Roberto Lugo is reinventing our perception of pottery. His work combines one of the world’s oldest artforms with modern-day storytelling—scaling themes of politics, inequality and racial injustice, alongside hip hop iconography, celebrity figures and references from his youth growing up in Philadelphia.
We spoke to Roberto to learn more about his art, the story behind the capsule, and his work in the Latino community.
PANGAIA’S MISSION IS TO CREATE A BETTER FUTURE THROUGH EMBRACING OPTIMISM. HOW DOES THIS RESONATE WITH YOUR WORK? HOW DO YOU STAY OPTIMISTIC?
Envisioning a brighter future by honoring the communities I come from, through diversity and representation, is at the heart of my work. I’m really grateful that my pottery resonates with so many people, and their encouragement keeps me optimistic. Reflecting on everything my family has done and continues to do to support my practice also inspires me to create.
YOUR WORK HAS CLEAR THEMES OF COMMUNITY, INJUSTICE, AND INEQUALITY. HOW DO YOU THINK YOUR MESSAGE, AND THE VIEWER’S RESPONSE TO IT, DIFFERS WHEN ARTICULATED THROUGH CERAMICS, AS OPPOSED TO OTHER ART FORMS?
Ceramic pottery is an archival material that anthropologists use to learn about human societies, tens of thousands of years ago to the present. Making work in this medium allows me to create art that will last lifetimes and create a dialogue with the cultural emblems of our shared history. Therefore, the stories and figures that I paint on pots can become monuments to the histories of my family, my communities, and those who are seldom represented in museums, and beyond.
“The stories and figures that I paint on pots can become monuments to the histories of my family, my communities, and those who are seldom represented in museums, and beyond.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT COMBINING YOUR WORK WITH CLOTHING WITH OUR COLLABORATION?
Putting my designs on clothing feels like a natural extension of my studio practice. The visual motifs in my work are deeply connected to the textiles I grew up seeing on the streets of the Kensington neighborhood in Philadelphia, those worn by Hip Hop artists in the 90s and the cultural fibers of my Puerto Rican heritage. My passion for design is what led me to create Village Potter, and I’m very excited for this opportunity to explore the intersections of my work and fashion with PANGAIA.
CAN YOU TELL US THE MEANING BEHIND THE 3 PANGAIA ARTWORKS?
Bodega Hoodie and T-shirt
The Bodega concept is a major piece of my vision for Village Potter. I grew up with bodegas on practically every street corner and have really fond memories of getting sofrito and limber with my siblings and cousins. This image is a reimagining of the nostalgic bodega as a site of elevated design – a symbol of my dream for Village Potter.
Tire Planter Hoodie and T-shirt
Throughout my life, and especially during my time in art school, people have called my work “ghetto” to offend me. After reflecting on my upbringing, I’ve come to positively associate the word “ghetto” as meaning resourceful, thoughtful and innovative. My parents had to be creative to make a living and provide for us—whether that was the time my dad used found automotive parts to make a pasteles maker, or when my mom used a clothing iron to straighten my sister’s hair. I believe the image of a flower planted in a car tire is a strong representation of this idea, of how there is beauty in the resourcefulness of the “ghetto.”
Dominoes Hoodie and T-shirt
I created the dominoes image as an homage to my family and Miami. My parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and grandparents would often come together over games of dominoes, and I believe many people in Bahamian, Caribbean, and Afro-Lantix communities can relate to this experience.
“After reflecting on my upbringing, I’ve come to positively associate the word ‘ghetto’ as meaning resourceful, thoughtful and innovative.”
TELL US ABOUT YOUR CONNECTION TO THE TALLER PUERTORRIQUEÑO ORGANIZATION AND THE WORK THEY DO.
Taller Puertorriqueño is the type of organization I wish I had growing up. They provide arts and cultural programming for the Latino community in Philadelphia and beyond, as well as honor the accomplishments of these communities. I didn’t have access to any kind of art education until I took a community college class in Florida at 25 years old. Taller Puertorriqueño provides immersive arts opportunities for the community I grew up in and empowers people to create. I’m honored to recognize this organization with PANGAIA.
With each purchase, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to Taller Puertorriqueño to help preserve, develop and promote Puerto Rican arts and culture. Launching December 6.