A black and white photo depicts a shirtless man posed in front of a painting, his broad hands placed naturally on his hips. His face is cut off by a black layer with white and red text reading ‘Papasito.’ This piece, titled ‘Papasito,’ is one of the several works by Antonio Pulgarin presented in the new ‘Whispers of a Caballero’ exhibition in Gelb Gallery. Pulgarin came to Andover as part of the visiting artist program and gave an artist talk on Wednesday, January 22.
Minji Shin, an attendee of the talk said, “My favorite piece was ‘Papasito.’ I feel that it was a very bold piece, and as someone who has made collages for my projects in the past, the bold colors and the very poignant statement and not subtle act of cutting someone’s head off in the photo was very strong and powerful. That, again, really drew me in and made me want to understand the piece on a deeper level and find the story behind it.”
Most of the pieces in the collection are photo collages that Pulgarin created using archival family photos, mainly of his father and uncle, with the former having served a significant portion of his life in jail and the latter having died at a very young age. The collection as a whole speaks to many themes including toxic masculinity, LGBTQIA+ rights, and issues within the Latinx community. Pulgarin began the work as a way to resolve his personal struggles within these areas.
“I think it started as a therapeutic thing. I wanted to speak to my inner self first, and then it became sort of a process of speaking to Latinx and queer communities, these communities that I was fighting to feel a part of. As the work became public, I saw communities of color from all walks of life— black, Arab, Asian communities— really sort of embracing the work and the message behind the work and understanding that there’s work to be done in this conversation about toxic masculinity,” said Pulgarin.
As people became exposed to the work, Pulgarin realized that his photos had the power to impact not just himself but the experiences of others as well. Though he thinks of the artwork as part of an authentic personal experience, Pulgarin aimed to appeal to his audience members through relatable topics depicted throughout his artwork.
“It’s about finding a thread that speaks to others outside of yourself, and that, for me, is the goal. As to what you do with the work, you hope that it will resonate when you put it out there, whether they hate it or love it. It doesn’t have to be admiration. If people have a strong, visceral relationship to it – could be negative, they don’t understand it, or they hate it – if you’re having an emotional reaction to it, the work is doing its job,” said Pulgarin.