PHILADELPHIA, PA.- Paradigm Gallery
is presenting Immigrant Mentality, a solo show of new paintings, illustrations, and an installation by artist Sean 9 Lugo. Though Lugos work is fueled by his own personal stories and childhood, Immigrant Mentality expresses the shared elements and emotions that Lugo feels are part of the immigrant experience. The back of the exhibition is dedicated to a large-scale installation of an art bodega, composed primarily of handmade merchandise. Immigrant Mentality will be on view until August 22, 2021.
The exhibition is designed to encompass a broad perspective on the culture, community, and values of immigrant families, emphasizing the experience of Hispanic and Latinx immigrants in the United States. The show is centered around 14 new paintings, many of which are based on a trip Lugo took to the Dominican Republic in 2015, including a few directly modeled on photographs the artist took himself. Lugo was inspired by the warmth and selflessness of the people he met living in poverty there. The work El Rey is made on a canvas created entirely of cigar boxes from the Caribbean. On top of the boxes, Lugo painted a Dominican man holding two kittens in his lap; he manifests the man as a king, living his fullest life, relaxing in his own kingdom after years of struggle, finally satisfied.
Immigrant Mentality honors Lugos mom, Lulu, who came from Cuba to the United States and worked as a house cleaner to provide a better life for her family; Lulu embodied the drive, work ethic, and generosity that Lugo sees as representative of the immigrant mindset. Blue (Lulus favorite color) is prominent in the works and represents her presence throughout the exhibition. While the artists earlier art reflected the unique circumstances of his life on the streets, this new work is intended to resonate with anyone who has lived as an immigrant or was raised by immigrant parents anywhere in the world.
To harken back to the artists early community in New Jersey, a tribute to local neighborhood bodegas, known as papi stores in Philadelphia, will be installed in the gallery, complete with a soda machine, chip rack, toilet paper, and even a wooden bodega cat. Lugo sees the bodega as family the owners knew him, saw him grow up, and took care of him. By bringing the bodega into the gallery, the artist acknowledges the central and familial role that the space and people have played in his life. To stay true to the bodega experience, all of the pieces within the installation will be accessibly priced, including $20 stickers and snack packs to $200 comic books with original art covers. The comic books delicate illustrations feature Lugos signature style, which playfully reimagines iconic, original comic book figures and covers. The bodega also has a dedicated space for a makeshift shrine, which pays tribute to Puerto Rican astrologer Walter Mercado, and features votive prayer candles and Lugos painting, Mucho Mucho Amor.
Immigrant Mentality marks a new chapter in Lugos artistic oeuvre as he tackles topics that are both deeply personal and widely shared. In presenting this work, he hopes to honor his past, connect with fellow immigrant families, and teach those who were not raised by and among immigrants about the distinct culture and mindset that comes with leaving your life behind and starting over somewhere new.