Have you stopped by The Wolfsonian-FIU museum lately?
The building’s exterior has undergone a massive makeover as part of Street Shrines, an installation by Philadelphia ceramicist, poet, activist, and educator Roberto Lugo.
The outdoor exhibit, a wraparound mural on the museum’s exterior, debuted in November of 2022 during Miami Art Week and will be on view at The Wolfsonian-FIU until May 28, 2023.
The street exhibition cements icons of hip-hop and Black culture as part of the façade of The Wolfsonian-FIU’s Mediterranean Revival building (1927, Robertson & Patterson).
This is Roberto Lugo’s first museum presentation in South Florida. Some of the figures featured in the murals include Sidney Poitier, Run-DMC, and Tupac Shakur.
Lugo’s approach to classical pottery is directly influenced by his Caribbean background, his coming-of-age in the streets of North Philadelphia, and his love for hip-hop and graffiti. His work conceptually and physically integrates these elements, transforming his pottery into shrines dedicated to his heritage.
“Lugo’s work is resonant and immediate,” said The Wolfsonian-FIU curator Shoshana Resnikoff.
“It speaks to the here and now, but is deeply rooted in the past, engaging with both political history and the legacy of ceramics production—an approach that could not be more fitting for The Wolfsonian, where we continually grapple with questions of historical ‘truths’ and contested narratives.”
Intersecting hip-hop culture and graffiti with his fine arts background in ceramics, the medium has allowed Lugo to express his ideas on tradition and heritage as a contemporary artist.
Growing up in North Philadelphia, Lugo was exposed to art through graffiti.
“Exposure to street murals when I was younger had a huge role in how I saw art [functioning] because most of those murals are portraits of people. I really look at murals as the most direct form of art for the public,” says Lugo in an interview with The Art Newspaper.
“The Wolfsonian is a great place to work with because so much of the collection is this historic propaganda; you can see how propaganda played a role in disseminating information, and then we see the results of that.”
Lugo’s work is representative of how a culture transforms over time. The murals, or shrines, reflect back the works of Black and Brown artists in pop culture and the stories of South Florida’s Caribbean community in response to the Wolfsonian’s decorative art collection.
The murals make a statement on bridging and unifying cultures through art and also reflect how art has historically been reserved for the affluent.
In recent years, many collections have acquired his ceramics. You can spot his work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as part of its Afrofuturist Period Room installation.
In Put Yourself in the Picture at the Grounds for Sculpture in Hamilton, New Jersey, Lugo transformed his signature pottery into a giant vase made of milled foam.
For the installation, Lugo wanted the visitors to enter the center of the vase, allowing them to take selfies as they please, becoming part of the art piece.
Lugo’s work re-envisions the relationship between art and the artist, from the materials we use, and the people we make it for, to what inspires it.
Street Shrines shines bright in South Florida’s Art Deco District, embodying a convergence of ideologies and aesthetics. It is also a preview of how modern art is evolving, becoming more accessible, and paving way for the endless creative potential of mediums like pottery, graffiti, and 3D sculpting.
Street Shrines will be on view at The Wolfsonian–FIU @ 1001 Washington Avenue, November 28, 2022–May 28, 2023.
Street Shrines is made possible by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and Funding Arts Network. Additional support from Dr. David and Linda Frankel and Brown Harris Stevens.