Angel: The Shoe Shiner
Two-channel video installation, color, silent, 5 sec. and 41 sec. looped, with two monitors, painted wood, rubber, fabric, glass, ceramic, shells, painted cast iron, hand-tinted photographs, paper, and mirror
Dimensions variable Aspect Ratio: 4:3
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; purchase, with funds from the Painting and Sculpture Committee
Rights and reproductions
© artist or artist’s estate
Pepón Osorio’s Angel: The Shoe Shiner consists of a chair with an elongated back. The artist covered the chair in gold leaf and adorned it with various trinkets, including Virgin Mary figurines, ceramic baby shoes, shells, and painted roses. A life-size, black and white photograph of Angel, the shoe shiner, from the waist-up is at the center of the seat’s backrest. He looks out towards the viewer with a neutral expression in his face, and he holds one shoe in his left hand. When the sculpture is viewed from behind, the viewer sees Angel's back, onto which light-pink silk roses are adhered in the shape of wings.
The sculpture is Osorio’s tribute to Angel, a shoe shiner, whom the artist frequented for years. Osorio is known for his intricate installations that are inspired by the relationships he forms in his communities. Conversations are an essential part of the artist’s process for many of his works.
With this sculpture, Osorio created a throne for Angel, and in doing so reversed the usual power dynamic between the shoe shiner and his clients. The artist also incorporated two looping videos into the front of the chair. At the top, a miniature monitor only a few inches wide plays footage of Angel spitting, while at the foot, a slightly larger monitor about a foot wide plays footage of a shoe being buffed. Positioned at the very top of the chair is a baroque-style clock. For Osorio, the nod to time is a reminder of the looming threat of gentrification that so many business owners like Angel were facing in their neighborhoods when this sculpture was made, a threat that persists today.
Two wooden foot supports rest on the floor in front of the throne, and situated nearby is the shiner’s stool, which the artist upholstered with the Puerto Rican flag, with golden fringe along its edge. Osorio moved from Puerto Rico to New York in 1975 and his work draws on aspects of Nuyorican (New York Puerto Rican) aesthetics and culture.