“Arreguín: Painter from the New World” and “Xicanx Dreamers + Changemakers”
“Arreguín: Painter from the New World” runs July 2 to October 2, 2022
Museum of Northwest Art
121 South First Street, PO Box 969 La Conner, WA 98257
Free admission, Hours: 10am–5pm, everyday
The must-see exhibition this summer fits perfectly with a short road trip to a beautiful place. The Museum of Northwest Art is featuring Alfredo Arreguín in a major exhibition curated by our own well-known critic, Matthew Kangas. Arreguín: Painter from the New World opens on July 2 and will be open until October 2, 2022. A retrospective exhibition, it includes 40 works from 1970 to the present and will have a catalog by Kangas, one of our best Northwest critics!
I will quote here from part of my essay on him in Setting Our Hearts on Fire:
“Alfredo Arreguín’s paintings immerse us in a wonderland of jungle and seascape, populated by animals, fish, insects, and birds. But the jungle and its creatures are more than the sum of their parts, they represent nagual, a guardian creature of the spirit world who can transform and lead us to alternative views of the world.
The artist embedded in this wonderland (sometimes almost invisibly), the faces of well-known political activists, writers, poets, friends, and, occasionally, the artist himself. The faces deeply disguised within the vast details of the paintings, point to Arreguín’s belief in the harmony of nature, the balance of life, and the crucial place that we have within it, rather than outside it. His work has never been more timely or important, as we all despair with the election of a president in Brazil intent on destroying the entire rain forest there for economic profit. Nothing less than the lungs of the planet are at stake.
Leaping salmon and whales remind us that the survival of the Southern Resident pod of orca is hanging in the balance. As the whales dwindle in response to environmental degradation, and the salmon fail to complete their migration upstream because of dams, Arreguín’s paintings celebrate natural processes and inspire us to protect our Salish Sea.
So plunge into one of his paintings and look at it for a long time, and still come back for more. Explore the dazzling overall intricacy, the detailed patterns, the accomplished linear relationships, the subtle command of color that changes in each work. Then, as you visually wander through the paintings, join the butterflies, the birds, and the animals in the depths of the jungle.”
The Seattle Art Museum finally decided to acquire one of Arreguín’s works after fifty years!
I have another road trip to suggest to the Museum of Anthropology University of British Columbia. My good friend Celia Munoz from Dallas, Texas is included in an exhibition called Xicanx Dreamers + Changemakers. (May 12–January 1, 2023.) The museum describes it as follows “The artists in this exhibition are dreamers and changemakers. They are of Mexican American heritage—self-identified as Xicanx*. The term transcends borders and gender to encompass the Xicanx people’s multi-generational experiences of social difference.
“Xicanx artists, working across all mediums, are part of a rich tradition of combining visual art and activism. Some began their work as part of El Movimiento, the Chicano civil rights movement of the 1960s and 1970s that had its roots in the United States. Others define themselves as Indigenous, drawing upon their origins in Aztlan, the ancestral homeland referenced in Mexican códices and oral histories. The next generation is expanding the idea of Xicanx art while continuing to address the personal, social and political issues of our times.
“The fight by Xicanx artists for social justice began generations ago and continues to this day. Their art and their activism remain vital in the movement towards social justice for all.”
The exhibition might be called the greatest hits of XicanX art. It includes artists who have been working for decades, like Judy Baca of the Great Wall of Los Angeles and Esther Hernandez of the famous Sun Mad Raisins. There is also Rudy Trevino, Delilah Montoya, Celeste De Luna, Celia Munoz, all of whom have done potent works addressing migration in different ways.
Finally, Francisco Toledo (1940–2019) showing at the museum quality Davidson Gallery in Pioneer Square rounds out this coverage of exhibitions focusing on Latinx artists. Toledo lived in Oaxaca and drew on Zapotec imagery, as well as mysticism to create eerie images that resist a quick reading. The distortions suggest intense emotional experiences.
Have a great summer and be sure to see some art!
On June 9, I will be reading from my newest book Setting Our Hearts on Fire, Essays on Artists from 1982 to the Present: Addressing Inequities and Inspiring a Future. The book includes many of the artists whom I have written about here as well as many others for a total of 80 artists.
Retail Therapy, at 905 East Pike near Broadway (5-8pm) to coincide with the Capitol Hill Art Walk.
~Susan Platt, PhD www.artandpoliticsnow.com