Pepón Osorio, 1995

Installation: Badge of Honor (detail)
mixed media, video
overall dim.: 309.9 x 1005.8 x 378.5 cm
Commissioned by the Newark Museum. Courtesy Ronald Feldman Fine Arts
© 1995 Pepón Osorio

Badge of Honor was commissioned by the Newark Museum. In keeping with the artist's philosophy, the work was initially exhibited in the heart of a predominantly Latino section of the city. It is a tribute to the bonds formed by families and a poignant look at the myriad societal forces that can build walls between family members.

Badge of Honor represents the world of a father, suggested by the prison cell, adjacent to the world of his son, a bedroom encrusted with the material possessions of a teenager's wildest dreams. Laser-disk players project images of the two men onto the walls of their respective environments. The father and son are real people living in these circumstances, whose help Osorio obtained through social service groups. Because face-to-face conversation between the two men was impossible, Osorio transported video equipment and a monitor back and forth between the prison and the home to record questions and answers, which were later edited. Although the mother is absent, her influence is clearly felt; both father and son refer to her with great respect. Reflecting the realities of many contemporary households, the unseen woman holds the family together.

Osorio presents the private lives of his subjects in a positive way, yet is able to confront such difficult issues as incarceration and divided families. The artist is not interested in speaking to a community, but rather seeks to involve the community in the process of creating art. Osorio believes that this can be accomplished if he accepts the concerns of the people and makes them his own.