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Artist Jacoub Reyes' Culturally Rich Solo Exhibition Opens at Kean University

originally published: 02/24/2024

Artist Jacoub Reyes

(UNION, NJ) -- Artist Jacoub Reyes recently unveiled his site-specific art installation, Esconderte del mundo y en ti mismo esconderte, meaning "hide from the world and hide in yourself," at Kean University. A brilliant transformation of space, Reyes delivers an experience steeped in the history of Puerto Rico's sugar plantation system.

Reyes, an interdisciplinary artist based in Central and South Florida, primarily works in printmaking and large-scale installation. His work utilizes experimental techniques to unravel his complex mixed-cultural heritage and build an imagined future based on belonging and resistance.

The exhibition, on display in the Nancy Dryfoos Gallery, located in the Nancy Thompson Learning Commons on Kean University’s Union campus, showcases Reyes’s work and ability to navigate different mediums. In partnership with the Galleries at Kean, Reyes was joined for the opening reception by the Raíces Cultural Center New Brunswick for a special Bomba dance performance at Kean's Viser Lab.

“This is my homecoming,” said Reyes. “I used to sit in the back of the classroom at Kean University while my mother took classes. To return years later and present my work and partner with local community organizations, is deeply personal and rewarding.”

The exhibition is inspired by Julia de Burgos’ best-known poem, Rio Grande de Loiza. In this poem, Burgos’ childhood landscape emerges as a driving force for her memories and reveals the harm and grief of her island, enslaved by colonialism.

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Throughout this installation, Reyes uses contrasting visual tropes to create connections between displacement, memory, cultural preservation and notions of home. He focuses on the lasting social, political and ecological effects of the colonial experience through the interior of a sugar mill ruin. Esconderte del mundo y en ti mismo esconderte features a variety of multimedia, including video, audio, assemblage, screen prints, woodcuts, painting and textile works. Through these, he aims to excavate histories lost, forgotten and buried beneath us.

“Reyes’ work is grounded deep within his cultural heritage, as someone born to a first-generation Catholic Caribbean mother and South Asian Muslim immigrant father,” said Lynette Zimmerman, Ed.D., associate vice president of the Liberty Hall Academic Center and Galleries at Kean. “He traverses multiple mediums and deepens the relationship between them through his own layered identity. Each work resonates with cultural context and is developed through research into his ancestry, systemic failures and human existence. His personal journey exemplifies his ability to embrace complex emotions, feelings of belonging and how art is his wellness.”

Reyes will return to Kean on Thursday, March 28 for a workshop with local middle and high school art teachers as part of a Galleries at Kean professional development day.

Esconderte mundo y en ti mismo esconderte will be on display through Friday, June 21, in the Nancy Dryfoos Gallery at the Nancy Thompson Learning Commons on Kean’s campus, 1000 Morris Avenue, Union, New Jersey. Visit for more information.

Kean University, New Jersey’s urban research university, is a national institution of higher education recognized for its diversity, innovation and the social mobility of its graduates. Founded in 1855 as a teachers college, Kean has evolved into a thriving research university that supports students as they persist to graduation, give back to their communities and launch successful careers. Kean’s six colleges offer more than 50 undergraduate programs, six doctoral degree programs and more than 70 options leading to master’s degrees, professional diplomas or certifications, across a full range of academic subjects. With campuses in Union, Toms River and Manahawkin, New Jersey, and Wenzhou, China, as well as Kean Online, the University provides students of all backgrounds an affordable and accessible world-class education.

Photo by Kean University

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