cultural references and materials, from robotic constructions and found objects (work boots and sewing machines) to organic materials (seeds, soil, and feathers). Through their constant and complex movements, these works transform seemingly static symbols into active agents.
The exhibition includes works made over the past two decades, several of which have been recently restored in collaboration with engineering students at Universidad Tecnológica de Valles Centrales de Oaxaca as part of his recent retrospective exhibition at the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca, Guex Liu, Kuu ñunro, Totlahuan, organized by Oliver Martínez Kandt.
Fernando Palma Rodríguez lives and works in San Pedro Atocpan, Mexico. He was the subject of a retrospective at Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca (2017). His work has been included in group exhibitions at FRAC des Pays de la Loire, Carquefou, France (2016); Parallel Oaxaca, Mexico (2016); Nottingham Contemporary, England (2015); the Biennial of the Americas, Denver, Colorado (2015); Museo Universitario del Chopo, Mexico City, Mexico (2014); and SITE Santa Fe, New Mexico (2014).
Fernando Palma Rodríguez: In Ixtli in Yollotl, We the People is organized by Ruba Katrib, Curator, MoMA PS1, with Oliver Shultz, Curatorial Assistant, MoMA PS1.
Special thanks to Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca.