Chibuike Uzoma at Simon Lee | London


The opening dedication in Chibuike Uzoma’s book To Kick A Stone, published on the occasion of his solo exhibition of the same name, reads simply, “To Grace, my beloved mother.” Grace is thus the intended viewer for this show, which is apt considering that all the works share the same title: Mother, Mother…, Times Have Changed (all works 2022.) Grounded in the principles of Roland Barthes’ 1967 essay The Death of The Author, Nigerian-born Uzoma spurns the logic that a work of art should be critiqued primarily or solely according to the artist’s intent and positionality. I imagine that for a Black painter, this is especially intentional, liberating even. Instead, the audience is tasked to come to their own conclusions about the works with little prompt or clues.

Ten medium-sized canvases of oil and acrylic are assembled on the ground floor gallery. Not obviously representational, they are pictorial and so require fine attention. Uzoma’s leading color choices are aquatic blues, greens, and a captivating sunset orange. If you stand back far enough, you can make out the blurred profile of a human face. Swaths of black and white on either side of the canvas give breathing room for the floating head, neon cylinders, and fixed-width stenciled letters repeated in every work. Playing on loop is a soundtrack by the artist’s collaborator, Joāo Orecchia, as well as Edward Owens’s 1967 film, A Portrait Study. These are nice accents, but not crucial. Uzoma succeeds in creating a certain mood with just his compositions: pleasing, but not riveting. The real kick is, I’m eager to see more.



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