Eclectica Contemporary is pleased to present a solo exhibition by Ayogu Kinsley for 1-54 London Art Fair 2023. The exhibition showcases latest developments in the artist’s ongoing series Icons In The White House.
Ayogu Kingsley (b. 1994) is a Nigerian artist born in Enugu, Nigeria in 1994. Kingsley developed an interest and an early aptitude for art from a young age. He began painting at eight years old and gained statewide recognition creating works for local politicians throughout specialized secondary school where he gained his Trade Test in Painting and Decorating. He studied in Enugu State College of Education where he gained a National Certificate in Education in Fine and Applied Art Education in 2017. He moved to Lagos to begin his professional art career later that year. Kingsley, who traditionally paints in oil on canvas, has gained a large social recognition since the start of his career for his hyperrealist prowess, a technique which he continues to utilize in his most recent body of work. Kingsley has since been awarded the Art X Lagos Prize (2023) and The Future Awards Africa Prize for Arts (2020). The artist is currently showing in Africa Supernova (2023) at Kunsthal Kade Amersfoort Museum.
Icons in the White House is an empowered expression of Black Life. Focused on the Black Icons from Africa and the African diaspora, the exhibition’s vision and purpose is to convey the precarious truth of the fragile sovereignty of blackness. Kingsley’s painted subjects are strikingly diverse, though each in their singular way conveys the artist’s dream of sovereignty. The series includes a painting of Malcolm X with his posture modelled on Barack Obama – this asks us to reflect on an alternative political reality and further compels us to rethink the canon and its erasure of Black thought. Featured alongside Malcom X are prominent figures in black history, Frantz Fanon, Chinua Achebe, Fela Kuti, Thomas Sankara, Kwame Nkrumah, Lucky Dube, Winnie Mandela and Mohammad Ali. The potency of these works lies in the critique of the institutionalisations of white superiority and racism within the American context following the Black Lives Matter protests of which notoriously succeeds the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements. The renewed visions of these leaders that had succumbed to early deaths further echoes the necropolitical and insidious underpinnings of our global economy – especially the ways in which our economy has been built upon centuries of the exploitative labour and dispossession of Black people.
Cynics consider Black Portraiture a fad, a boom-bust phenomenon akin to ‘tulipomania’. It cannot be so easily discarded and disregarded. Its impact in America is especially critical, given an incipient civil war and threat to democracy. What the Black Body, Black Life, in art represents is a vital drive to diffuse and overcome this threat. Ralph Ellison’s memorable words – ‘I am an invisible man. No I am not a spook … Nor am I one of your Hollywood movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids, and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, simply because people refuse to see me’ – is the challenge Ayogu Kingsley has assumed. His refusal to be refused by others, his desire to be seen, is a testimony and a love song.