Africa new wave: “FLAUNT” at Ethan Cohen Gallery in New York

Ethan Cohen exhibits “FLAUNT: Africa New Wave” as a part of an on-going curatorial series focusing on contemporary African art.

Opening on 19 November and running until 19 December, “FLAUNT: Africa New Wave” exhibits six African artists who are a part of a new wave of contemporary African art that is currently stirring the art world to its core.

“FLAUNT: Africa New Wave”, 2015, Ethan Cohen Gallery, New York. Image courtesy Ethan Cohen Gallery.

“FLAUNT: Africa New Wave”, 2015, Ethan Cohen Gallery, New York. Image courtesy Ethan Cohen Gallery.

African art is certainly not new to the art world. African art, design and architecture have consistently captivated and transformed every culture that has ever come in contact with it. As Ethan Cohen New York states in the exhibition press release for “FLAUNT: Africa New Wave”,

Almost a century ago, African art’s interaction with the Western tradition changed the course of art history. From Picasso through Cubists to Brancusi, a spare austerity purged decoration from form and content thanks to the revelation of African minimalism.

As a result of globalisation, today’s contemporary African artists are accessing and leveraging ideas and techniques from around the world to suit their aesthetic and conceptual desires. This reverse pollination, as Ethan Cohen New York refers to it, has caught the complete attention of the art world as evidenced by Saatchi Gallery’s recent shows “PANGAEA 1” and “PANGAEA 2”, the expansion of the three-year old 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair to include New York as well as London and Fondation Cartier’s summer group show “Beauté Congo: 1926-2015”. Contemporary African art is indeed the topic of interest, and Ethan Cohen New York, with its current exhibition, is well-poised to make an impactful contribution to the conversation.

Art Radar profiles the six artists featured in “FLAUNT: Africa New Wave”.

Armand Boua “Les enfants de Côte d'Ivoire 001” and “Les enfants de Côte d'Ivoire 004”; In “FLAUNT: Africa New Wave”, 2015, Ethan Cohen Gallery, New York. Image courtesy Ethan Cohen Gallery.

Armand Boua ‘Les enfants de Côte d’Ivoire 001’, 2015, Tar and acrylic on cardboard, 88.9 x 93.5 cm and ‘Les enfants de Côte d’Ivoire 004’, 2015, Tar and acrylic on cardboard, 94 x 83.8 cm. In “FLAUNT: Africa New Wave”, 2015, Ethan Cohen Gallery, New York. Image courtesy Ethan Cohen Gallery.

1. Aboudia (Côte d’Ivoire)

Aboudia Abdoulaye Diarrassouba (b. 1983, Abidjan) known simply as Aboudia, is a graduate of the Abidjan Arts Institute whose paintings recall Basquiat for their style and Goya for their themes. Aboudia was greatly influenced by the political upheaval in Côte d’Ivoire following the 2010 election, and the conflict that ensued in 2011. During this period, he began work on a series of paintings in direct response to the country’s deteriorating political situation with specific reference to its effect on the youth of Abidjan, the city where he resides.

Aboudia’s paintings are large scale and covered with heavy layers of colour and figures that display an intense, interior energy reflecting the urban decay and violence of his hometown of Abidjan. His use of figures with exaggerated features such as elongated heads or bulging eyes provide a sense of the impact violence can have on the human body. They also depict the influence of both graffiti and traditional African sculpture on his work.

Armand Boua “Les Winzins D’Abobo I” and “Les Winzins D’Abobo II”; In “FLAUNT: Africa New Wave”, 2015, Ethan Cohen Gallery, New York. Image courtesy Ethan Cohen Gallery.

Armand Boua ‘Les Winzins D’Abobo I’, 2015, Tar and acrylic on cardboard, 210.8 x 207 cm and ‘Les Winzins D’Abobo II’, 2015, Tar and acrylic on cardboard, 210 x 207 cm. In “FLAUNT: Africa New Wave”, 2015, Ethan Cohen Gallery, New York. Image courtesy Ethan Cohen Gallery.

2. Armand Boua (Côte d’Ivoire)

Armand Boua (b. 1978 Abidjan) uses the canvas to portray the human condition, specifically the inhumanity of everyday life. His most recent works focus on children and the ways in which they have been affected by, if not forgotten, in the wake of Côte d’Ivoire’s political upheaval. His abstracted forms depict isolated, sparse silhouettes composed on found material such as packing paper and painted with tar and other colour. Boua was recently featured at London’s Saatchi gallery, in the group show “Pangaea 2: New Art from Africa and Latin America”.

left to right:  Aboudia, Soly Cissé “Untitled 6”, Armand Boua “Les Winzins D’Abobo I”; In “FLAUNT: Africa New Wave”, 2015, Ethan Cohen Gallery, New York. Image courtesy Ethan Cohen Gallery.

Left to right: Aboudia; Soly Cissé ‘Untitled 6’, 2014, oil on canvas, 100 x 100 cm; Armand Boua ‘Les Winzins D’Abobo I’, 2015, Tar and acrylic on cardboard, 210.8 x 207 cm. In “FLAUNT: Africa New Wave”, 2015, Ethan Cohen Gallery, New York. Image courtesy Ethan Cohen Gallery.

3. Soly Cissé (Senegal)

Soly Cissé (b. 1969, Dakar) is a painter who grew up in Dakar, Senegal when the city was recovering from a riotous period of political instability and discontent. For Cissé and other youth, art was the vehicle through which they channelled their feelings of alienation. Cissé’s practice continues to be influenced by this period of recovery that came after so much political upheaval.

Cissé explores the delicate trajectory between retaining traditional ways, and modernisation and advancement. His figures are stunning; part animal, part human and situated in a dream-like setting. The backdrop of silhouettes and contrasting colour refers back to the existential struggle of tradition versus modernity.

Cissé has received increasing international acclaim with a presence across Europe, Asia and the USA, notably in the 2006 travelling exhibition “Africa Remix” at the Mori Art Museum in Tokyo, and in 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair in 2014 and 2015.

Pr. Adetomiwa Gbadebo “Ase”. In “FLAUNT: Africa New Wave”, 2015, Ethan Cohen Gallery, New York. Image courtesy Ethan Cohen Gallery.

Pr. Adetomiwa Gbadebo, ‘Ase’, 2015; acrylic, house paint, stone, oil pastel on canvas, 208 x 200 cm. In “FLAUNT: Africa New Wave”, 2015, Ethan Cohen Gallery, New York. Image courtesy Ethan Cohen Gallery.

4. Pr. Adetomiwa Gbadebo (Nigeria)

Adetomiwa Gbadebo an Òmó Oba (prince) amongst his fellow Yoruba in Nigeria, uses his abstract style of painting as a way to convey Yoruba spirituality. Inspired by the music of Fela Kuti and grounded in the Yoruba tradition of which ancestral reverence is a key component, Gbadebo’s canvasses relay a dynamism that translates the electricity felt in Kuti’s music into a powerfully meditative state. Unsurprisingly, one of Gbadebo’s works in this exhibition is titled “Ase”, a Yoruba word that translates as power. Gbadebo’s combination of brightly hued lines and figures, drive the eye towards the centre of his canvas, a literal display of the artist’s visual power to centre his audience.

5. Wycliffe Mundopa (Zimbabwe)

Wycliffe Mundopa’s (b. 1987, Rusape) women emerge out of a “blaze of eroticized colour-bursts”. Taking inspiration from fin de siècle (beginning of the 20th century) Paris and its ubiquitous sensuality, Mundopa’s women are women we all recognise: mothers, prostitutes, caregivers and workers. The women and children Mundopa paints are the inhabitants of Harare’s economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods. Contrary to the negative treatment these women often receive by society, Mundopa presents them as they are, without embellishment or prejudice, neither trying to hide them from plain view nor attempting to transform them into someone other than who they are.

Pr. Adetomiwa Gbadebo “Baba Arugbo”, Gresham Tapiwa Nyaude “Grey Dog’s Life”. In “FLAUNT: Africa New Wave”, 2015, Ethan Cohen Gallery, New York. Image courtesy Ethan Cohen Gallery.

Left to right: Pr. Adetomiwa Gbadebo ‘Baba Arugbo’, 2015, acrylic, house paint, stone, oil pastel, on canvas 188 x 151 cm and Gresham Tapiwa Nyaude ‘Grey Dog’s Life’, 2015, oil on canvas, 127 x 96.5 cm. In “FLAUNT: Africa New Wave”, 2015, Ethan Cohen Gallery, New York. Image courtesy Ethan Cohen Gallery.

6. Gresham Tapiwa Nyaude (Zimbabwe)

Born and raised in Mbare, Harare’s most notorious ghetto, Gresham Tapiwa Nyaude (b. 1988, Harare) draws inspiration for his paintings from the sights and sounds that accompanied his childhood. In Nyaude’s biography from his recent exhibition at First Floor Gallery in Harare, Mbare is described as, “parallel to the conditions of Harare for Zimbabweans during the colonial segregation era (in respect of its hardship and quality of living space)”. Despite the stereotypes associated with Mbare, Nyaude’s figures escape exaggeration. Be they animals or humans, they are unified by their vibrant earnest portrayal. As the Harare News reported in June 2014:

His depiction of his subjects is fragmented and sometimes disfigured, presenting us with psychological insights of a world that only an insider can communicate. Here we see life in broad daylight and the depth of night, in all it’s complications, pain and beauty, awkwardness and desire, which show us an intimacy and human vulnerability – the truth of the human condition.

Negarra A. Kudumu

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Related topics: African artists, painting, abstract, events in New York, gallery shows

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