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Art & Culture

Unraveling the Synthesis of Cultures in Njideka Akunyili Crosby’s Art

  • Culture.org
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  • June 1, 2023
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  • 3 minute read
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Unraveling the Synthesis of Cultures in Njideka Akunyili Crosby’s Art
Key Takeaways
  • Njideka Akunyili Crosby is a Nigerian-American artist known for her meticulous approach and intricate research process in creating her artwork. Her attention to detail is evident in the accuracy and precision of her depictions, including scientific classifications of plants.
  • Akunyili Crosby's art bridges her dual Nigerian and American cultural heritage, incorporating visual signifiers, personal memories, and historical references. She creates patchwork-like representations that include elements such as printed fabrics, furniture, fashion, and architectural elements, reflecting her past and cultural influences.
  • Her paintings serve as narratives, conveying stories of place and time. Akunyili Crosby has a deeply personal connection to each piece, listing what she wants to convey in the painting before starting, emphasizing the importance of objects and their ability to reflect personal experiences.
  • The artist is highly acclaimed and celebrated globally, with her works featured in prestigious collections and museums such as the Met, the Tate, and the Whitney Museum of American Art. Her auction prices have reached over $4.7 million.
  • Akunyili Crosby's journey as an artist has involved merging her Nigerian and American identities without sacrificing one for the other. Her work promotes embracing diversity and difference, using her cultural backgrounds to enrich her art. She explores themes of history, philosophy, and fantasy in her ongoing series, "The Beautyful Ones," which focuses on Nigerian youth and domestic spaces.

 

Njideka Akunyili Crosby, a Nigerian artist based in Los Angeles, is set to mark an important milestone in the art world with her latest exhibition at the new David Zwirner gallery in Los Angeles.

The Nigerian-American artist’s approach to her work encapsulates a deliberate pace and intricate research process.

This can be observed in the detailing and accuracy of her depictions, even down to the scientific classification of plants featured in her paintings.

The exhibit, titled “Njideka Akunyili Crosby: Coming Back to See Through, Again”, is set to be the inaugural show at the new gallery, a space designed by Selldorf Architects in East Hollywood.

Her unique artistic language, blending drawing, painting, collage, and printmaking, has been lauded by critics, curators, and fellow artists.

Bridging Two Worlds Through Art

In her work, Akunyili Crosby amalgamates her dual Nigerian and American cultural heritage through visual signifiers, personal memories, and historical references.

These elements often form a patchwork quilt-like representation, replete with printed fabrics, furniture, fashion, and architectural elements that resonate with her past.

A closer inspection of her works often reveals layers of her life experiences, from her upbringing in Nigeria to her adult life in America.

She incorporates culturally significant elements such as Nigerian traditional clothing, symbols of the British Empire, American pop culture, and elements of Roman Catholicism.

The exhibit, titled “Njideka Akunyili Crosby: Coming Back to See Through, Again”, is set to be the inaugural show at the new gallery, a space designed by Selldorf Architects in East Hollywood.

Art as a Reflection of Time and Place

Akunyili Crosby’s paintings often feel like a still life narrative, showcasing her belief in the ability of objects to convey stories of place and time. Before starting any artwork, she lists what she wants in the painting, a meticulous approach that attests to the deeply personal connection she has with each piece.

The artist’s detailed preparation and thoughtful execution for her paintings extend to her self-portrait, “Still You Bloom in This Land of No Gardens” which reflects her in-depth research at the Huntington art museum’s botanical gardens and numerous plant stores.

Acclaimed and Celebrated Globally

In the art community, Akunyili Crosby is highly esteemed. Her works have been included in prestigious collections at the Met, the Tate, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, with auction prices reaching over $4.7 million.

She has been featured at the Sydney Modern Project in Australia, and some of her works were part of a solo exhibition at the Blanton Museum of Art, Austin.

The Met Museum has an ongoing installation, “Before Yesterday We Could Fly: An Afrofuturist Period Room”, which incorporates her painting “Thriving and Potential, Displaced (Again and Again and…)”.

The Story of Two Cultures

Born in Nigeria and moving to the United States at 16, Akunyili Crosby’s journey has been one of merging cultures without sacrificing one for the other.

Her work advocates for embracing diversity and difference, using her Nigerian and American identities to enrich her art.

Moreover, her ongoing series, “The Beautyful Ones,” presents intimate images of Nigerian youth and their families in domestic spaces.

This series is currently spotlighted in an exhibition curated by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and critic Hilton Als, showcasing Akunyili Crosby’s skill in creating unique settings that blend history, philosophy, and fantasy.

As the art world awaits her forthcoming exhibition at the David Zwirner gallery, it is clear that Njideka Akunyili Crosby’s unique narrative continues to resonate, capturing the essence of diverse cultures, personal memory, and trans-Atlantic experiences.

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