October 2, 2017
BMA Debuts New Suite of Paintings by Acclaimed Artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby
Akunyili Crosby will speak at MICA on October 25 at 6 p.m.
BALTIMORE, MD (October 2, 2017)—This fall The Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) presents a suite of new monumental paintings from Los Angeles-based artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby. On view in the contemporary wing from October 25, 2017 through March 18, 2018, Front Room: Njideka Akunyili Crosby I Counterparts includes six visually stunning mixed-media paintings on paper that draw upon the artist’s experience of moving from Nigeria to the United States, maintaining ties with her family in Nigeria, and building relationships in America. Akunyili Crosby will give a free talk about her work at the Maryland Institute College of Art’s Falvey Hall auditorium on Wednesday, October 25 at 6 p.m. The program is presented in partnership with Maryland Institute College of Art Painting Department.
Akunyili Crosby draws viewers into her personal world through almost life-sized transformations of domestic interiors created with layers of paint, collaged fabrics, and photographic transfers. The bold color, pattern, and texture of the artist’s paintings serve as a metaphor for the complex merging of relationships and cultural backgrounds that contribute to the artist’s sense of self. Images from Nigerian fashion and society magazines and commemorative fabric printed with portraits give the artist’s paintings a global context that connects viewers to the people with whom we share the world. Viewers see signs of both Nigeria and the United States through the images of hairstyles, fashions, architecture, and furnishings.
“Akunyili Crosby’s technical virtuosity, as well as her deeply considered observations of art and life, make her paintings an extraordinary testament to the dynamic and generative outcomes of cultural confluence,” said BMA Senior Curator of Contemporary Art Kristen Hileman. “These are the type of humanistic, creative results one most hopes for in a world in which technology, mass media, interdependent economies, and environmental concerns cause different races, religions, ethnicities, and nationalities to come into closer contact with every passing day.”
For her Front Room exhibition, the artist has created three visually and conceptually mirrored pairs of paintings. One of these juxtaposes a Nigerian interior with Akunyili Crosby’s Los Angeles home. In another, a Nigerian table setting is matched with an American example. The Nigerian image is centered around the trappings of afternoon tea, a custom brought to the country by its British colonizers that still incorporates European food products. The composition also includes a colorful plastic “Clonette” or “DeiDei” doll of a Caucasian girl in Western dress and a Kris Okotie album cover inspired by Michael Jackson, both symbols of a popular culture shared internationally.
The American counterpart to this still life offers a more troubling take on the interface of cultures. Embedded in the accoutrements of a Thanksgiving feast is a “blackamoor” serving dish, a disturbing decoration that trivializes the terrible history of African slavery in America.
The exhibition’s two largest works isolate contemplative figures in architectural contexts that are alternately informed by Nigerian and American homes. In these gorgeously detailed images, Akunyili Crosby augments paint with Nigerian portrait fabrics produced for ceremonies such as weddings, burials, and political campaigns. (The artist’s mother was a respected politician.) She also applies photographic transfers from Nigerian society magazines that connect traditional Nigerian styles, fabrics manufactured in the Netherlands, and Western trends.
Akunyili Crosby (b. 1983, Enugu, Nigeria) moved to the United States in 1999. She earned a B.A. from Swarthmore College, and received a Post-Baccalaureate certificate from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, as well as an MFA in painting from Yale University School of Art. This fall, Akunyili Crosby’s work is on view at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cleveland through October 1, 2017, the Tang Museum at Skidmore College from October 14, 2017 through December 31, 2017, and at Prospect.4 in New Orleans from November 18, 2017 through February 25, 2018. Her work has previously been exhibited in solo shows at the Hammer Museum and Art + Practice, both in Los Angeles, and the Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, Florida, and has been featured at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Her work is in the collections of museums around the world. Awards include the Pollock-Krasner Foundation Inc. Grant, the Joyce Alexander Wein Artist Prize, The James Dicke Contemporary Artist Prize Smithsonian Museum, and the Carol Schlosberg Memorial Prize for Excellence in Painting from Yale University.
About the Baltimore Museum of Art
Founded in 1914, the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) inspires people of all ages and backgrounds through exhibitions, programs, and collections that tell an expansive story of art—challenging long-held narratives and embracing new voices. Our outstanding collection of more than 97,000 objects spans many eras and cultures and includes the world’s largest public holding of works by Henri Matisse; one of the nation’s finest collections of prints, drawings, and photographs; and a rapidly growing number of works by contemporary artists of diverse backgrounds. The museum is also distinguished by a neoclassical building designed by American architect John Russell Pope and two beautifully landscaped gardens featuring an array of modern and contemporary sculpture. The BMA is located three miles north of the Inner Harbor, adjacent to the main campus of Johns Hopkins University, and has a community branch at Lexington Market. General admission is free so that everyone can enjoy the power of art.