Nigeria: Anticipating Kó's Visual Feast of Two Solos

1 August 2021

Two artists - Busayo Lawal and E. D. Adegoke - are holding two solo exhibitions at the same time - from Saturday, August 7 to Thursday, August 26 - and at the same gallery space: kó, which is located along Cameron Road in Ikoyi, Lagos. That's right, two solo exhibitions. Not a joint exhibition.

While Lawal's exhibition, which the press release proclaims to be "the first major exhibition of the artist's work in Nigeria" is titled Life in Asymmetry, Adegoke's debut solo is titled The Age of Dreams.

Besides sharing the same time and venue, both exhibitions also have the same curator, Sabo Kpade. A few words about Kpade. Besides being a curator, he is also the gallery's resident critic. This Fellow of Global Arts and Cultures at Rhode Island School of Design (in the US), who is also a content writer for Apple Music Africa, has previously worked as an interim curator at Retro Gallery in Abuja. He also used to be a culture writer for such publications as Contemporary &, Media Diversified, The Guardian Newspaper (Nigeria) and Okay Africa, where he was also the UK correspondent. He is a member of the US branch of the International Association of Art Critics, which is widely known by its acronym AICA.

Back to the exhibitions. Lawal, whose Life in Asymmetry holds in kó's Gallery I & III, is said to have a more than two-decades long history for interrogating "the conventions of visual vocabularies to challenge received notions of the time-space continuum, migration and power." If the artist's body of work, which includes large-scale paintings and drawings on paper, can be described as pivotal in his career, it is because they are the products of what could be described as fondness for the Yoruba ceremonial aso oke. His appropriation of this ageless textile tradition expresses itself in original forms, which are richly nourished by their motifs and colour schemes.

Curiously, kó describes the solo exhibition as "Lawal's artistic statement writ large". This is explained by his focalisation on the minutiae of the woven cloth's fascinating patterns, which are infallible guides into an intriguing world of craft and purpose, dedication and cultural histories, fortitude and fate.

"What makes the man is the story. What makes the story is the man" says the artist is quoted as saying.

Actually, Life in Asymmetry is Lagos-based artist's second solo exhibition since he held his first show at the Pan-Atlantic University, Lagos in 2014. Prior to that outing, he had taken part in group projects steered by the Bruce Onobrakpeya Foundation and Ford Foundation. He also participated in several group exhibitions in Lagos organised by the National Gallery of Art, Alliance Française, United Nations Information Centre, the National Council for Art and Culture and Eko Atlantic as well as in such group shows in Abuja as the ones at the Greece and Italian embassies.

Meanwhile, Adegoke's solo exhibition, The Age of Dreams, holds in Gallery II. Apparently, the Olabisi Onabanjo University performing arts graduate's body of work can be split into what the gallery's statement describes as "two broad categories". First, there are poses, which are said to be "formalised" and "less richly decorated than the second set". Talking about the latter, there are "costumed figures suggest an elevation from literalism to the metaphorical".

Blackness, or rather its celebration, seems to be the theme around which it orbits. His paintings, which are said to be "guided by the formal rigour of portraiture, as well as a creative desire to further foreground 'blackness' in the discursive conjectures of art history", attest eloquently to this fact. Through them, he breathes new ideas into conventional portraiture and highlights the primacy of self-esteem.

Before this exhibition, the 23-year-old's works have been featured in several group exhibitions in Nigeria, the UK and US.

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