Collective Reflections: Contemporary African and Diasporic Expressions of a New Vanguard

Collective Reflections: Contemporary African and Diasporic Expressions of a New Vanguard-Omenka Online

Gallery 1957 is pleased to announce Collective Reflections: Contemporary African and Diasporic Expressions of a New Vanguard, a celebratory group exhibition responding to a year of unprecedented challenges. Curated by Danny Dunson, the exhibition runs across both the Gallery I and II spaces from 16 December 2020 to 17 January 2021.

Presenting over 60 works from 9 international artists, the show encompasses painting, mixed media on canvas, works on paper, collage, three-dimensional sculpture and textiles, from Juwon Aderemi (Nigeria), Luke Agada (Nigeria), Chiderah Bosah (Nigeria), Patrick Eugène (United States), Gustavo Nazareno (Brazil), Oliver Okolo (Nigeria), Oginjiri Peter (Nigeria), Adjei Tawiah (Ghana) and Musah Yussif (Ghana).

Responding to a year of individual and collective critical evaluations of universal humanity, particularly with regards to race, the artists on show – each from disparate backgrounds – reflect on representations of Blackness. Transgressing perceived artistic boundaries, from traditional African abstraction and figuration to spiritual expressionism, indigenous ritual, sacred practices and cultural retention, they disrupt the Western art canon, whilst celebrating Africa’s undeniable contribution to it – with particular reference to the movements of surrealism, mannerism and portraiture.

In Collective Reflections, the artists recreate their own hierarchies of interest, from allegorical themes delving into psychological introspection to the self-affirming expressions of beauty and adornment. Reframing traditional signifiers of class, gender, ethnicity and status, the artists collectively represent a new international vanguard redefining the global artistic landscape.

According to Dunson, “In the midst of devastating challenges of the global pandemic, political discord, and the ongoing fight against systemic racism and oppression, a reflective meditation and organic visual dialogue transpired between nine artists living and practicing in West Africa and the Americas. While grappling within the stillness of quarantine, and the disquieting of global insurrection, these artists were compelled to examine their humanity, forming a collective journey between artists who, before this moment, had never met.”

Drawing inspiration from contemporary artists Yinka Shonibare and Kerry James Marshall, alongside surrealist painters Salvador Dali and René Magritte, Nigerian artist Luke Agada presents The Kindred Project, a body of paintings and mixed media sculptures addressing interpersonal connections that exist amongst the transglobal Black community, through Ghanaian Adinkra symbols. Chiderah Bosah presents Grey, a new body of self-portraits that contemplate and grapple with the daily life of a young Nigerian man, a triumphant personal response to the END SARS movement and consequent violence in the country.

Meanwhile, artist, Oliver Okolo presents Portraits of the Life Elizabeth Freeman, a body of work centering on the abolitionist figurehead and neglected social discourses. The artist expresses “I felt compelled by Freeman and her story during this critical time when Black people around the world are embracing our brothers and sisters in the U.S. I’ve been more aware of my own oppression through colonialism and the horrible loss Africa has endured from the Middle Passage and enslavement of the Diaspora”.

The son of Haitian immigrants, Patrick Eugène incorporates African Diasporic connections between Haiti (the Caribbean), and North America within an intuitive practice that connects him to everyday people in the streets of Atlanta, Georgia. Photographs taken by the artist are later transposed into portraits that deviate from naturalism, to evoke the abstractionism of ancient Africa and the vibrant colour palettes of Haiti.

Self-taught Nigerian artist Oginjiri Oluwaseun Peter renders the naturalistic features of his subjects within traditional ritualistic masks, focusing on expression beyond the materiality of skin and skin colour. Referring to colonial Africa, the artist explains “this series borrows from historical aesthetics of a pre-colonial past, to narrate hope from a future stronger sense of self.”

Inspired by the nightmarish visions of Francisco Goya, though infusing them with geometric abstractions found in Islamic art, Musah Yussif’s work analyses personal fears and concerns. The works on show acknowledge the inherent fragility of the human condition as somewhere between a beautiful dream and a horrific nightmare.

Gustavo Nazareno, Barà series (2020), charcoal on paper. Courtesy of the artist and Gallery 1957

Brazilian artist Gustavo Nazareno presents recent charcoal works on paper based on the origins of Exú (Yoruba: also spelled, Eshu, Èṣù, and Echú), a shape-shifting god of multidimensionality, traversing gender, age, and animal forms. Created whilst in a prayerful, meditative state the works appear like high fashion photography but are hand-drawn by the artist’s fingertips applying charcoal dust to paper, in a dark studio lit by only candlelight.

Juwon Aderemi’s works explore intellectual discourses in Blackness and West African folklore and literature. His studies combine vintage photographic imagery of 1970-80s Nigeria in multimedia compositions on canvas and corresponding three-dimensional works in textile design. Aderemi ponders the simplicity of the human condition, a longing to incorporate more of the ancient past with modernity, through the lens of traditional and contemporary Nigerian notions of gender, beautification, and adornment.

Ghanaian artist Adjei Tawiah presents works utilizing his self-titled ‘sponge martial’ technique. Inspired by the experience of watching his mother’s body being cleansed in a mortuary and used also as a figurative cleansing of negative thought processes in minds more generally, he creates brightly coloured yet delicately textured portraits across mixed media.

Read WINTER: An Exhibition of New Paintings and Sculpture

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