Pepón Osorio’s big heart

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The artist with the biggest heart in town is Pepon Osorio. I am not even referring to his big paper-covered heart sculpture, My Beating Heart, one of three older pieces showcased right now at Taller Puertorriqueno.  I am talking about Osorio himself.

Pepon Osorio, My Beating Heart, mixed mediums, 2000, speakers with sound, archival paper, acrylic, fiber glass, 72 x 65 inches in diameter
Pepon Osorio, My Beating Heart, mixed mediums, 2000, speakers with sound, archival paper, acrylic, fiber glass, 72 x 65 inches in diameter

Speaker at Moore College

First, the news. He will be speaking at Moore College of Art and Design Sunday, 1:30 pm. The event is free and open to the public.

An installation by Katie Brown at Moore College's thesis show. Brown will be one of the two students representing Moore in 5 into 1.
An installation by Katie Brown at Moore College’s thesis show. Brown will be one of the two students representing Moore in 5 into 1.

His talk is part of the Philadelphia Sculptors annual meeting, and the kick-off of the reception for 5 Into 1, the annual PS juried show of work from two graduating students from each of the five big art schools in town–Moore, Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Tyler School of Art, University of the Arts, and the University of Pennsylvania. The exhibit, which opens today, will run to June 20, 2009, and was curated by Jen Willett, the first graduate of Moore’s Curatorial Studies program. (For more information: 215-413-9126).

Osorio, who has a big international reputation, will be talking about his recent projects and interventions here in Philadelphia, where he resides.

In Loving Memory of…

Pepon Osorio, a banner right outside Taller Puertorriqueno on North 5th Street, from the In Loving Memory of... project.
Pepon Osorio, a banner right outside Taller Puertorriqueno on North 5th Street, from the In Loving Memory of… project.

In his latest project, Osorio has been conducting a series of dinners in the homes of people who have suffered from violence, listening to what they have to say. In this posture of listening, he has achieved something that art-cooker Rikrit Tiravanija has only hinted at–how to bring not only life’s daily experiences into art, but how to bring the whole community and its culture into art and vice versa. If you’ve seen banners with quotations about loss of a loved one in Spanish and/or English around the North Philadelphia Latino community, they are part of Osorio’s ongoing project, In Loving Memory of…

I don’t know what the final product will be, but I do know this is an outgrowth of what Osorio sees around him–the violence and its aftermath that has permeated the Puerto Rican community in Philadelphia.

Teimbol at Taller

The presence of this major artist–for starters, he won a Pew and a MacArthur– in a neighborhood art center, Taller Puertorriqueno, is typical of him, as was his installation a year earlier, at the Lighthouse, another neighborhood institution.

I stopped in Taller yesterday to see his exhibit Teimbol, a slang word used on the playground that means Time Out. As I looked at the three objects in the exhibit, I couldn’t help but think that My Beating Heart, the giant, pinata-like sculpture with the thumping sound effects, is the perfect metaphor for the man himself. That it evokes traditional bleeding heart imagery is the capper. This piece was shown in Philadelphia at the ICA in conjunction with Osorio’s massive installation Trials and Turbulence. It seems more powerful to me as it is displayed at Taller, as a stand-alone object.

The spare display of the three items at Taller is atypical of Osorio, who is known for using accumulations of objects in overwrought installations to make his point.


Pepon Osorio, detail of Mangual, as installed at Taller.

The video, Mangual, a detail from his larger installation Las Twines (1998), also stands up well by standing alone. It is the same video that showed last year at the Crane Arts Center in From Taboo to Icon: Africanist Turnabout. That version was in a smaller frame with an oval gilt mat (I loved that small oval window, which turned the video into an antique portrait). The larger rectangular gilt frame plays up the video/tv shape. Mangual, by the simplest of means–a dark-skinned man scrubbing off white-face makeup–raises issues of race, skin color, self-loathing and identity.

Pepon Osorio, To My Darling Daughters, mixed media installation, 1990, 36 x 74 x 28 inches
Pepon Osorio, To My Darling Daughters, mixed media installation, 1990, 36 x 74 x 28 inches

The third piece, To My Darling Daughters, is an earlier piece, a mixed media installation from 1990. It is a used sofa embroidered with parting words from a mother to here daughters.

Pepon Osorio, detail To My Darling Daughters, mixed media installation, 1990, 36 x 74 x 28 inches
Pepon Osorio, detail To My Darling Daughters, mixed media installation, 1990, 36 x 74 x 28 inches

The sofa is decorated with small family keepsakes–braids of hair, little portraits and plastic flowers. (The installation provides an English translation of the Spanish embroidered text). This piece takes the universal sadness of the mother’s words and act into the particular and personal and the ethnic, with the braids and sentimental bits of kitsch.

Osorio knows how to break a heart, and as always, even in this relatively small show, he is worth your taking time out for him.

Tags

5 into 1, pepon osorio, philadelphia sculptors, taller puertorriqueno

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