Pepón Osorio’s (Santurce, Puerto Rico, 1955) work is what might be called a story of everyday life of Latinos in the United States. The artist observes, investigates and analyses the daily lives of his neighbours with a working methodology similar to that of a sociologist. His work transforms private stories into works of art that function as a reflection of the group.
The wide range of subjects allows his work to establish socio-political, emotional, cultural and historically complex links. Osorio deals with issues such as AIDS, racism, sexism, social stereotypes, generational relations within families displaced from their original environment, identity issues within the varied and numerous Latino community in the United States, and the lack of sensitivity the media has towards these issues. Along with this, the notion of saturation produced by the horror vacui (fear of emptiness) that dominates the design of his work and his willingness to bring his pieces to the community -exhibiting in various places that are not necessarily part of the art circle - make his artistic contemplations a study of subcultures and their manifestations.
In the video installation Medalla de honor (1995) Osorio addresses the intergenerational relationships of a Puerto Rican family based on a dialogue of an incarcerated father with his child. The piece involves the recreation of this conversation and the two environments determined by their protagonists: the austere cell and teen’s colourful room, a standard model of young United States Latinos. Pepón Osorio is particularly interested in family and domestic spheres, moving from the individual to the collective. This principle is present in the other two studies that complete this exhibition: Miedo y negación (1997) and Canción de cuna para una madre (1998).
The first is about the growing rejection of kitsch, like mass produced trinkets made into objects-icons that excessively decorate houses and in no apparent order. Osorio creates a metaphor that shows cultural shocks triggered by new generations that adopt new aesthetic conventions and rejects the family tradition of decorative objects, mass consumer goods which have been loaded with cultural and sentimental content and eventually form part of the family memorabilia. The video installation Canción de cuna para una madre points to the problem of teenage pregnancy among Latino families. Again he uses the real case of a 15-year-old mother which he aims to make a universal theme, to show the reality of Latinos in the United States.
The proposal and design of his pieces, always with hybrid art forms -performance, dance, video, painting, sculpture, theatre- serve Osorio to raise many questions whose answer lies in the recognition of art as a space for the interpretation of History.
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