Thursday, August 23, 2012

Njideka Akunyili at the Studio Museum in Harlem

Last weekend, I discovered the work of Njideka Akunyili at the Primary Sources Artists-in-Residence exhibit at the Studio Museum in Harlem.

Akunyili was born in Nigeria in 1983 and attended Swarthmore College, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and Yale University. This New York-based artist explores the tension between African tradition and modern Western culture in large scale works that combine painting, collage, xerox transfers, and other mixed media.

These stunning assemblages are big enough to completely dominate your field of vision and I spent quite a bit of time looking at layers upon layers of imagery. A prevailing theme seems to be Akunyili's cultural ambivalence towards her current life in New York City as well as her tender, and seemingly conflicted, relationship with a Caucasian man.

Even though Akunyili's paintings reminded me of Romare Bearden and Gustav Klimt, her visual vocubulary is very much her own. It's an intriguing glimpse into one artist's encounter with a foreign world as well as her attempts to reconcile two different value systems.

Her work will be on view until October 21, 2012. Visit her website for more images.

Nwantinti (2012)
Acrylic, charcoal, pencil color, collage, and xerox transfers on paper
8 ft. × 5.57 ft.

Wedding Portrait (2012)
Acrylic, pastel, color pencils, marble dust, xerox transfers, and fabric on paper
4.5 ft. × 5.25 ft.

Witch Doctor Revisited (2011)
Acrylic, charcoal, pastel, colored pencil, collage, and xerox transfers on paper
4.25 ft. × 6.3 ft.

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