Art Through Time: A Global View
Converging Cultures Art: Pelea de Gallos (Fight of the Roosters)
Miguel Luciano, a Puerto Rican-born artist who lives and works in the United States, addresses issues of colonialism and globalization in his works, which range from installations and sculpture to paintings and photography.
Luciano approaches serious subjects like the historical, social, and political relationship between Puerto Rico and the U.S. with art that is humorous and accessible. Often, as in Pelea de Gallos, Luciano draws on popular icons as he explores the idea that consumer culture constitutes a new kind of colonial enterprise. The artist aspires to create works that subvert stereotypes and establish new hierarchies. He also seeks to engage the larger community. To this end, he has undertaken activist projects, worked with youth groups, and set up pieces in public spaces in addition to showing in museums and galleries.
In Pelea de Gallos (Fight of the Roosters), Luciano parodies the power that American advertising wields over Puerto Rican consumers by appropriating iconic characters associated with both imported and local brands. The large green rooster to the left is identifiable as Cornelius™ the Rooster of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes® fame. The smaller white rooster to the right is the mascot of Pollos Picú, one of Puerto Rico’s largest poultry companies. In this cockfight, both birds are bleeding heavily, having inflicted wounds on each other with razor blades and a firearm, respectively. In the lower right corner, Colonel Sanders, the American entrepreneur known globally as the “face” of Kentucky Fried Chicken, is portrayed as a Catholic saint feeding a group of living birds from a KFC bucket. This element adds yet another layer to the scene’s commentary on the colonial subordination of Puerto Rico by alluding to the roots of Latin American Catholicism in European conquest and missionary activity.
Deborah Cullen, Director of Curatorial Programs, El Museo del Barrio
“What Miguel does in this painting is he pits the symbol of the major chicken brand in Puerto Rico, which is Pollo Picú, against the rooster from the Corn Flakes cereal brand. They are having this sort of death match, and then down in the corner of the painting the Colonel Sanders is painted like a traditional Santo figure, which is a devotional catholic Christian sculpture, a very important cultural production from Puerto Rico. So the painting speaks to us about sort of the struggle, the fraught relationship between the island and the United States.
Puerto Ricans were granted U.S. citizenship in 1917, although they do not vote on the island for the president of the United States, and they are exempt from many federal taxes (although in any draft they have been called upon heavily to serve in our military abroad). So there is a very sort of interesting and sometimes conflict-ridden relationship between the island and the United States. And I think this painting sort of unpacks a lot of those issues.”
“Infinite Island: Contemporary Caribbean Art. (August 31, 2007–January 27, 2008).” In Exhibitions. Brooklyn Museum Web site. http://www.brooklynmuseum.org/exhibitions.
Miguel Luciano Web site. http://www.miguelluciano.com.
“Miguel Luciano.” CUE Art Foundation Web site. http://cueartfoundation.org/miguel-luciano/.
Mosaka, Tumelo, Annie Paul, and Nicollette Ramirez. Infinite Island: Contemporary Caribbean Art. London: Philip Wilson Publishers in association with the Brooklyn Museum, 2007.
Sullivan, Edward. Latin American Art. London: Phaidon, 2000.