The exhibit, Unearthing: Magic, Mimicry, and the Mundane, by Luis Alvaro Sahagun Nuño, 2019-2020 Artist-in-Residence of Critical Race Studies, is now on display at the MSU Union Art Gallery through August 6, 2021. In addition, a special event will be held on Wednesday, June 30, from 2 to 4 p.m. at the MSU Union Art Gallery where the public is invited to come meet the artist. Both the exhibit and special event are free.
Unearthing: Magic, Mimicry, and the Mundane is a quest to widen the understanding of ancestral artifacts, the imagination, and art as vital sources for dismantling western forms of intellectual imperialism. Rooted in object-orientated ontology, the exhibition interweaves Mesoamerican archeological artifacts and contemporary artworks from Mexican artists such as Rufino Tamayo, Graciela Iturbide, Flor Garduno, and Luis Alvaro Sahagun Nuño in order to conjure mystical teachings via spiritual mestizaje.
The work in my exhibition screams what is written in my bones. My exhibition addresses the needs of cultural representation, spiritual reclamation, healing, and liberation.
“The work in my exhibition screams what is written in my bones,” Sahagun said. “My exhibition addresses the needs of cultural representation, spiritual reclamation, healing, and liberation. I believe that my spirit and ancestors are speaking indigenous wisdom to and through me. They guided my creativity and healing for this exhibition.”
Born in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, Sahagun is a multidisciplinary artist who creates paintings, performances, and sculptures confronting the palpable inescapability of race, transforming them into acts of cultural reclamation. Like DNA strings of mestizaje, his practice confronts contradiction — Indian/conqueror, violence/unity, and ancient/contemporary.
As an immigrant and former laborer, Sahagun seeks to reveal the aesthetics of relocation and transgenerational trauma by utilizing building materials such as silicone, lumber, drywall, concrete, and hardware as symbols that represent working-class immigrants in this country. He transforms art into a mystical instrument that bestows a pre-Columbian spiritual connection in order to heal wounds of conquest, colonization, and capitalism.
Sahagun cultivates civic activations for community members, students, and other educators alike. A unique element fueling his social art practice is his experience growing up feeling invisible to society because he was Brown, undocumented, and poor, making him privy to perceptions that most people have not been exposed to. He uses the residue of those traumas to guide the development of meaningful performances, public interventions, discussions, and workshops.
Sahagun has exhibited at venues including the Chicago Cultural Center, Chicago, Illinois; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, Illinois; Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art, Roswell, New Mexico; National Museum of Mexican Art, Chicago, Illinois; International Exposition of Contemporary and Modern Art (EXPO) Chicago, Illinois; DePaul Art Museum, Chicago, Illinois; amongst many others. Additionally, his work has been covered in publications such as: ArtForum, Chicago Magazine, Newcity Magazine, MundoFOX, New American Paintings, and the Chicago Tribune. His practice has also been spotlighted on the radio and television networks such as Univision and WBEZ-NPR.
The Critical Race Studies residency program was a gift. It provided me with time and access to experiment and push the frontier of knowledge within my research and practice.
The Critical Race Studies Artist-in-Residence program, offered by the Department of Art, Art History, and Design, was established in 2017 thanks to a $750,000 gift from the Michigan State University Federal Credit Union (MSUFCU). The goal of the program is to enrich the life of the greater Lansing community by facilitating practices of inclusion through art and design.
“The Critical Race Studies residency program was a gift. It provided me with time and access to experiment and push the frontier of knowledge within my research and practice,” Sahagun said. “It granted me the ability to work in collaboration with the art collection from the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum in order to build important conversations in regards to trauma, colonialism, race, and culture.”
Besides Michigan State University, Sahagun has held residencies at Arquetopia Oaxaca, Roswell New Mexico, Chicago Artist Coalition, and Mana Contemporary in Miami.
Sahagun currently works on the traditional homelands of the Council of the Three Fires: the Ojibwe, Odawa, and Potawatomi Nations. Many other Nations such as the Miami, Ho-Chunk, Menominee Sac, and Fox also call this area home. He received his MFA at Northern Illinois University and his undergraduate degree from Southern Illinois University- Carbondale.
Support for the Unearthing: Magic, Mimicry, and the Mundane exhibit was provided by the MSU Federal Credit Union; MSU College of Arts & Letters; MSU Department of Art, Art History, and Design; and Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at MSU. This show was made possible thanks to support from Bill Augustus, Amy Brown, Evan Christopherson, Jake Jacques, Zane Kemper, Jacquelynn Sullivan Gould, Rachel Vargas, Alex Vonhof, and Karin Zitzewitz.