THE IMMIGRANT EXPERIENCE is the subject of Houston-based Afro-Brazilian artist Ibraim Nascimento’s exhibit Reflections, on view at The Jung Center of Houston through May 13.
Born and raised in Cachoeira, Bahia — once a major port for slave labor for the country’s sugarcane plantations and birthplace to such highly regarded Brazilian musicians as Joao Gilberto, and the thundering Samba drum collective Olodum — Nascimento’s work is born out of his Brazilian heritage. It’s also inspired by the new connections he has made since migrating to the U.S. and finding kinship with Houston’s Black and Latinx art communities.
His brightly colored, sometimes surreal portraits of fellow Brazilians, including a series of paintings of children wearing various carnivalesque animal masks, hover in the Jung Center’s exhibition space like memories the artist is compelled to hold onto, with some works purposely left incomplete, as if the subject were hovering somewhere the new world and their native land, and in danger of fading from view.
Tellingly, some of the portraits include small mirrors, each one an “eye” looking at and providing a reflection of the viewer. (Although in one striking painting, “Pivete,” a Portuguese word used to refer to homeless kids, the subject is defiantly covering both eyes with his hands.)
In an artist statement, Nascimento writes, “One of the many struggles we face as immigrants is not being able to see ourselves in the eyes of the people we live with.” Reflections conveys that struggle and allows the empathetic viewer to imagine themselves as a stranger in a strange land. On Saturday, May 6, at 2pm, Nascimento will give an artist talk and tour of the exhibit.
Also on view is Seven, an installation of seven magical realist portraits of Black women by Houston artist Kristi Rangel. Rangel, a self-taught, Houston Coalition Against Hate emerging artist, includes the Ghanaian Adinkra symbol Funtunfunefu-Denkyemfunefu, which represents unity in diversity, in each mysterious, nocturnal portrait. Flowers, butterflies, and several species of North American birds bloom, flutter, and perch around each woman, celebrating the environmental and spiritual interconnectedness of humans and creatures of the natural world.
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