On view September 7–December 10, 2016

 

From 19th-century studio practice through the independence era of the 1950s and 1960s, African photography has best been known for modes of portraiture that crystallize subjects’ identities and social milieus.  Even contemporary art photographs are often interpreted as windows into African lives, whether actual or theatricalized. 

This exhibition reconsiders African contemporary photographic portraiture by presenting the work of four artists whose concerns range beyond depicting social identity: Sammy Baloji, Mohamed Camara, Saïdou Dicko, and George Osodi.  Works by these four artists lend greater thematic and formal versatility to the practice of portraiture.

From 19th-century studio practice through the independence era of the 1950s and 1960s, African photography has best been known for modes of portraiture that crystallize subjects’ identities and social milieus.  Even contemporary art photographs are often interpreted as windows into African lives, whether actual or theatricalized. 

This exhibition reconsiders African contemporary photographic portraiture by presenting the work of four artists whose concerns range beyond depicting social identity: Sammy Baloji, Mohamed Camara, Saïdou Dicko, and George Osodi.  Works by these four artists lend greater thematic and formal versatility to the practice of portraiture.

Sammy Baloji (b. 1978, Democratic Republic of Congo) transfers colonial-archival figures to alternate backdrops—the post-colonial site of an abandoned mine, landscape paintings by colonial explorers—in order to activate historical awareness and challenge photographic authority.

Mohamed Camara (b. 1985, Mali) situates his pictures ambiguously between documentary and mise en scène as a means of interrogating photographic portraiture, including its processes and potentials, pleasures and pitfalls. 

Saïdou Dicko (b. 1979, Burkina Faso) captures the shadow silhouettes of individuals on sunlit streets—a strategy that references photographic processes and unsettles portrait conventions, while still conveying subjects’ expressivity.

George Osodi (b.1974, Nigeria) produces pictures whose anonymous or fictional subjects reveal dissonance with their surroundings, thereby examining human consequences of broader political phenomena.

Viewed together, works by Baloji, Camara, Dicko, and Osodi complicate common understandings of portraiture from Africa.  Baloji’s montages dislocating the subject historically, Camara’s reflexive gaze, Dicko’s uncertainty with respect to the possibility of representation, and Osodi’s political commentary all expand the range of portraiture and offer new ways of contemplating photographic subjectivities. 

 

The project and has been made possible by an endowment established by Miriam and Ira D. Wallach. 
The Wallach Art Gallery is grateful to lenders Sammy Baloji (Axis Gallery, New York); Mohamed Camara (Galerie Pierre Brullé, Paris); Saïdou Dicko; George Osodi; The Walther Collection, New York; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

Sammy Baloji. "Unititled 17" from the Series "Memoire," 2006. Courtesy the artist and Axis Gallery
Date

Past Exhibition

Featured Artist(s)

Sammy Baloji
Mohamed Camera
Saïdou Dicko
George Osodi

Curated By

Joshua I. Cohen, Sandrine Colard, Giulia Paoletti

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Joshua I. Cohen, Assistant Professor of African Art History, Art Department, The City College of New York and 2016-17 Jane and Morgan Whitney Fellowship at The Metropolitan Museum of Art; PhD, Columbia University Department of Art History and Archaelogy.

Sandrine Colard, PhD Candidate, Columbia University Department of Art History and Archaeology.

Giulia Paoletti, 2016-18 Andrew Mellon Curatorial Fellow in the Department of the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and theAmericas, The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Core Lecturer, Columbia University Department of Art History and Archaeology; PhD, Columbia University Department of Art History and Archaeology.

The Expanded Subject extends research undertaken by each of the curators during their doctoral studies in Art History at Columbia University.

RELATED PUBLICATION

The Expanded Subject: New Perspectives In Photographic Portraiture From Africa

From 19th-century studio practice through the independence era, African photography has best been known for modes of portraiture that crystallise the sitter’s identity and social milieu.

The Expanded Subject | Exhibition Catalogue
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