Pepón Osorio Review: The Artist’s Wounded Heart

The same can be said about the show’s latest installment, but it’s also the show’s most personal. About five years ago, Osorio went through a medical crisis and was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. A work called “Convalescent” produced in 2023, which is still in production, is his reaction to it.

Unlike self-contained installations, it is in the form of individual sculptures and aggregates. One is the “kiosco” of Puerto Rican streets, a wooden stall loaded with healing paraphernalia (medicine bottles, prayer cards, garlic bulbs). Another is a collection of glass vessels such as liquor bottles and lab vials arranged in the shape of Puerto Rico. The third is a free-standing nude male figure with his arms outstretched, his internal organs exposed, his skin pierced with needles, and an IV bag filled with fluids hanging around his neck like a lifejacket.

This image has an expository aspect to modern healthcare marketing, partly through mysticism. But as always with this artist, it’s the material and imaginative generosity of his work that make it memorable.

Osorio has always stated that the main source of his art is his own life. The same is true of the vulnerable “convalescent” figure envisioned as his self-portrait. And that’s true of the eponymous old sculptures in this show curated by Margot Norton, Chief Curator of the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, and Bernardo Moqueira, Curator of the New Museum.

His 2000 work, My Beating Heart (Mi corazón latiente), is a suspended paper piñata six feet tall (as Osorio is tall). Traditional piñatas are filled with treats and treasures that are released when the shape is smashed, slashed, or broken. But in this case it is not necessary to swing. The gift is present in the air and becomes audible. The recorded sound is the beat of the artist’s heart, the rhythm of the tide, faint but steady.

Pepon Osorio: My Beating Heart/Mi Corazon Latiente

Through September 17, the New Museum at 235 Bowery, Lower Manhattan, newmuseum.org.

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