Artwork: Dan Halter, V is for Vendetta, 2014.
From Lagos to London, Nairobi to Brooklyn, Focus: African Perspectives takes a look at the landscape for African art as it plays out across the global landscape, revealing the complexities, depths, and diversity of the contemporary African diaspora. Curated by Julia Grosse and Yvette Mutumba, Focus: African Perspectives presents a dynamic selection of galleries showing an incredible array of work.
As the curators observe, “Focus: African Perspectives does not aim to be an archetypal representation of the many layers and different nuances linked to the idea of ‘African Art,’ because there is no such thing as ‘African Art.’” By reframing the focus on perspectives, the curators have chosen emerging curators, galleries, and art spaces that speak to the variety of African vantage points from all around the world and contributing the interchange of ideas.
Among the standouts are the photographs of Swiss-Guinean, South-Africa-based artist Namsa Leuba, at Echo Art, Lagos (Booth #560). Spanning documentary, fashion, and performance, Leuba creates images replect with signs and symbols of her cultural heritage. Whether taken on location in her ancestral hometown in Guinea or at her photography studio, Leuba’s photographs are at once grippingly graphic images that combine the theatrical and anthropological to heightened effect, The result is an intense, magnetic field that comes alive, easily drawing people into its spell and quietly satiating the soul.
Just across the aisle at SMAC Gallery, Cape Town (Booth #630), Nairobi-born artist Cyrus Kabiru presents a new series of C-Stunners, an innovative line of eyewear that pushes the conventional boundaries of fashion, design, sculpture, photography, and art made from found materials he collects in his hometown. Kabiru produces an incredible series of large format self-portrait photography, in which he models the C-Stunners, to stunning effect. Both futuristic and nostalgic in equal part, the C-Stunners remind us of the ingenuity that lies deep in the human heart. By repurposing random objects into an Entirely new form, Kabiru illustrates how style is more than a way of looking—it is a way of life.
Lagos-born, Brooklyn-based artists ruby onyinyechi amanze presents an incredible series of drawings at Mariane Ibrahim Gallery, Seattle (Booth #532), which explore the relationship between geography and the individual. In her work, amanze examines the idea of identity being formed by one’s ever-shifting reality, like a spirit freely traveling throughout the Universe. Her drawing take us into a world inhabited by aliens, hybrids, and ghosts, evoking the emptiness of transitory space and silence as a means to introspection. The result is an intoxicatingly seductive series of work that gently wafts over you like a summer breeze, enveloping you in its harmonious understanding of the self.
But dislocation is not always a graceful affair; some become disconnected and must deal with the aftershocks. At WHATIFTHEWORLD Gallery, Cape Town (Booth #550), Zimbabwean artist Dan Halter’s work is informed by his presence in South Africa, a stranger in a foreign land. His work evokes a sense of disorientation that occurs, exploring the issues of national identity being at odds with the realties of the country in which he finds himself. Using ubiquitous materials and popular iconography, Halter combines the language of craft and curio, creating a new space for conversation about the meaning and purpose of contemporary art. Halter’s infinitely compelling work offers a look at the darker side of life in Southern Africa.
Taken individually or as a whole, Focus: African Perspectives offers an intriguing introduction to contemporary African art across the diaspora, providing a dynamic complement to the more traditional features of the Armory Show.
Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.