The Yale Center for British Art in New Haven is presenting a series of six works by Njideka Akunyili Crosby through January 22, 2023. The exhibition will travel to the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Garden in San Marino, California, where it will be on view in February 2023.
This exhibition is the third and final exhibition in a series curated by the Pulitzer Prize-winning Hilton Als in team with YCBA and each of the artists. Previous exhibitions have shown work by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye in 2019 and Celia Paul in 2018.
The Hilton Als and Akunyili Crosby have chosen works from The Beautyful Ones, the artist’s series of cozy depictions of young Nigerians, including her own relatives. The title refers to a 1968 novel, The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born, by Ghanaian author Ayi Kwei Armah, which highlights the difficulties of contrariness, addresses the unfulfilled political promises of the postcolonial African state, and looks to the future from a position of lost confidence.
Using acrylic paint, materials, collections, and dissolvable copy exchanges, Njideka Akunyili Crosby creates a substrate of images culled from mainstream magazines, commemorative print textures, individual family collections, and her own photographs. These pieces, which may incorporate style models, tyrants, or family representations, are meticulously sorted into rich layers of American and Nigerian culture and government issues.
Njideka Akunyili Crosby‘s artworks present a world made of layers and deeply attached to the depth that can be found on surfaces that constitute cozy and confidential spaces, including the body.
Her materials are overflowing with how she might interpret the layered, complex and fragile lives of her various subjects.
History, reasoning and dreaming permeate the walls of Njideka Akunyili Crosby‘s quiet homes. Equipped with unique styling and simple gadgets, the interiors inspire her own youth of the 1980s period, suggesting that youth is as much a construction of memory and culture as it is a fleeting phase of presence.
The usual scenes and spaces become destinations of separation and friendship, weakness and trust, as she, the artist, excavates the experience of diaspora to investigate belonging or being an outcast.