“Pepón Osorio: reForm” by Carla Acevedo-Yates


Curator and writer Carla Acevedo-Yates reviews an urban art project by Puerto Rican artist Pepón Osorio, “reForm” (August 28, 2015-May 20, 2016, commissioned by Temple Contemporary, Tyler School of Art in Philadelphia), a two-year installation and public engagement project exploring the loss experienced by a Puerto Rican community with the closing of Fairhill Middle School in North Philadelphia, a public school established in 1887 and then shut by the Philadelphia School Reform Commission in 2013. Here are excerpts; read the full article at ARTPULSE.

reForm is an immersive environment in a classroom at the Art Education and Community Arts Practices program located in the basement of the Tyler School of Art. It is a functional installation; a temporary classroom for Tyler students and a gathering space for students who were displaced to charter schools when Fairhill closed. [. . .]

Here, materials are a form of memory recuperation, as items sourced from the school-furniture, tables and other objects-comprise about 90 percent of the installation. At the entrance, Osorio placed a water fountain from Fairhill with a sign that reads “do not drink water.” Beside it there is an inhaler inside a plastic bag pinned to the wall. These objects not only tell the story of Fairhill (students were discouraged to drink the water), but also of the violence committed against communities of color and their ongoing struggle for civil rights. [. . .]

Contrary to other artists working in the field of contemporary art, Osorio’s artistic practice is not informed by the rhetoric of socially engaged art, relational aesthetics or any other trend related to the history of art and its categories. Rather, it is influenced by the Civil Rights Movement and the practice of shifting materials and resources from one space to another. [. . .] Envisioning artistic practice as an engine for community empowerment, Osorio’s educational reForm suggests that education is not just a public issue, but a social and environmental justice that requires further reformation on its own terms.

Carla Acevedo-Yates is a curator and writer living and working in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She is a recipient of a Creative Capital | Andy Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Grant (2015).

For full review, see http://artpulsemagazine.com/pepon-osorio-reform

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