Roberto Lugo remixes luxury porcelain objects with hip-hop style. Juicy appropriates the form of the “Century Vase,” a large nineteenth-century vessel depicting George Washington. Lugo replaces the framer of American democracy with framers of American hip-hop, the Notorious B.I.G. and Tupac Shakur.
The title, Juicy, comes from Biggie’s first single from his debut album “Ready to Die” in 1994. The song tells the rags-to-riches story about Biggie’s childhood in poverty, his dreams of musical greatness, his time dealing drugs, and how he transformed the music industry. The song resonates with Lugo’s own life story. Born in Kensington, Philadelphia, to working-class Puerto Rican parents, Lugo began his creative career tagging the walls of the city. Then, as the artist often recalls, ceramics saved his life, reorienting his priorities toward art, social justice, and community service.
This Present Moment: Crafting a Better World, 2022
A highly textured ceramic vase with portraits of rappers Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls, surrounded by bold patterns in vibrant colors. Standing about twenty inches tall, the vase has a narrow bottom that balloons outward in the middle, at about nine inches in diameter, before sharply narrowing again near the top to form a thick rim. Dark gray busts of Shakur and Biggie form two handles, which reach thirteen inches across. The matte, rough texture of the busts contrast with the shiny golden crown placed atop Biggie’s head. Both rappers have serious expressions.
A black-and-white painted portrait of Tupac decorates one side of the vase’s body. A wreath of shiny golden ceramic roses affixed to the surface frame Tupac, who lifts his head slightly toward the right while looking down toward the left. A portrait of Biggie is painted on the other side in the same style, also surrounded by a wreath of gold roses. Biggie wears sunglasses and a flat cap.
The rest of the vase is covered in sections of punchy decorative patterns—like diamonds, spirals, ovals, rainbows, and dots in contrasting color combinations. On the base, hand-painted diamonds, some with alternating bright yellow and black lines, others with yellow dots on light green, vibrate with energy. Along the other side, a black-and-red checkboard pattern is contained within a thick, rectangular coral-colored border. A mix of graffiti-style bubble letters wrap around the vase just above the base. The tall rim is decorated with more shiny golden roses wrapping around it, with green leaves placed underneath, and is topped with a ring of smaller golden roses.
- overall: 19 7⁄8 × 13 3⁄8 × 9 3⁄8 in. (50.5 × 34 × 23.8 cm) footprint: 4 in. (10.2 cm) (irregular) lid: 2 3⁄4 × 4 1⁄2 in. (7 × 11.4 cm)
© 2020, Roberto Lugo
- Credit Line
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Gift of the James Renwick Alliance in honor of the 50th anniversary of the Renwick Gallery and the 40th anniversary of the Alliance
- Mediums Description
- glazed stoneware, enamel paint, luster
- Object Number
- Linked Open Data
- Linked Open Data URI