“Stuntin” A Philadelphia Ceramicist’s Dialogue on Race, Music, and Pottery

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NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA–The New Orleans Museum of Art recently commissioned a Philadelphia-based artist to help tell the story of New Orleans music and in doing so showcase a bit of Black New Orleans and the overall story of inclusion when it comes to art.

Roberto Lugo is the artist behind three pieces of pottery showcased in museum. Roberto began working in the medium of pottery at the age of 25 and is known for using clay to make statements in his art. Often his muses are social issues such as poverty and racial inequality.

“One of the things that intrigues me about being a potter is having people see me as a potter and a person of color, making art… doing things people wouldn’t expect. I think in some ways, art adjusts to what we need it to be. It becomes that difference maker and we can focus on what brings us bliss and joy and eventually through that process we find out what we are good at, because we created,” says Roberto Lugo.

Nearly half a century ago, hip hop began out of the New York’s streets and has climbed it’s way up to the ears of nearly every household in America. Artist Roberto Lugo presents the face of hip hop as a work of art in his poetry, graffiti and his pottery.

Mel Buchanan is the Curator of Decorative Arts and Design at the New Orleans Museum of Art and says, “he’s been working with museums across the country to help us think through our ceramic collections and bring in his point of view as a ceramist of color. Traditionally you are not seeing people of color represented on porcelain bodies.”

The three pieces of art on display include Louis Armstrong, Lil Wayne, and a porcelain gold tank, representing hip hop label No Limit Records. One of the messages presented seems to a bridge between genres decades apart and how they helped to shape the world’s modern music.

Buchanan is a fan of Lugo and saw him draw inspiration from French vases within NOMA’s galleries say, “he was looking at all of our French porcelain; with all of it’s gold and ornamentation and drawing a parallel with what he calls the bling of hip hop.”

One of Mel Buchanan’s favorite qualities of Lugo’s art is within the Neo Classical pedestals that holds the pieces up. “The crumbling is infilled with gold so he’s actually referencing an old Japanese technique of repairing ceramics. It was called Kintsugi. Instead of covering up and camouflaging your breaks, you celebrate it with gold. So maybe in society, as we are crumbling, when we come together, that is was makes us stronger in the end,” says Buchanan.

To see “My ‘Stunting’ Garniture Set,’ you can head over to the New Orleans Museum of art and walk into the museum’s Elise M. Besthoff Charitable Foundation Gallery from September 2nd, through April 18th 2021. After it is showcased, the three pieces will be part of the permanent collection of NOMA.

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