Revolutions Per Minute – Side B
7.6.2021 – 7.8.2021
Reiners Contemporary Art in Marbella, Spain, June 4th 2021
Text by Sasha Bogojev
Historically, the purpose of portraiture was primarily to memorialize the rich and powerful, figuratively and literally placing them above the common folk. From highly stylized representations of Egyptian pharaohs over sculpted heads of leaders and famous personalities in ancient Greece, it wasn’t until the 17th century when civic and businesses associations as well as occasional individuals started commissioning Dutch and Flemish painters to create their portraits. This moment marked the birth of one of the most recognized and popular genres in painting, an ongoing chronicle of human history, and the particular format that Idowu Oluwaseun is exploring through his current series, Revolutions Per Minute.
After introducing the Side A of this body of work with Galerie Voss in Düsseldorf, Germany in October 2020, Nigerian-born and Houston-based artist is about to reveal the Side B of this series with Reiners Contemporary Art in Marbella, Spain from June 4th 2021. Comprising new big-scale acrylics on canvas, along with acrylics on linen studies, the exhibition will continue Oluwaseun’s exploration of his own culture through reinvention of evocative elements from his upbringing. With a focus on music and fashion as some of the most impactful elements that resonated with him and his generation worldwide, the artist constructs poetic metaphors about his homeland past, present, and future, while creating an emotive and empathic link with the rest of the world.
Growing up in a country deeply scarred by its unjust past, Oluwaseun was regularly exposed to traditional photo portraits of the local people proudly presenting their trade, promoting their business, and displaying most prized possessions. Often dressed in traditional robes, these composed images had a goal of displaying the likeness, personality, and even the mood of the person, with a focus on the eyes which were meant to engage the subject with the viewer. Painfully aware of how difficult it was for these people to achieve such a level of success and recognition, the artist started painting anti-portraits of sorts, in which the eyes and the faces of the sitters were obscured with pieces of cloth.
The same vibrant colors and flowing patterns that were flaunted proudly to express community status and cultural bond are turned into a symbolic social nuisance. As a sobering reminder of the historic atrocities that shaped up the country and the region, these images are also a striking metaphor for the global disregard of the culture and the people of Nigeria as well as Africa as a whole. And aside from these locally engaged themes, his lace-covered female portraits are speaking of subjects’ vulnerability in regard to social and economical justice, clearly tapping into the pressing topic of gender inequality. Hiding behind the delicate see through fabric, these women are tirelessly yet vainly seeking an escape from their unfair surrounding which evaluates them based on their appearance.