TAFETA is pleased to present a group exhibition of selected works by Temitayo Ogunbiyi, Niyi Olagunju, and Babajide Olatunji. Three artist of Nigerian extraction, the selection is a presentation of disparate cultural references and variegated executions.
In her second fair showing with TAFETA, Ogunbiyi’s works include meticulous graphite drawings on paper from the You Will Series. The series combines the geometry of the pineapple with traditional Nigerian hairstyles, and the resulting fusion is each titled as a contemporary Nigerian prayer. Ogunbiyi also exhibits a series of sculptures derived from one of these renderings. Exploring the inflection of traditional mediums by technology, these sculptures demonstrate Ogunbiyi’s commitment to mixed media and her interest in leveraging accessible DIY platforms.
A contemporary reflection on representation as cultural reliquary, Olatunji’s featured works use portraiture to highlight various forms of facial scarification found in Nigerian communities. Each rendering portrays a unique, fictitious character. A botanist by training, Olatunji uses his understanding of three-dimensional form to construct characters that embody the familiar—the young boy, the grey-haired elder, or the middle-aged man. Conceptualized and executed with excruciating detail, Olatunji’s renderings, made entirely from his imagination, effect a bewitching degree of hyperrealism.
Refashioning traditional forms and materials into metallic, hybrid structures, Niyi Olagunju confronts the commodification of cultural artifacts in the current global economy. His Congo and Mumuye series consists of bisected sculptures, their inner surfaces gilded in precious metals. The choice of metal corresponds with the region of each sculpture’s origin. Also on view are Olagunju’s new works, made from the pods of Ekpiri seeds. These pods are typically strung together as beads to create anklets worn in Igbo dance. Stringing these seeds together in rows, the artist either paints or gilds them in various precious and semi-precious metal leaves to conceal the earth tones of the objects. Minimalist invocations of dynamic subjects, the works in this series demonstrate Olagunju’s interest in reconfiguring historicized matter.
Together, the works demonstrate TAFETA’s commitment to innovative contemporary African Art. This presentation is a continuation of the gallery’s work to introduce these artists to new audiences.
Temitayo Ogunbiyi (b.1984) uses a variety of drawing, fabric, collage, and installation techniques to respond to contemporary channels of communication in physical and virtual space. Her works are peppered with stories or instructions, from Internet anecdotes to prayers, recipes, and dreams. Her approach is often site-specific, and explores shared forms and histories of growth and pattern—as textile, ritual, celebration, and repeated gesture. Temitayo’s recent work celebrates and draws links between three dominant aspects of contemporary Nigeria—hair braiding, pineapple production, and prayer. Her work has appeared in exhibitions at Tiwani Contemporary, London, curated by Zina Saro-Wiwa (2016); Museum of Contemporary Diasporan Art, Lagos (2013); Pulitzer Art Foundation, St. Louis (2012); and Centre for Contemporary Art, Lagos (2012).
Niyi Olagunju’s (b.1981) contemporary appropriation of traditional African sculptures continues his exploration of global trade and, in his words, “the absolute commoditization of everything.” His sculptures question the value system driving the continued growth in the sales of traditional African artifacts. Although these objects were originally made and used for specific tribal functions, they are now ultimately valued according to their provenance and rarity. Olagunju’s use of precious and semiprecious metals lends consideration to the complex relationships that emerge from the exploitation of natural resources on the African continent, and its subsequent effects on communities and their cultural legacies. Olagunju studied at Yaba College of Technology, Lagos; the Ruskin School of Art, University of Oxford; and Texas Christian University.
Babajide Olatunji (b.1989) lives and works in Ile-Ife, Nigeria. His Tribal Marks series is a collection of hyperrealist portraits informed by his extensive research into the age-old practice of facial scarification, which includes discussions with carriers of these marks. Marrying his deep knowledge with technical proficiency, Olatunji creates portraits that are highly photorealistic. The artist says of his work: “The rendering process starts with the creative imaginings of the subject, considering personality, character, skin-type and even factoring in medical history in some cases.” Olatunji’s paintings have been selected for recent exhibitions in Nigeria, the UK, and the USA, and have been acquired by the Mott-Warsh Collection in Michigan.