Sean Kelly is delighted to announce Natural Beauty, a solo-exhibition of new work by Nigerian- American, Brooklyn-based artist Anthony Akinbola. This presentation, occupying the front and lower galleries, includes the artist’s signature Camouflage paintings, single and multi-panel works that utilize the ubiquitous du-rag as their primary material. Universally available and possessed of significant cultural context, the du-rag represents for Akinbola a readymade object that engages the conceptual strategies of Marcel Duchamp and other significant artistic predecessors. The opening reception will take place on Wednesday, September 7, from 6-8 pm. The artist will be present.
Born in Columbia, Missouri, Anthony Akinbola, is a first-generation American raised by Nigerian parents in the United States and Nigeria. His layered, richly colored compositions celebrate and signify the distinct cultures that shape his identity. In the front gallery, an array of Camouflage paintings explore the du-rag as both a material for art-making and as commentary on larger issues of identity, respectability, and commodification of African American culture.
The subtle variations in color throughout the works were often subject to supply chain availability. Individual canvasses range from subtle variations on a single, subtle tone, to richly contrasting fields of color, evoking artists as varied as Morris Louis and Ad Reinhardt.
"Sammy Davis Jr. is a prime example of what could be achieved with a du rag and some grease. As I continued, I noticed there was also camouflage in the overall composition of the work, the material being lost in the overall form of the work. It felt like 'Camouflage' was an appropriate title." - Anthony Akinbola
In the lower gallery, Akinbola has installed a single, multi-panel work positioned in dialogue with a taxidermized goat, an action that both pays homage to Robert Rauschenberg’s revolutionary Combine, Monogram, 1955-59—which featured a stuffed Angora goat, engulfed in a rubber tire, standing on a painting—and functions for the artist as a conceptual self-portrait.
"I was interested in the history of the word [fetish] itself and its relationship to contemporary culture. There is an interesting parallel that exists between the traditional connotation of the word and its more practical application in the west." - Anthony Akinbola
In Nigeria, goats hold a significant place in the culture and are commonly used for their hides, meat, and in religious festivals for ritual sacrifice. There is a ubiquitous fetish associated with goats and their totemic significance. Throughout his work, Akinbola unpacks the rituals and histories connecting Africa and America, addressing the power of fetishization around cultural objects.
"I like using the du rag because it has a strong presence. It’s a loaded object full of potential. You could easily talk about everything from race relationships and respectability to mass production and labor." - Anthony Akinbola