Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Lynette Yiadom-Boakye Unleashes Unevil Blackness

If anyone told me that sepia/burnt umber/ebony toned figures allowed let black cats sit on their shoulders or reclined on striped surfaces while directing quiet dignity towards viewers, I wouldn't be quick to believe. Yet in this new dawn of emerging black artists, a giant push back against stereotypes and gender barriers brings on rebellious cannon bombs and loud booming echoes in the megaphones, addressing various problems in how one perceives blackness, in and outside of the lens. Ghanaian-British artist Lynette Yiadom-Boakye's pleasing takeover of New Museum's fourth floor space ushers forth suspenseful tales that light up darkened spaces.

Isn't that charming-- the grand reveal of dark toned figures brightening up an entire room? Is that part of the secrets layered beneath Under-Song for a Cipher, the fetching title of Yiadom-Biadom's body of seventeen amazing paintings?

Surprisingly enough, the artist will be at the New Museum tomorrow, in a conversation with Massimiliano Gioni, which will be live streamed. This is definitely a can't miss treat.

Now Yiadom-Boakye, a Turner Prize nominee, writes the most fascinating dark prose and her immensely glorious paintings match elegance of her sharp wit, candid horror, and twisted humor. One simply cannot browse and move along. Like fine, decadent chocolaty after dinner desserts at restaurants that most are too full to order, this sumptuous feast seduces the audience with enticing delivery, all mouthwateringly seductive, meant to be slowly savored and swallowed whole. Appreciative eyes venture from work to work, dallying in beautiful dark figures, humanized to the point of not knowing when their breathing stops. They’re figments of Yiadom-Boakye’s compelling imagination, but feel present, immediate. Yes, they're quite peculiar enigmas suspended in abstract plains, but they don’t fall into the magical negro trope. They don’t have powers, recant spells, or help whiteness reach its way. These figures are not owned by The Other. They have something special simmering along shadowed gloom, something that is irresistible, undeniable, arresting.   

Yiadom-Boakye's paintings pull blackness into mysterious unknown, containing potent figures into thoughtfully engaging depths of abyssal tension. Minimal palette leaves ample room to become inventive, explore and stretch limits of a color, invent psychological moods. Subjects join rather ambiguously with specific objects and environments. For example, in a warm orange turtleneck sweater and black pants darker than his dark brown skin and the same hue family as the white ear cat on his shoulder, he sits relaxed, his long arms crossed over him, his lean legs opened. The angles are both sharp and subdued, elevating various relationships. Softness between human skin, animal fur, and sweater or exaggerated negative perceptions of a man with a cat would be considered "soft" or "too feminine." In this quiet composition, trust and dignity play a commanding game together, the security the cat feels on its human and the human's admiration for the cat, exposing his body as the cat's to dally. 

Yiadom-Boakye is a painter's painter, that intelligent master whose thick brushstrokes tell deeper narratives about the act of painting, of committing to wide and expansive movement. Kinetic motion sweeps across bodies and their clothes, swishes into background with purposeful direction, like a wind current perhaps. She is ever the skilled commander, making formal painting decisions that enhance content driving her work.

Under-Song For a Cipher is up until September 3, 2017. May an inner unbeknownst inkling awaken at the breathtaking sight of this moody, temperamental land of lush brushstrokes, fisted Impressionist flowers, wild feathered birds, and rich chocolate metaphors. 

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