Modupeola Fadugba September 8-10, 2023 kó gallery The Armory Show – Booth S11 Javits Center 429 11th Avenue New York, NY 10001
Nigeria’s kó gallery presents Modupeola Fadugba at The Armory Show, September 8-10, 2023, Booth S11. This presentation is featured in the Solo section, focusing on intimate presentations of work by a single artist. Modupeola Fadugba (born 1985 in Lomé, Togo) is a Nigerian multimedia artist working in painting, drawing, and socially-engaged installation. Her works explore cultural identity, social justice, game theory, and the art world within the socio-political landscape of Nigeria and the greater global economy.
This presentation features new mixed media paintings, uniting various bodies of work by Fadugba that delve into the concept of water and the swimming pool as a contested dialectical site full of possibilities for liberation and community-building. Originally trained in Chemical Engineering, the artist employs a unique technical skill-set to bring her surfaces to life, activating material science as a form of storytelling. Through the delicate burning of paper and incorporation of a variety of materials such as gold leaf, graphite, ink, acrylic, and oil, Fadugba explores the spatial composition and geometric patterns of swimming pools, experimenting with ideas of time, texture, and the tension between a work’s surface and the ideas lurking beneath.
In her ongoing series Synchronized Swimmers, the artist is inspired by the collaborative feat of bodies moving and working together in water as a metaphor for personal identity and collective empowerment. The figures in these works are often inspired by archival footage of historic Olympic team performances and are often anonymously matching in appearance, emphasizing their sense of unity and shared purpose over individualism. In her standalone portraits and newest series Reflections, however, Fadugba turns to documenting members of her own family and studio team, creating a bridge between life and art, the personal and universal.
For her seminal solo exhibition Dreams from the Deep End in 2018, Fadugba worked with the Harlem Honeys and Bears, an all-Black senior synchronized swimming team based in New York. Inspired by the history of the American public pool –a socially contested space fraught with tensions regarding access and autonomy– this body of work tells stories of survival, community, learning, togetherness, and play. A new portrait on display from this ongoing series, Lady in Red, 2023, is visually crowned in gold and embraced by the striking red of the group’s swim uniform.
This recurring muse and mentor of the artist sits in direct dialogue with Fadugba’s own grandmother, tranquil yet tentative, alongside a precocious infant in Swim School, 2023, the masterful synchronized swimmers, and the meditative young women in Reflections. These final contemplative subjects –based on young women the artist works with in Nigeria who learned to swim as part of the communal studio process– gaze into the water’s shimmering surface, oscillating between the abstract and the representational. Together, they tell an intergenerational story, where swimmers, alone or together, create a community holding a spectrum of transcendent experiences, from fear and fatigue to leisure and radical joy.
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