AFRICA ON MY MIND
August 27 – October 15, 2021
Opening Reception: Saturday, August 28, 2–4 p.m.
Visits by appointment, book here.
Ethan Cohen is pleased to present Africa on My Mind, featuring works by Aboudia, Armand Boua, Adetomiwa Gbadebo, Catheris Mondombo, Gonçalo Mabunda, Gresham Tapiwa Nyaude, Moffat Takadiwa, Jeffrey Hargrave, Soly Cissé, Wycliffe Mundopa, Frédéric Bruly Bouabré and Innocent Nkurunziza. This exhibition will be on view at the KuBe from August 27, 2021 to October 15, 2021.
Africa On My Mind is a group exhibition showcasing the works of significant contemporary artists from the continent and the diaspora. As a whole, this exhibition paints a picture of the richness, diversity, and innovation of contemporary African art today.
Contemporary African Art is at the forefront of artistic discourse today, and with its expansion into the global stage, there is growing attention to art coming out of the region. Historically overlooked, contemporary art coming out from the African continent now has finally pulled the attention of the global art community with top collections and institutions making it a priority to focus on, support, discover, and grow the dynamic art scene. With Africa On My Mind, Ethan Cohen Gallery offers an intimate look into what contemporary African artists are creating today, and offering a glimpse into the local and international artistic trends of the continent and beyond.
Aboudia is a leading African artist from Cote D’Ivoire who started his career on the streets of Abidjan as a street artist. With his distinct ‘nouchi’ style, inspired by graffiti and tribal art, Aboudia vividly portrays the street culture of urban Africa. He draws on images that defined his formative years growing up in poverty of African streets¬–street art, traditional tribal art, and the lives of street children– and reimagines them into highly layered complex paintings teeming with energy. One recognizes the themes in his iconography: street kids, voodoo creatures, contemporary media, animals and figures inspired by the African mask tradition. Aboudia has recently opened his foundation which supports fellow artists and street kids, giving them access to health, education, encouragement and hope.
In contrast, Armand Boua uses stark minimalism to convey his subjects, abstracted silhouettes of the forgotten children of West Africa. He depicts their forms on found material such as packing paper using tar and jagged fields of color. The austerity of the medium conveys a powerful and haunting memory/vision of the violence that continues to characterize the political struggles of West Africa. Boua’s artistic practice focuses on the human condition, as a response to the inhumanity he sees in the world around him. Working in Abidjan, the economic capital at the crossroads of urbanisation and industrialisation, Boua experiences the Ivorian landscape with a heightened sensitivity. His observations of children are drawn largely from street scenes where urban migrations create ethnic, linguistic, cultural and social entanglements that have come to enrich and problematize the region in equal measure.
Frédéric Bruly Bouabré’s consciousness emerged during the first opening of Africa onto the world stage as a post-colonial independent series of countries. As such his work centers on imagery that explicitly places recognizably African themes and figures in tandem with those of other continents. His message is both one of global diversity and unity. Philosopher, visual poet, and artist, he iterates universal truths that bind humanity. He early inhabited a time (as embodied by the 1955 Bandung Conference of non-aligned Asian and African states) when it seemed possible for emerging countries to create an alternate global awakening. Frédéric Bruly Bouabré was recognized by Okwui Enwezor, one of the most important curators of the past 50 years, and was included in the documenta in 2002, and in the landmark 1989 exhibition Magiciens de la Terre, curated by Jean-Hubert Martin at the George Pompidou Center. His work was featured both in the Ivory Coast Pavilion at the 55th Venice Biennale, and in the main exhibition The Encyclopedic Palace, curated by Massimiliano Gioni (2013).
Reflecting on the collective memory of Mozambique, Gonçalo Mabunda repurposes weapons of war as art, creating masks which call attention to the formation of power through violence. By converting objects such as bullets and machinery, however, Mabunda relieves the weapons of their prior association and imbues them with new life in the African tradition of mask-making, often with lively characteristics which contradict their original intent.
Omo Oba Adetomiwa Gbadebo, a Yoruba prince, utilizes his Nigerian heritage and chromatic sensibility to create abstract expressionist works laden in spirituality. Gbadebo utilizes that liberation of form to convey Yoruba sensibilities, spirituality, and rhythm in his artworks. His art practice is informed by ancestral guidance, and Afrobeat music, and is expressed in a trance-like state of creation. His fields of color, half-realized figures, and chosen objects pasted into his paintings are laden in spiritual meaning and personal and communal history. His artworks reveal a preoccupation with layers of consciousness as the predominant reality into which the figuration dissolves.
Innocent Nkurunziza is one of the leading artists at the forefront of the growing Rwandan art scene. Founder of the Inema Art Center, and founder of the first Rwandan art collective, Innocent is both an innovator of the local art community, as well as an innovator in his art practice. Strongly inspired by the world around him, Nkurunziza creates monumental paintings, sculptures, and mixed media works using elements of nature as his medium. He paints and sculpts body parts such as feet, genitalia, and elements of landscape such as rocks by using elements of nature such as bark, mud, and the earth as his medium.
Catheris Mondombo creates powerful Congolese portraits using thread and interventions of fabric in his canvases, which gives his paintings both fragility and authenticity. His artistic practice is informed by the living conditions of his hometown of Kinshasa. Struck by the way people around him and the environment is in a perpetual search for survival, Mondombo compares this experience to astronauts who go to space to explore other possibilities of life elsewhere, once the earth becomes uninhabitable. He creates artworks with found materials and mixed media, making conceptual paintings that use abstract, surreal imagery, at times utilizing forms that suggest weightlessness and diving and space suits. To illustrate the unhappiness of his society, which fights to survive, he utilizes tarpaulins he collects, usually used by Kinshasa residents to build street stalls that are abound in the city.
Jeffrey Hargrave deals with representations of African-Americans, often putting them in the context of art history, remaking works by artists such as Matisse to include black figures, with racially charged stereotypical imagery. Tapping into his own memories of growing up in the midst of a sharply divided community, Hargrave translates his personal experiences into playful, yet biting images that mix art-history clichés and racial stereotypes. Ultimately, the artist seeks to engage viewers in a dialogue on class, religion, sexuality, racial identity and privilege based on a repertoire of familiar images.
Soly Cissé’s paintings are at once pictorial and graphic, rooted in the culture of his hometown, and loaded with autobiographical content. Cissé creates fantasy worlds where figures emerge from chaos and disharmony. His figures merge animal and human forms into strange, improbable hybrids wearing mortuary masks as if they are deities of Cissé’s magical world. Linear patterns, checkerboards, and sequences of letters and numbers bring tension to his work, while also referencing both barcodes and mystical numerologies.
Born and residing in Zimbabwe, Wycliffe Mundopa allows garish, gaudy figures to forge out in a blaze of eroticized color-bursts. The figures are said to represent women of the night, demi-mondaines, their age and even gender rendered anonymous and universal in extroverted expressionist displays. In the striped stockings one sees the influence of Picasso's Harlequins and Pierrots, human toys, the external pleasure principle hiding inner identity. Elsewhere, from the intense primary tones and the gaudy wall-paperish backgrounds, one feels the presence of fin-de-siecle Paris and its preoccupation with the décor of sensuality.
Another Zimbabwean artist, Nyaude's works depict figures that populate the capital's most notorious ghetto, its animals and humans intermixed and compounded. Again the colors, hallucinatory and vibrant, come and go between background and foreground so the forms emerge from the whole expressionistically.
Appropriating discarded objects such as spray paint can tops and plastic bottle parts for his organic multimedia projects, Zimbabwean artist Moffat Takadiwa transforms everyday items with a spirituality infused with magic. Significantly, his work invites outside interpretation, engaging the viewer in a dialogue, which often results in the spontaneous and unexpected. By elevating the refuse of society, Takadiwa forces the viewer to consider the implications of everyday consumption.
As a whole, Africa On My Mind presents a selection of perspectives that reveals the variety of different artistic practices coming from Africa demonstrating the depth and diversity of talent of African art being created today.