A striking exhibition of 18 artists from the African continent looks at how appearances sometimes point to deeper truths.
“Now Look Here: The African Art of Appearance,” on view at a pop-up space in Amsterdam through February 23, showcases works by Tabi Benny, Blinky Bill, and Omar Victor Diop alongside 15 other artists in a presentation organized by Renny Ramakers, who curated the N’Gola Biennial last summer in the island nation of São Tomé and Príncipe.
Ramakers came up with the idea while preparing the biennial, noticing the extreme degree to which seemingly exuberant, over-the-top fashion and style had become a signifier of dignity and identity. The resulting show presents a “paradox of apparent superficiality that actually functions as a serious counter-force,” according to a press release for the exhibition.
The show presents artists whose work “at first glance, stands out for its attention to outward appearance: everything is colorful, radiant, smooth, and aesthetic,” the statement says. “On closer inspection, the seductive surface proves to be a lure that draws visitors into a deeper story, in which perspectives are reversed: white becomes black, stigma becomes beauty, a skivvy turns out to be a high priestess, and apparent footnotes to history are revealed as prominent figures.”
While many of the images in the show are beautiful and exuberant, there is an undercurrent of the systemic abuses enacted on African people, both historically and at present, at home and abroad.
See more images from the show below.
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