Jack Bell’s new West End gallery establishes itself as a hub of London’s growing African art scene with the latest exhibition, Les Fantomes. The group display of painting, photography and sculpture from West and Central Africa features several artists – Aboudia, Leonce Raphael Agbodjélou, Paa Joe and Hamidou Maiga – exhibited in his previous gallery in Victoria, along with newcomers Afedzi Hughes and Bandoma.
Aboudia is noted for his large-scale, heavily layered, brutally energetic paintings that combine an innocence and spontaneity with the portrayal of a dark interior world. His urban landscapes are haunted by armed soldiers, ominous skulls and a populace hemmed in by violence and danger. While the vitality of his style recalls Basquiat, the darker undercurrents and themes describe a battlefield straight out of Goya.
Leonce Raphael Agbodjelou shoots traditional vodou rituals, rites, ceremonies, and festivals local to Benin, West Africa. His vibrant daylight images present masquerade as a complex, mysterious and profound tradition in which participants transcend the physical world and enter the spiritual realm.
Ghanian artist Paa Joe blurs the line between art and craft, sculpting coffins to reflect the ambition of the person for whom it was made. They are not dead things but are instead a manifestation and affirmation of life. They link back to pre-colonial West African sculpture but also recall the contemporary Western art practice of Jeff Koons.
Hamidou Maiga’s distinctive outdoor studio portraits eloquently portray Malian society in its era of transition from a cosmopolitan French colony to an independent African nation. Balancing a strict sense of formality with a remarkable level of intimacy with his subjects, Maiga evokes stylistic traits simultaneously mastered by Irving Penn in the seminal Worlds in a Small Room.
Congo born Bandoma uses watercolour, ink and clippings from contemporary glossy publications to produce a series of genetic mutations, often fragile, funny and at times grotesque. His work interrogates globalisation, materiality and postcolonial identity.
The paintings of Afedzi Hughes draw parallels between violent colonial histories and contemporary social conflicts. Signage, symbols and text often combine to create tensions between seemingly unrelated forms.
The exhibition runs from 22 September – 29 October 2011.
Jack Bell Gallery
13 Mason’s Yard
London SW1Y 6BU
Contact details: +44 (0)207 930 8999 / email@example.com