Throughout history, teapots were commissioned to bear portraits of the wealthy patrons. They operated as a symbol of status in high society. The portraits chosen for Lugo's works depict Civil Rights leaders, hip hop artists, musicians, writers, and cultural figures representative of Black and Latinx culture. Their likeness is elevated to a space that was historically inaccessible to people of color, stripping the teapot of its Euro-centric roots.
Known for his graffiti-inspired porcelain sculptures, Roberto Lugo’s work centers around the notion of representation. Specifically, representing the culture and struggles faced within Black and Latinx communities through the lens of craft history. Drawing from iconic forms, such as an urn or a teapot, Lugo works with the existing associations inherent to a form, while adding his own stylized imagery and content. The result is a complex, contradictory body of work that embodies both poverty and resilience as well as opulence and wealth. He combines status symbols from European society and urban America to create works of art that cross boundaries and weave together seemingly disparate cultures into one multifaceted vision.
2021 Delphi Award Recipient
Roberto Lugo is a Philadelphia-based artist, ceramicist, social activist, poet, and educator. Lugo utilizes classical pottery forms in conjunction with portraiture and surface design reminiscent of his North Philadelphia upbringing and Hip Hop culture to highlight themes of poverty, inequality, and racial injustice. Lugo’s works are multicultural mashups; traditional European and Asian ceramic techniques reimagined with a 21st-century street sensibility. Their hand-painted surfaces feature classic decorative patterns and motifs combined with elements of modern urban graffiti and portraits of individuals whose faces are historically absent on this type of luxury item - people like Sojourner Truth, Dr. Cornel West, and The Notorious BIG, as well as Lugo’s family members and, very often, himself. Lugo holds a BFA from the Kansas City Art Institute and an MFA from Penn State. His work has been featured in exhibitions at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Houston Center for Contemporary Craft, and the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, among others. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including a 2019 Pew Fellowship, a Cynthia Hazen Polsky and Leon Polsky Rome Prize, and a US Artist Award. His work is found in the permanent collections of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Philadelphia Museum of Art, The High Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, Brooklyn Museum, Walters Art Museum, and more. He is currently an Assistant Professor at Tyler School of Art and Architecture in Philadelphia, PA.