By John Owoo
(In Accra – Ghana)
An exhibition dubbed “Collective Reflections: Contemporary African and Diasporic Expressions of a New Vanguard” comprising artists representing a new international vanguard, is closing at Gallery 1957 in Accra.
Curated by Danny Dunson, works on display include paintings, mixed media works on canvas / paper and collages, which are reactions from a year of individual and collective critical evaluations of universal humanity – particularly with regards to race.
While contravening perceived artistic boundaries from traditional African abstraction and figuration to spiritual expressionism, indigenous rituals, sacred practices and cultural retention, the artists equally disrupt Western arts canon whilst celebrating Africa’s undeniable contribution with particular reference to the movements of surrealism, mannerism and portraiture.
Artists, whose works are on show, include Juwon Aderemi, Oliver Okolo, Chiderah Bosah, Luke Agada, Oginjiri Peter (Nigeria), Aplerh-Doku Borlabi, Adjei Tawiah, Musah Yussif (Ghana), Patrick Eugène (United States) and Gustavo Nazareno (Brazil).
Luke Agada presented “The Kindred Project”, a body of paintings, which address interpersonal connections that exist amongst the transglobal black community through Ghanaian Adinkra symbols alongside Ghanaian artist Adjei Tawiah, who exhibited works utilizing his self-titled “sponge martial” technique.
Chiderah Bosah showcased “Grey”, a new body of self-portraits that contemplate and grapple with the daily life of a young Nigerian, indeed a triumphant personal response to the END SARS movement and consequent violence in the country.
The son of Haitian immigrants, Patrick Eugène incorporated African Diasporic connections between Haiti and North America within an intuitive practice that connected him to everyday people in the streets of Atlanta, Georgia (USA).
“Portraits of the Life of Elizabeth Freeman” by Oliver Okolo, centre on the abolitionist figurehead and neglected social discourses while self-taught Nigerian artist Oginjiri Peter renders the naturalistic features of his subjects within traditional ritualistic masks as he focusses on expression beyond the materiality of skin and skin color.
Inspired by the nightmarish visions of Francisco Goya, though infusing them with geometric abstractions found in Islamic art, Musah Yussif’s work analyzed 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.
Brazilian artist Gustavo Nazareno presented recent charcoal works on paper based on the origins of “Exú”, a shape-shifting god of multidimensionality, which traverse gender, age and animal forms while Juwon Aderemi’s works explored intellectual discourses in blackness, West African folklore and literature.
From a distance, the mixed media works of oil paint and coconut husks by Aplerh-Doku Borlabi on canvas, appear as richly toned brown skin. The intrinsic properties of coconut husk’s multiple layers, long hairs and varying shades of brown whimsically purifies skin texture and bone structure while emulating the way natural light surfaces on skin.
Danny Dunson is an independent art historian, art advisor, curator and writer. A founder of Legacy Brothers LLC, which prepares emerging and underrepresented artists to transition within the contemporary art market, Dunson is also the co-founder and Editor-In-Chief of ArtX as well as a contributing writer for Sugarcane Magazine.