Rele Gallery (Lagos/LA) shows for the first time at Art Basel Miami with new paintings from Nigerian artist Marcellina Akpojotor (b. 1989 in Lagos, Nigeria). Focusing on the figure of her late great-grandmother, Akpojotor creates highly textured paintings using Ankara fabric to present an ongoing dialogue on familial history, the evolving nature of archives, and an intimate celebration of memories and generational legacy. Coinciding with an exhibition in Rele Gallery’s Los Angeles space and following a November residency at Fountainhead Miami, the solo presentation also marks the artist’s debut at Art Basel.
Drawing from old photographs sourced from family albums and the internet, as well as oral traditions, Ode to Beautiful Memories functions as an act of remembrance and commemoration to past lives and unfolding futures. Through the figure of her great-grandmother Dede Eboheide Anare, Akpojotor’s densely layered works delicately explore the life and realities of a generation of women whose desire to be educated paved the way for future generations to achieve academic excellence. Encompassing national events including the colonization and amalgamation of Nigeria, Independence, the Civil War, and the Women’s Rights movement - alongside personal politics and everyday life - Akpojotor’s works serve as monuments to the concept of re-memory and family history. The artist comments, “I'm delighted to have a dedicated solo booth of my work at Art Basel Miami. It's truly a joy and a dream come true to be in the same space as some of the most important artists in the world! When I started this new body of work, I was trying something new and wanted to stretch myself and see the outcome. So, I'm thrilled that the result of this process will be unveiled in Miami. My heart is full.”
The works combine acrylic paint with discarded pieces of the Ankara fabric, sourced from local fashion houses. Commonly known as African print fabric - despite its Dutch origin - Akpojotor investigates the politics of Ankara as a cultural signifier and a conduit for memory and shared energies. The fabrics take on archival and contemporary significance, drawing from their storied pasts alongside their contemporary relevance. Archival photographs and symbolic motifs also play a key role in mapping out layered landscapes of history within the works.
Through her exploration of ancestral history and past events, the artist invites viewers to critically engage with their own individual and collective histories, an integral step to understanding how we might shape current and future realities. Founder Adenrele Sonariwo expresses, “we’re beyond excited to be showing at Art Basel for the first time and looking forward to seeing the engagement that will arise from the presentation of Marcellina’s work. Following her residency at Fountainhead, it’s an incredible moment for Marcellina and invites everyone to celebrate and be a part of her recent achievements.”
The artist’s works are also on view at Rele Gallery, Los Angeles in Daughters of Esan from October 30 - December 4, 2021.