Fulgencio Lazo: In Celebration of Immigrant Workers
Fulgencio Lazo’s new series of sculptures honors the poignant emotions of the process of immigration as well as the joys and challenges of hard working families.
Lazo’s artwork bring together abstraction with traditions based in his native Oaxaca, his Zapotec heritage, and his own personal journey between the US and Mexico. He was trained in both countries, so we see in his work an unusual synthesis of Mexican and Modernist characteristics.The colors light up the room, as we walk among these seven free standing works. All the works primarily focus on the positive, a much needed perspective today when immigrants are so misrepresented and stereotyped. But Lazo also includes subtle references to the challenges that immigrants face.
In the benchmark work of this series, called Despedida (Farewell), we see two figures, one is going, the other is staying. At the very center of the piece we see their faces with mouths touching in the intensity of a last goodbye. They stand in the middle of Lazo’s characteristic half wheel/circle that suggests the cycle of change, of life, of inevitable instability. Their reaching arms suggest their sadness as well. The artist burned the plywood with a torch over an open fire and added red suggesting the burning hot sands of crossing the desert. Along one axis of the half circle is a wire holding flattened bottle tops that refer to the water needed to survive the crossing, as well as the cruel act of destroying the bottles of water put out for the migrants. The zig zag pattern that frames the half circle evokes a tapestry-like reference.
Two sculptures honor weavers, a traditional craft in Oaxaca that continues to the present. As the artist explained to me, families work hard and then celebrate with music and dancing. He suggests both the work and its conclusion. We clearly see the loom in Mediodía (Midday) as well as a worker who seems to be both weaving and dancing. In Entre Familia (Between family), the workers seem to dance on the edge of the circle (almost completed here, perhaps suggesting the cycle of work), as they celebrate the end of work.
Lazo frequently puts his figures on wheels to suggest movement as in the Flautero (Flute player) and the Ambulantes libres (Free street vendors). It suggests the freedom and mobility of musicians and vendors, as they walk the streets in both the US and Mexico.
Nothing embodies migration more specifically than flying birds, as seen here in the beautiful Aves de norte a sur (Birds from north to south). But the contrast of the freedom of birds to migrate to that of people is seen in Esperanza interrumpida (Hope interrupted) in which the figure feels grounded and unable to take to the sky. But answering that is Construyendo esperanza (Building hope), a pair of musicians who, in spite of the challenges (suggested by their vivid red color) resolutely continue to create music.
This stunning group of sculptures collectively celebrates immigrants’ lives, work, culture and sense of family. As we stand among them, we experience the artist’s commitment to celebrate the perseverance of immigrants as well as the contributions they make to our lives.
Susan Noyes Platt
May 1, 2018