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Art Journal

Nuyorican Baroque: Pepon Osorio's Chucherias

Anna Indych

April 1, 2001
Copyright © 2001 Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All Rights Reserved.
Copyright © 2001 College Art Association of America Spring 2001. All Rights Reserved.

(Pages 72-83)

Pepon Osorio's knick-knack--encrusted objects and installations represent a visually potent engagement with Puerto Rican popular culture on the mainland and, more specifically, are the products of the artist's own experiences living and working in the barrios of New York City. Born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, Osorio moved to New York in 1975 at the age of twenty. For the past fifteen years, he has been creating artwork marked by his signature style, a visual overload of tchotchkas, plastic toys, Puerto Rican flags, tourist and religious kitsch items, and products "made in Korea." His adoption of this kitsch aesthetic has prompted one critic to call his work "plastic heaven"1 and one curator to title his 1991 retrospective at El Museo del Barrio in New York, "con to' los hierros"-a Puerto Rican expression loosely translated as "giving it all you've got." Disrupting normative distinctions of taste and high art, Osoric uses kitsch to engage with the complicated formation of lower- and middleclass Puerto Rican identity and to forge a self-conscious strategy of cultural resistance.

In his book Kitsch: The World of Bad Taste, Gillo Dorfles attempts to define the etymology of the word kitsch:

Certain writers claim that the word derives from the English 'sketch' while others attribute it to the German verb etwas verkitschen (knock off cheaply). Giesz attributes it to kitschen, meaning den Strassen-schlamm zusammenscharren, literally to `collect rubbish from the street' which in effect is the interpretation closest to the concept of artistic rubbish and might be linked to the term junk art. The latter term has been used by English and American writers for a certain type of art which makes use of refuse taken bodily from the rubbish dump.2

Other scholars claim that the word kitsch is rooted in a particular seventeenth-century baroque style of architecture. And in the twentieth century, intellectuals have most often used the term to define popular culture as bad taste. For Clement Greenberg, writing in 1939, kitsch represented the encroachment of the culture of the masses into high art. For the elite, kitsch is that which is false or inauthentic, that which becomes the simulacrum or a cheap knock-off.

But kitsch has also taken on different meanings over time, place, and context, and each manifestation involves the adoption of a different sign system and a different set of significations based on individual social and historical circumstances. While all kitsch stems from the heightened visibility of class differences, Latin American and Latino kitsch is historically and politically distinctive vis-a-vis the added layer of centuries of colonialism. Some writers trace a history of Latin American kitsch back to the colonial encounter of indigenous craftsmen with European masters. The intricate new style characterized by gilded surfaces, veneer inlays, cutout designs, and distinctively hybrid ornate objects created by mestizo artists in seventeenth- and eighteenthcentury New Spain is often seen as the historical precedent to a contemporary notion of kitsch in Latin American countries.3

Latin American and Latino artists have engaged with various kitsch aesthetics, each indicative of distinct historical circumstances and cultural practices. As Coco Fusco has maintained, "nearly every Latin American culture has one or many terms to describe what in the Euro-American context is called kitsch"; cursi and naco are examples of two such terms. Tomas Ybarra-Frausto has written on the subject of rasquachismo--the Chicano form of kitsch.4 Like its Puerto Rican counterpart, rasquachismo- springs from an underclass immigrant culture, yet maintains certain roots in the homeland. Both are hybrid constructions, the result of culture clash in this country, and both are also concerned with similar ends-the disruption of codes and the blurring of distinctions. But each signifies in different ways and results in a slightly different accumulation of elements. Rasquachismo, for example, seems to be rooted in more native traditions and places more emphasis on the handmade and the folk, while Puerto Rican kitsch tends to embrace the imported, the plastic, the mass-produced, and the industrial. Examples of Chicano rasquachismo- as a spontaneous cultural form are the many altars or ofrendas created by the Mexican community for Day of the Dead celebrations. The installation work of Amalia Mesa-Bains is exemplary of artists who engage with this tendency.

Various versions of kitsch practices and aesthetics can also be identified in Cuba. With the island's status as a U.S. playground and vacation spot in the 1950s, "a certain carnival kitsch," as Osvaldo Sanchez termed it, evolved in conjunction with the spectacle of the nightclubs.5 Prerevolutionary Cuba became the mythic setting for a violent desire to become other, a feat achieved in fabulous nightclubs like the Tropicana. The bad taste encompassed by the carnivalesque, Las Vegas-style exhibitionism in Havana, however, had more to do with U.S. projections and desires than with Cuban realities. In Cuba, the word used most often to refer to bad taste is picuo. But this term seems to be less pejorative than other incarnations. Linked with romantic nostalgia and the memory of prerevolutionary times, it is not only often used more affectionately, but seems to describe a popular, rather than massproduced, aesthetic.

Luis Camnitzer has explored what he calls the kitsch stream in Cuban art of the 1980s.6 These artists, however, tend toward a more conceptual treatment of kitsch, as is evidenced by the work of Flavio Garciandia and Arturo Cuenca. In his series, The Catalogue of Bad Forms (1982), Garciandia approaches theoretical issues of popular taste as they relate to the art market, while Cuenca's use of kitsch is the result of a longstanding interest in perception and cognition.7

In her book Megalopolis, Celeste Olalquiaga suggests that "the habit of simultaneously processing different cultures in Latin America anticipated postmodern pastiche and recycling to the point where it could be affirmed that Latin American culture, like most postcolonial or marginalized cultures, was in some ways postmodern before the First World, a pre-postmodernity, so to speak."8 The desire to ascribe a logic of origins is a result of Olalquiaga's attempt to recuperate what dominant culture describes as a primitive or naive cultural trait. But her suggestion of an avant la lettre postmodernity in Latin America still defines marginalized culture according to First World paradigms and results in a transhistorical characterization. In addition, her intellectualization of certain aesthetic practices, such as kitsch, forces them into elite notions of parodic distance. As such, kitsch is formulated as a cool intellectual distancing mechanism, a strategy not often put to use in real lived experience. (In other words, Olalquiaga is optimistic about the radical potential of some uses of kitsch in Latin America. While I would acknowledge those same practices of resistance, one must be careful not to overtheorize and overdetermine their potential.) Nonetheless, her discussion of the particular political strategies behind the adoption of a kitsch aesthetic is particularly useful.

It is within the emergence of a hybrid culture that certain baroque patterns of excessive decoration become characteristic of contemporary urban practices. The ersatz aesthetic associated with Puerto Rican popular culture in New York can be seen as one of many responses to imposed culture, as well as the result of the need to forge a new identity in light of cultural and political marginalization. Exaggeration, hyperbole, and over-the-top embellishment with chucherias result not only in the adoption of what is normatively described as "bad" taste, but a spectacular delight in that disdained aesthetic. The excessive use of cheap plaster sculptures, for example, embodies the reworking

of the codes of an imposed culture. Beyond disrupting notions of good taste, plaster sculptures as appropriations and reappropriations of masterpieces provide access to high culture otherwise denied. Celebration of the massproduced item destabilizes categories previously thought to be steadfast and, in this sense, can be seen as a kind of resistance to or negotiation of imposed culture. The boundaries of high/low or fine art/mass reproduction do not only become slippery, but irrelevant.

Nuyorican kitsch, however, is best exemplified by the conflict between traditional and contemporary life. Often infused with a sense of personal memory, history, and nostalgia for the island, it adopts the visual and iconic qualities of Caribbean decoration. The vernacular of the Puerto Rican immigrant experience, one marked by dislocation, migration, and the constant possibility of returning, is particularly informative of urban realities. The elaboration of a familiar aesthetic (no matter how far removed) formulates one mechanism of distancing one's alien self from these global realities. The status of Puerto Ricans as part of the urban underclass of New York also highlights strategies of postindustrial pastiche as acts of subversion.9 In an otherwise unyielding technological cityscape, saturation and excess afford a certain amount of visibility, or self-imaging, in a society where their image is determined from above or from the outside.

These aspects are not meant to be read as immutable constructs. As Coco Fusco has indicated, "the high cultural appreciation of kitsch often imputes naivete to the original user or producer."10 I, on the other hand, wish to stress how kitsch is often deployed as a self-conscious gesture of cultural resistance. I also wish to emphasize the need to make distinctions between various manifestations of kitsch-especially the differences between its appearance in artistic practice and in everyday life. Cultural kitsch and kitsch appropriated for artistic use each serve different functions. The dynamic between cultural kitsch and artistic kitsch is embodied in Osorio's own position, which straddles the worlds of community activism and artistic production, and is also represented by his works, which are rooted in the community, but are often displayed in mainstream art institutions.

Osorio moved to New York in the wake of Minimalism and Conceptualism, two movements defined by their "less is more" sensibility. After receiving a bachelor's degree in sociology from Lehman College in the Bronx and a master's degree in art education from Teacher's College, Columbia University, he began to work primarily with Latino communities as a social worker for the child abuse prevention unit of the Human Resources Administration in New York. His experience as a social worker would lay the foundation for his later artistic collaborations with Puerto Rican/Latino communities.

In 1985 Osorio's artistic work shifted from a universalist style of abstract painting to his trademark embelequero approach. It is often repeated in the literature that his adoption of this visual idiom was precipitated by his encounters with the Nuyorican community.11 In addition to creating sculptures and installations based on Caribbean popular culture, he also forged a career as a stage set designer and performer. Crossing various genres and employing a multimedia approach, he formed Pepatian, a partnership with his wife, the choreographer Merian Soto. Many of the early ornamental objects he created were used first in their performances, which have their roots in Caribbean music, dance, popular art, and street carnivals.

La bicicleta (The Bicycle, 1985) is one of the first works Osorio created in his newly acquired visual language. In the catalogue for his retrospective at El Museo del Barrio, Susana Torruella Leval describes La bicicleta as a nostalgic tribute to Osorio's childhood in Puerto Rico in the 1950s and t96os, where he witnessed street vendors, knife grinders, and other peddlers who decorated their vehicles in their own personal style.12 He covered this bicycle with ribbons, flowers, plastic swans and palm trees, Kewpie dolls, a crucifix, a Chiclets box, beads, and pieces of reflective metallic tape. The decoration is so excessive that it renders the object impractical as a means of transportation; it is transformed into a personal shrine that is meant to be hung high from the ceiling. (Hanging from the ceiling can also refer to the necessity of finding alternative or creative storage devices in cramped urban apartments.)

In La cama (The Bed, 1987), Osorio uses the formal device of the bed to weave a personal narrative paying homage to two important women in his life: Juana HernAndez, the black nanny who raised him and died in 1982, and MeriAn Soto, whom he married the same year he created the work. La coma is a lavishly decorated four-poster bed, with a bedspread made of hundreds of stitched recuerdos or capias (party favors given in Puerto Rico at special ritual celebrations, such as birthdays, weddings, and baptisms) and a pillow case covered with popular religious iconography. The bed, therefore, is the site of various rites of passage rooted in Osorio's childhood experiences in Puerto Rico. The use of the recuerdos, a play on the other meaning of the word as "memory," serves a dual function as a decorative device and as a visual clue to the work's honorary nature. Leval, for example, describes Osorio's "vivid memories of sneaking into Juana's darkened room to rummage through the mysterious treasures in her dresser drawers: golden earrings, brightly colored baubles, pastel pearl necklaces, and strong smelling rouge.13 In this sense, Osorio pays homage to the woman who partially inspired his method of working.

On the bed's headboard is a picture of Soto as a ballerina, and on the reverse of the sun medallion is a picture of Osorio himself as a child in his Sunday best. Along the baseboard of the room in which the bed is presented is an inscription, a handwritten testimonial based on a dream in which he approached Hernandez on her deathbed and introduced her to Soto. La cama, therefore, is an intensely autobiographical work stressing and celebrating familial bonds in light of cultural displacement.

In 1988, Osorio created El chandelier (The Chandelier). A highly ornamented light fixture, it is covered with tassels, grass, dominoes, water guns, Saint Lazarus sculptures, plastic rhinos, giraffes, monkeys, and Puerto Rico's mascot-little frogs called coquis, after the sound they make. Joan Acocella gives a more precise description of this work of accumulated details:

The light bulbs (the kind which are fake candle flames) are surrounded with little plastic palm trees and set in golden cups from which Kewpie dolls peep out, some in turbans, some in straw hats. On every perch there hover white [swans and] little brown ballerinas. From every arm of the chandelier plastic babies dangle, wrapped in white blankets and tied with ribbons, some pink, some blue. Looping from arm to arm are swags of pearls, cascades of fringe, and sticking out here and there-the piece de resistance-are plastic fingernail extenders, disembodied fingertips with scarlet nails.14

Osorio was inspired to create this work after catching glimpses of ornate chandeliers inside apartments in housing projects in New York's Lower East Side. The chandeliers he encountered were self-fashioned creations of abundance in otherwise impoverished settings.

El Corolla Club (1989) similarly addresses the embellishment of scarce resources. Built from the windshield of a Toyota, the work is encrusted with air fresheners, plastic saint figures, tropical decals, images of Christ, and plastic spoons. Osorio has superimposed a photographic image behind the windshield, giving the impression of three-dimensional space. From behind the wheel, a man stares out as a Puerto Rican flag hangs from the rearview mirror. The man, a homeless Puerto Rican Vietnam veteran, collaborated with Osorio by helping him reconstruct this fantasy environment.

Because possessing a car is highly valued, many people spend substantial time taking care of that prized commodity. But with this work, Osorio reconsiders the significance of this basically male ritual, which, as Leval has observed, serves to equate a car with male potency.15 Through over-the-top decoration, excessive in its use of traditionally feminine details of pretty flowers and colors, Osorio offers a humorous parody of a highly gendered cultural practice. The tension between Puerto Rican masculinity and effeminate decoration will be an issue explored again in a later installation.

While Osorio's works tend to be visually seductive because of their elaborately decorated surfaces, they also reveal a harsher political message. As such, they reflect the cultural practice of using "ornament as a coping mechanism to the personal, economic and political violence that underlies it. 16 Kitsch becomes emblematic of a general fear of not having. As Arlene Raven writes, "To embellish for Puerto Ricans is to reinvent with what's there ... people living in deprivation comfort themselves with icons of richness, a metaphorical richness."17

In conversation, Osorio has mentioned the phenomenon of hoarding and buying by millions on the island--a practice that began in the wake of a serious depression in the 1940s and 1950s after the sugar market crashed." This practice, as he recounts, has become the reality of the material culture of the Puerto Rican middle class and has even extended to the mainland, when many Puerto Ricans overcompensated for what they lacked by hoarding commodities. In much of his work, Osorio uses the overabundance of collected objects to represent a general fear of not having-and the common phenomenon of aspiring to a higher class than one's own.

Since the mid -1980s, Osorio had engaged kitsch as a means of interrogating Puerto Rican identity and culture, working mostly with discrete objects. Scene of the Crime (Whose Crime?), created for the 1993 Whitney Biennial, was one of his first large multimedia installations and also marked his entrance into the mainstream art world. An interior that the artist has carefully crafted as a fanciful representation of a "typical" Puerto Rican home, this mythic domestic space is divided into two areas-living and dining rooms-both decorated in a hyperbolically gaudy style. The scene includes tacky red sateen curtains, a plastic-covered couch, goat horns, fake plants, plaster lawn statues of various saints and virgins, plaster wall mounts, a glittered mirror, numerous family photographs, chairs upholstered with the Puerto Rican flag, fake flowers, trophies, and wallpaper made from the covers of TV Guides and other magazines. The various lights and cameras also included signify an investigative crime scene.

The victim of the crime is a mannequin corpse lying face down, covered and roped off by police tape a symbol of Osorio's larger concern with the problem of the representation of Puerto Ricans and their culture. Through the tossed and broken items of furniture in this domestic interior, we are led to believe that the victim is the body of a woman who has been murdered by her husband. But as the work's title suggests, the question remains as to whose crime this scene represents. The title also beckons the viewer to question her or his own readiness to jump to conclusions.

After taking the time to set up this flamboyant scene, Osorio undercuts his stereotypical representation. He refuses figurative representation of the body; instead, the "only access to the Latino body is through means of objects in the domestic space"19-that is, the family photographs, sentimental bric a brac, trophies, and dining chairs silkscreened with the images of their usual inhabitants. The viewer occupies a liminal position with respect to the scene, negotiating her or his space through the give and take of these objects. Certain elements are displayed for our benefit, while others are just hidden from our lines of sight. Visual and spatial access is denied through the use of gates and yellow police tape. The focus of the narrative, the corpse, remains in the background.

But the welcome mat in front reads, "Only if you can understand that it has taken years of pain to gather into our homes our most valuable possessions; but the greater pain is to see how in the movies others make fun of the way we live." This sentence alludes to the representation of Puerto Ricans and other Latinos in U.S. culture. Its content is further buttressed by the columns of videotape boxes that literally bracket the installation. On these boxes, in which films that convey Latino stereotypes are packaged, Osorio placed statements by Latinos he interviewed regarding how they are affected by representations of themselves in Hollywood:20

We are either seen as violent, horny, or on welfare. They never show our humanity or our struggles and empowerment.

You see the negative stereotypes portrayed in the movies so many times that at some point you start believing them yourself.

The more I see the stereotypes the more I feel excluded from the world, almost as if I'm living a reality that is not common to others.

You would expect that by now they would be more conscientious. We've grown, why can't they?

Taking the form of a diorama or a historical tableau, the traditional mode of display in a natural history museum, the scene highlights the sense that we are witness to freaks on display. In this regard, the lights and cameras of the crime scene suggest a stage set, emphasizing the artifice and self-consciousness of representation the work is meant to suggest.

The development of Osorio's stereotypical embelequero aesthetic into a more narrative framework engendered a host of reactions. Most criticisms of the work were launched primarily by Latinos themselves. The most common reaction was one based on class assumptions: "Well, I didn't grow up that way." Osorio sees this as a very ingrained sense of "kitschophobia" on the part of Latinos-a tendency to hide and deny lower-class culture. This criticism reflects how his work is trapped in the contradiction of simultaneously embracing and fragmenting stereotypes. For all of his efforts to address community issues, in the end, does Osorio fall prey to associating Puerto Ricans with stereotypes of the criminalized poor? The vague line between celebration and critique, which he often cleverly straddles, became muddled within the contested terrain of cultural representation at stake within the Whitney. Indeed, after the experience of presenting Scene of the Crime in this context, he decided not to show new work in mainstream museums until it had first been shown in the community. As Tiffany Ana Lopez suggests, "This decision was influenced by his realization that though his contribution brought the museum's attention to the artistic cultural production of Puerto Ricans, it did not in and of itself bring Puerto Ricans into the museum. In other words the focus in his work on the Latino body did not necessarily guarantee the visibility of that social body."21

In 1994, Real Art Ways in Hartford, Connecticut, commissioned Osorio to make a work for its Specifics Program, which he titled En la barberia no se Horn (No Crying Allowed in the Barber Shop). In collaboration with members of the local Latino community, Osorio set up an installation in the Frog Hollow neighborhood, in an abandoned building that at one time had been a church and later a beauty shop. The installation was in the form of an actual barber shop like those found in Puerto Rico, and was decorated with a plethora of objects that engaged the cultural codification of normative gender roles in Puerto Rican and other Latino communities.

En la barberia no se llora is based on Osorio's memory of his first haircut at the age of five in a barbershop in Santurce, Puerto Rico. The barbershop, as Osorio remembers it, is a distinctly male space in the community, and having one's hair cut there is an integral rite of passage into masculinity. He remembers his first haircut as being a frightening experience in which his father admonished him not to cry.22

Through excessive and exaggerated decoration, Osorio establishes an overdetermined male space. The walls are covered from floor to ceiling with male iconography, including portraits of Latin American and Latino men, such as Fidel Castro, Roberto Clemente, and Ruben Blades. The largest portrait, placed prominently in the center of one wall, is a framed image of Benjamin Osorio, the artist's father. This Latino Hall of Fame serves two paradoxical functions: it counters stereotypical representations of Latino men in the media, while its disturbingly excessive display of masculinity almost collapses under the weight of its rigid and defined gender roles. This parodic stance is embellished by other details of the lavish decor: old car seats serve as waiting area chairs, and the barber chairs themselves are covered with baseballs, miniature cars, male action figures, and Puerto Rican flags. This male imagery works in combination with traditionally feminine adornment: plastic flowers, lace doilies, flowered wall paper, and various beauty products. By melding various histories of ornament with the broader question of Latino identity, Osorio not only uses kitsch as a tool to deconstruct normative gender roles, but questions the gendered codes of kitsch itself.

Continuing his strategic practice of both creating and displaying his installations in a community context before they enter an art institution, Osorio developed Las twines (The Twin Girls) in 1998. The project, an exploration of the dynamic of internalized racism, was a collaboration among three Bronx-- based organizations: Pepatian, Unitas, and the Hostos Center for Art and Culture. After the work was first shown in a community storefront in the Hunts Point neighborhood of the South Bronx, and then at the Hostos Center for Art and Culture, it was displayed in the Soho gallery, Ronald Feldman Fine Arts. Confronting racism within Latino communities, the work is inspired by a legend about a pair of twins-one dark, the other fair-skinned-who travel the world side by side receiving gifts but are unable to find their father. Doll-like sculptural figures of two young girls in white communion dresses are seated in a red car that rides around a lavishly ornamented room on a raised oval track. The twin sisters, identical except for their different skin color and hair texture, circle repeatedly around a labyrinth of fun house mirrors and gaudy party decorations. In addition, on each wall is projected the face of a different man, each engaged in washing a different skin color from his face while a sound track projects the voices of the two girls calling for "Papa." The confluence of rituals--religious confirmation, a family party, and a rite of passage--embellishes the theme of the search for origins in light of inculcated racism and is, in turn, magnified by the over-the-top, ritualistic decoration.

The girls, decorated with ribbons, party favors, and cheap plastic jewelry, are doomed to this liminal world of a home party blown out of proportions. Like other installations by Osorio, which also propose disturbing narratives, baroque decoration is used in Las twines for maximum theatrical effect. The exaggerated ornamentation takes on a distinctly scary element, however, projecting a sensation similar to that experienced by young children who are afraid of clowns. The party decorations, meant to signal a happy affair, instead elicit an eerie atmosphere filled with dread as the mannequin-girls remain forever glued in their party dresses in this horror show.

The ambiguity of Osorio's works allows them to encompass simultaneously celebratory and critical perspectives on kitsch as a defining cultural trait of Latinos. One is often left wondering if these works construct a monolithic Puerto Rican lower-class subject and if the adoption of a kitsch aesthetic is really one of the fundamental elements of being Puerto Rican. While Osorio states that he is embracing contradictions, one might say that he is employing what Gayatri Spivak has termed "strategic essentialism": a critical position validating identity as politically necessary, but not as immutable or ahistorical. In this manner, he uses stereotypical imagery to underscore social and political realities. Perhaps it is our unwillingness to accept or acknowledge those realities that is the source of anxiety surrounding the work.

In the late 199os, as these questions were being debated, Osorio turned to a new community and a new visual device. Inverting his strategy, he covered the entire contents of the house of an upper-class white family in Santa Barbara, California, with dear plastic for an installation entitled State of Preservation. Through this action, he evoked the common, lower-to-middle-class domestic practice of protecting furniture with plastic covers and cleverly imposed the social realities of kitsch-those plastic covers safeguard precious objects not easily replaced by lower-income families-onto a distinct social group. Plastic, here, no longer served a protective function but, in fact, was an impediment, a barrier that prevented the family from living in its own space. The family, then, was forced to confront class distinctions in a viscerally physical manner, their house and their lives entombed by a material and decorating device foreign to such homes, yet so prevalent in Latino and ethnic communities. In this way, Osorio, too, broadens his usual subject-Latino, specifically Puerto Rican, cultural identity-to engage a more universal high/ low dialectic. The work marked a change in Osorio's trademark tchotchka-- filled aesthetic, yet still invoked it through absence. While the plastic took on the minimal look of clear glass, its excess and exaggeration still spoke to concerns ever-present in his work. His formal strategy, a fear of emptiness, mirrors kitsch's social implications: the fear of not having. Through his humorous, ironic, and critical use of kitsch, as well as his work with different local communities, Osorio negotiates stereotypes between outside perceptions of Latino culture and real lived experience.23

Anna Indych is a Ph. D. candidate at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, specializing in Latin American art history. As a Research Assistant, she helped organize the 1998 Jackson Pollock retrospective at The Museum of Modern Art, New York. She has taught at the College of Arts and Science, New York University and has contributed articles about contemporary Latina/o and Latin American art to various publications such as Grand Street, Drawing, Art Nexus, Sulfur, and Poliester. She is presently working on her dissertation, "A Mexico for Export: Mexican Art and Artists in the United States, 1927-1940."



1. Joan Ross Acocella, "Plastic Heaven," Artforum 30 (January 1992): 64-67.

2. Gillo Dorfles, Kitsch: The World of Bad Taste (New York: Universe Books, 1975), 4.

3. Arlene Raven, "Pulling Out All the Stops," Village Voice, June 4, 1991, 108.

4. Tomas Ybarra-Frausto, "Rasquachismo: A Chicano Sensibility,"in CARA: Chicano Art Resistance and Affirmation, 1965-1985, ed. Richard Griswold del Castillo, Teresa McKenna, Yvonne Yarbro-Bejarano (Los Angeles: Wight Art Gallery, University of California, 1991), 155-62. S. Osvaldo Sanchez, "Kitsch Carnival: Havana en los cincuentas," Poliester 2 (Summer 1992): 72-74. 6. Luis Camnitzer, New Art of Cuba (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1994), 15.

7. Ibid., 202.

8. Celeste Olalquiaga, Megalopolis: Contemporary Cultural Sensibilities (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1992), 83-84.

9. Ibid., 80-86.

10. Coco Fusco, "Vernacular Memories," Art in America (December 1991): 100. Reprinted in Fusco, English is Broken Here: Notes on Cultural Fusion in the Americas (New York: The New Press, 1995), 89-95.

11. [bid., 91.

12. Susanna Torruella Leval, "Con To' Los Hierros," in Con To' Los Hierros: A Retrospective of the Work of Pep6n Osorio (New York: El Museo del Barrio, 1991), 7.

15. Leval, "Con To' Los Hierros," IS.

16. Donald Chant Bohn, "Fleisher Art Memorial," New Art Examiner 19 (April 1992):129.

17. Raven, 108.

1B. Author's interview with the artist, February 29, 1996.

19. Tiffany Ana Lopez, "Imaging Community: Video in the Installation Work of Pepon Osorio," Art Journal 54, no. 4 (Winter 1995): 58.

20. Ibid.

23. Osorio's works, including En la barberia no se flora and Scene of the Crime (Whose Crime, were recently exhibited for the first time in Puerto Rico in a major exhibition spanning four institutions. Pep6n Osorio: De Puerto en Puerta/Pep6n Osorio: Door to Door was on view September I, 2000January 15, 2001 at the Escuela de Artes Plasticas de Puerto Rico; Museo de San Juan, Municipio de San Juan: Museo de Arte Contemporaneo de Puerto Rico; and Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico. A catalogue with essays by Marimar Benitez and others accompanies the exhibition.

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