Njideka Akunyili-Crosby, the Nigerian-American artist and the daughter of Dora Akunyili, will be showcasing her paintings at David Zwirner’s gallery in Los Angeles.
The exhibition, which will be held on Tuesday, will showcase a collection of new and old paintings titled ‘Njideka Akunyili Crosby: Coming Back to See Through, Again’.
“There was a certain amount of obscuring that had to happen. You can’t obscure the plants so much that you’re just seeing little pieces of it,” said the 40-year-old artist.
“Some plants are very dense. You had to see enough of the pants to make sense of it. But the plants also couldn’t be so thin that it just didn’t work.
“Normally I would have said, it takes me about three months to do a work, but it’s slowly been extending into longer. I’ve slowed down to get what I need. I always thought of my studio as a lab.
“I want to just go in there and cook and figure out what’s going on and make the pieces that are in my mind.
“Something I’ve been very clear about with everybody I work with is, my pace is slow and you cannot push me or force me to work faster. I am not a machine; I like taking my time.
“Because for me, my interest in the work is pretty much diminished after the work is done. I never want to feel like I am just plowing through.”
David Zwirner, a German art dealer and the owner of David Zwirner Gallery, said Akunyili-Crosby has brought “her own language” to the world of art.
“She has been able to create a new vernacular and a new iconography in contemporary visual culture. She brought to the art world her own language,” he said.
“That language includes a mix of drawing, painting, collage and printmaking. Crosby’s work evokes scrapbooks or patchwork quilts that synthesize her Nigerian and American cultures through layers of visual signifiers, historical references and personal memories.
“Look closely at a Crosby painting and one continues to discover pieces of her past. Printed fabrics, articles of furniture or fashion, family members, book titles, architectural elements.”
Ian Alteveer, the Met’s curator of modern art, described the artist’s work as “a combination of personal narrative, a larger cultural understanding and something trans-Atlantic.”
“It is about generational families, it’s about migration, it’s about moving from Africa to the U.S. and looking back always toward Africa, straddling both continents,” he said.
“The artist, who favors rainbow crocs and has an open-throated laugh, makes lists of what she wants in one of her paintings before she begins.
“In one recent work, for example, she knew that she wanted bars on the window akin to those she recalled from her childhood home in Nigeria, her wedding dress and an illustration from one of her elementary school textbooks.
“Pieces turn up in her paintings that are immediately recognizable to fellow Nigerians: a senator suit, cabin biscuits, jerrycans, painted tea kettles, braided hairstyles, dolls.”
In 2016, Akunyili-Crosby was named one of the Financial Times’ “Women of the Year.”
She then won the MacArthur Fellowship Genius grant in 2017.
In 2018, the artist designed the mural that wrapped the Museum of Contemporary Art, Grand Avenue, Los Angeles.
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