Tuesday 4 April 2017

Tafeta Goes 1:54 Contemporary with Enwonwu, Olagunju, Ogunbiyi, Olatunji

When the New York edition 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair opens on May 3 -7, 2017, London-based Tafeta Gallery will present Nigerian artists across two generations.
Niyi Olagunju’s Lega III (2017)
Image courtesy of the artist and TAFETA. Photography; David Otokpa
 Booth B18 of Tafeta Gallery shows work that spans from the early 1970’s through the present. The selection is a presentation of disparate cultural references and variegated executions.
  Enwonwu, a stalwart figure in modern Nigerian art, is known
for his paintings and sculptures.  His acclaimed style is often celebrated for reifying Nigerian culture within a rhythmic aesthetic of painting and sculpture.  This is arguably influenced by his education in Europe and his exposure to the indigenous art of Nigeria.  In the words of scholar Sylvester Ogbechie, “[Enwonwu’s] art was circumscribed by a distinct condition of modernity, understood in this context as the formulation and reformulation of artists and individuals in the face of changing spatial and temporal experiences". Among the works exhibited here is Woman Holding a Book.  With its round, oblong face and folded limbs, this ebony sculpture clearly articulates the hard edges and geometric forms that appear across modern Nigerian Art. An additional Enwonwu sculpture, Remi (1977), is a bronze cold cast bust that details the subject’s traditional shuku hairstyle.
  In her debut showcase with Tafeta, Ogunbiyi’s works include meticulous graphite drawings on paper from You Will, a series that the combines the geometry of the pineapple and traditional Nigerian hairstyles.  The resulting fusions of the two are each titled as a contemporary Nigerian prayer.  For the first time, she is exhibiting a series of sculptures that were derived from one of these renderings.  An exploration of how traditional mediums can be inflected by technology; these sculptures demonstrate Ogunbiyi’s commitment to mixed media and her interest in leveraging accessible DIY platforms.
  A contemporary reflection on representation as cultural reliquary, Olatunji’s featured works use portraiture to highlight different forms of facial scarification found in Nigerian communities.  Each rendering portrays a unique, fictitious character.  Without looking at photographs, the trained botanist uses his understanding of three-dimensional form to construct characters that embody the familiar—the young boy, the grey-haired elder, or the middle-aged man.  The paintings featured here include the last works of this series.
 Olagunju also confronts the notion of representing cultural tropes.  Shown here are works from his Congo series, which consist of bisected sculptures with their inner surfaces gilded in precious metals.  The choice of metal corresponds with the region of each sculpture’s origin.  Also on view are his new works made from shells of ekpiri seeds. These are typically strung together as beads to create anklets worn in Igbo dance. Stringing these seeds in rows, the artist gilds the seeds in various precious and semi-precious metal leaves to conceal the earth tones of these objects. Minimalist invocations of dynamic subjects, the series demonstrates Olagunju’s propensity towards reconfiguring historicized matter.
 Together, the works demonstrate Tafeta’s commitment to innovative modern and contemporary African Art.   This presentation is a continuation of the gallery’s work to introduce these artists to new audiences. 

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