I chose to research Roberto Lugo for my potter presentation because of his unique and innovative approach to ceramics. I first came across his art in my Art Activism class at my previous college during my sophomore year and I was intrigued by his revolutionary techniques and the statement that his work makes. In my art endeavors I have always strived to tell stories and make statements in my work the goal of bringing issues to light, or sharing my experiences with others, and I find that Lugo’s work does exactly that.
Roberto Lugo is a Philadelphia born and raised, Puerto Rican ceramicist, graffiti artist, social activist and advocate for people of color in the arts, who also goes by the name, “the Ghetto Potter”. In his work he focuses on bringing awareness to social justice issues in his community, and also with the goal of normalizing People of Color in the art world, and creating a space for them to make art. He gives a lot of importance and attention to the fact that minorities often do not have the opportunities or resources to make art, and even when they do, many of their mediums are looked down on or erased. Lugo’s art highlights issues of poverty, discrimination, racial inequality, as well as the struggles surrounding obesity and many more. “Coming from where I come from, I have all of these relationships with visual things, and when I make pottery, I’m able to take those experiences that I’ve had and relate them, and communicate them to people who may not have had those.” (PBS).The way that Lugo talks about ceramics demonstrates the importance and power that art can have, especially for populations who are typically underrepresented.
His style of pottery mirrors that of traditional pottery, taking inspiration from classical techniques and methods such as, Worcester porcelain, and pieces like the well-known century vases. He creates big wheel thrown pots and vases, and hand paints all of his designs, giving it unique vibrancy and style, his work is extremely well crafted, and the textures are generally smooth porcelain, although in most of his pieces he has textured additions which are hand built. He has been known to create his own clay, sifting through found material and dirt from his neighborhood, and turning it into delicate and elegant ceramic pieces. He is able to create pieces that from a distance looks like those works, but up close the artwork that is painted on has images of people from his neighborhoods, faces of rappers and other artists of color, in many he has painted himself onto his pots and vases; he has an ability to depict people who generally are not associated with high end porcelain, as well as graffiti style writing and artwork, and make them fit together. “I put my face on pots because I want to put my face in a place that it doesn’t belong. I want you to get used to it, 100 years from now I want a lot of people of color to be on pots, so that you see it every day and you become comfortable with it” (NCECA Emerging Artist). His pottery style is elegant and refined, making large wheel thrown pots with ornate designs and textures that resemble classical techniques, yet they are also inclusive, bringing awareness to a community that is often times over looked in the fine arts. His designs contrast the style of ceramics by bringing in art forms that are generally not thought of in those settings, yet he is able to bring those two worlds together so powerfully. In talking about his designs and inspirations, Lugo explains that he is, “Not disrespecting the original design, just adding to the discourse.” His artwork carries meaning, and valuable messages that transcend the idea of what fine art is or isn’t, and breaks out of the molds of what is expected.
To me art can be beautiful, but I think that it can be so much more than that, and what I truly admire about it, is the power that art can have to reach people in all different areas of life and from different backgrounds. I admire an artist that uses their art for good, and with a goal, I think that Roberto Lugo does just that, by using his pottery to tell the story of people that lack representation and who are constantly facing adversity and discrimination. I think that his way of adapting such a refined and “elegant” medium to fit his aesthetic and use it to share his own culture with the world is incredibly unique.
“Articulate.” PBS, Public Broadcasting Service, 17 Apr. 2017, www.pbs.org/video/articulate-ghetto-potter/.
Bracker, Cindy, et al. “This Machine Kills Hate.” NCECA Blog, 31 Mar. 2015, blog.nceca.net/this-machine-kills-hate.
“Roberto Lugo • Artaxis.org.” Artaxis.org, artaxis.org/roberto-lugo/.
“Roberto Lugo Studio.” Roberto Lugo Studio, robertolugostudio.com/.
“Roberto Lugo.” Speedball Art, www.speedballart.com/pro-artist-network/roberto-lugo/.
“Roberto Lugo.” Wexler Gallery, 23 Jan. 2020, www.wexlergallery.com/roberto-lugo/.