New York’s Retro Africa Gallery presents a group exhibition and new works by artist and essayist Victor Ehikhamenor, Congolese painter Chéri Samba, and African American artisan Nate Lewis through August 17, 2021.

Leaning on Victor Ehikhamenor‘s act of investigating the resonances and divergences between African and African American art, « Do This in Memory of Us » examines, in some measure, the connection between the ancient African kingdom of Benin, contemporary Congo, and the direction of the African diaspora in the « Nouveau Monde », while presenting new works that reflect the common, yet disparate social personalities of the two regions. This exhibition rises above borders and draws a line that communicates the cultural associations between the African heritage and the African American diaspora.

Known for making vivid installations investigating general topics of history, sentimentality, home, and otherness, Victor Ehikhamenor draws on themes from his adolescence in the Nigerian town of Udomi-Uwessan and his studio practice in the United States, reflecting unmistakable imaginative customs and sabotaging the assumptions of each custom.

« Do This In Memory of Us » invites us to enter the game with narratives that reflect dreams of the dark variety. Each exhibiting artist draws from the majority of verifiable and contemporary African life, from the current and trade between African and Western custom, while promoting an African particularity. Each of them, through their specialty, but in quite different ways, represents various obscure encounters by incorporating explicit references from their own lives into their works.

The artists of the exhibition “Do This In Memory Of Us

Victor Ehikhamenor

IMG_4676-1024x683 « Do This In Memory Of Us » a group exhibition at Lehmann Maupin in New York
© Victor Ehikhamenor

Victor Ehikhamenor will present a progression of new works that suggest Nigeria’s imperial and pilgrim past and the powers that shape its future. The eponymous focal point of the exhibition, a woven artwork made from over 10,500 plastic rosaries carefully sewn together, evokes the Middle Passage, the forced excursion of oppressed Africans across the Atlantic Ocean to the New World. Narrative is an important element of the artist’s practice as a writer.

The exhibition also includes the artist’s series of perforations that inspire an illustrious interest, the uncommon authenticity of memory, as well as pointed studies of history and government issues. Overall, these works connect the past to the present and respond to Victor Ehikhamenor‘s desire to discover new implications for the archaic beliefs held by Africans in our time.

D.C. Nate Lewis

signalling15detail2-1024x823 « Do This In Memory Of Us » a group exhibition at Lehmann Maupin in New York
© D.C. Nate Lewis

D.C. Nate Lewis examines history through examples, surfaces and rhythms, reflecting on celebration and regret. His first imaginative activity was playing the violin in 2008, and then moved to drawing in 2010. Since 2017, he has lived and worked in New York City. Intrigued by the undetectable, his work is driven by sympathy and a desire to understand nuanced perspectives.

By changing photographs, D.C. Nate Lewis intends to challenge individuals’ views on race and history through twisting and hallucination. Viewing paper as a living being in itself, he shapes the drawings as cellular tissue and anatomical components, considering the disclosure of hidden accounts and examples from the photographs. Lewis approaches the subjects and imagery from a demonstrative point of view, using symptomatic focal points and different colors.

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Chéri Samba

telechargement-1-1024x472 « Do This In Memory Of Us » a group exhibition at Lehmann Maupin in New York
© Chéri Samba

Chéri Samba lives and works in Kinshasa. He began his profession as an artist without conventional training, initially as a sign painter before joining Moké and Bodo and his younger brother Cheik Ledy. Together they ran one of the most popular painting schools in Africa.

At sixteen, he left his town to seek employment as a sign painter in the capital city of Kinshasa, where he began to foster a body of work that combined allegorical canvas and text.  

Samba’s paintings from this period reveal his impression of the real social, political, monetary and social factors of Zaire, uncovering all the characteristics of daily life in Kinshasa. From the end of the 1980s onwards, he becomes, ultimately, the main subject of his paintings. For Chéri Samba, this is not a demonstration of narcissism; on the contrary, like a television presenter, he invests himself in his work to showcase himself as an African artist on the world stage.  

Self-proclaimed undisciplined hero, he likes to destabilize individuals. With his words, he drops the visual polysemy of his paintings, while falsely proposing a particular reading. It is a way to hinder incendiary understandings, to guarantee himself by pretending not to be political, to keep the authority on the history of his life and work. It is also a method of preventing scholars and gatekeepers from attaching their own excessively regulative or insufficiently decentered histories to his work. In his creations, he remarks on himself. He questions and sets up the evolution of his material conditions, his status as an artist, his own notoriety, the level of that notoriety, his place and that of his peers in the history of his nation – and in the larger discipline of art history.

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