Apr 04, 2016 -
Apr 04, 2017
This exhibition is located in Conklin Hall 3rd floor, 175 University Ave, Newark NJ
Opening reception Tuesday April 12 @ 6pm
324 Conklin Hall, 175 University Ave, Newark NJ
Free and open to everyone.
Ade Bunmi Gbadebo writes: “Historically, the dominant legacy of paint has not been inclusive of people who look like me, so I in return excluded paint from my practice. This decision to abandon paint forced me to adopt a material that was connected to my culture, history, and identity. This material was human Black hair. My material is my people. Not only is Black hair dripping with cultural and historical content, but also human hair is DNA, which makes it tangible information. I purposely do not solely address women’s issues within the Black hair community, such as the perm and weave epidemic, because the historical issues involving hair impact men as much as they do women. I aim for my work to be genderless, so that men too can see themselves in my work.
“Before the Atlantic slave trade, many African cultures believed that a person’s spirit resided in his or her hair because hair was the closest part of the body to God. ‘One of the first things slave traders did to their human cargo was shave their head…which to the African was tantamount to erasing one’s identity”’ (Tharps).
“Informed by this heritage, I enact very little manipulation into my material. Instead I organize the hair, letting the material speak for itself. I am more interested in manipulating and conducting small acts of vandalism to Western materials. In Black Gold, the hair does not share with the white canvas, instead it overwhelms it. In this piece I replace my paintbrush with a needle stabbing the canvas, and interjecting my own medium, establishing a new definition of ‘a painting”’ In Dada I puncture ‘white walls’ and insert erect locks at heights that force the viewer to look up to Black hair, both physically and metaphorically. The hair invades not only the wall’s surface, but also the physical space.
“Ironically, my decision to let the hair speak for itself, has put my work in direct conversation with the very history I am trying to reject. I am in dialogue between my work and Abstract Expressionist, Minimalist, and color field painting, and I have embraced this reality. How the Abstract Expressionists used scale, the proportions of the rectangle, how they emphasized the viewer’s experience of the painting, are all devices I incorporate in my work.
“David Hammons is an artist I am influenced by, not only because he uses Black hair– but how he uses materials intrinsic to Black culture, and how he pushes the viewer to reconsider art with a big ‘A’. El Anatsui’s work has also been a major influence. That he takes a single item and proliferates it to produce majestic works is my analogous to taking a single strand of hair from one person and uniting that hair with thousands of other strands.
“I have to relinquish control in my process. I do not know from whom or what type of hair I will receive. I cannot force the hair to do what it will not. I have to listen and submit to the hair and allow it to speak and through this ongoing Ade Series I aim to have it speak to viewers through the canon of art.”
Ade Bunmi has been a featured artist in Glocally Newark’s website and has exhibited at Newark Open Doors, the Jacob Javits Center, and other venues in New York and New Jersey. In addition to her artistic practice, she is involved in volunteer and activist work on subjects such as literacy, race, and inhumane conditions in prisons.
Curated by Adrienne Wheeler
This exhibition was made possible by funding from Chancellor Nancy Cantor’s Seed Grant Initiative.