San Juan, Puerto Rico: 1955–Present

Pepón Osorio was born in 1955 in the Santurce section of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Of African Caribbean descent, he came from a close-knit community that he remembers fondly.  People's doors were always open and everyone's successes and disappointments were shared.

In 1975, Pepón moved to the Bronx, New York, to continue his education. After he finished a master's degree in sociology, his job as a social worker exposed him to new people, new environments, and a different way of living as a Puerto Rican within a larger society. He also met other people of African descent who shared his values and experiences. He paid homage to his cultural heritage by creating fantastic assemblages, such as El Chandelier.  Pepón is knowledgeable about the issues of the Puerto Rican community. He is also acutely aware of people's attachments to objects. His work is laden with chucherrias, (knick-knacks) that reflect cultural connections as well as a contemporary pop culture aesthetic.

His childhood is also a source of inspiration. His mother was a baker who made elaborate cakes for special celebrations. His whole family helped create the cakes with intricate layers of frosting and decoration. The chucherriasthat he buys for his work from neighborhood stores are meant for specific purposes, such as favors for parties or weddings and items for religious devotion or decoration. By layering them with other objects, he changes their meaning and challenges notions of art.

Pepón’s artwork is often about transformation. He considers chandeliers, which can be found in even the poorest apartments of Spanish Harlem and the South Bronx, to be symbols of the dreams, hopes, humor, and hardships of Puerto Ricans living in the New York barrio. For him the swags of pearls, plastic babies, palm trees, monkeys, and other mass-produced items embody immigrant popular culture of the 1950s and 1960s, when the majority of New York Puerto Ricans emigrated from the island. The chandelier’s encrusted surface also recalls the elaborately decorated cakes his mother made during his childhood.