Sculpting the City: Group Exhibition

Rele Gallery is pleased to present Sculpting the City, a sequel to Material Times and the second iteration of the gallery’s engagement with purely sculptural forms. An exhibition of sculptures and installations by contemporary Nigerian artists who have found the city as an important texture in their work, Sculpting the City is designed as a way to examine the dynamic relationship between the city — as ever-evolving, occupied space — and contemporary sculptural practice. The exhibition considers the ways in which the built space influences and shapes artistic expression in contemporary Nigerian art. 


Sculptural practice has from the time of its inception been a significant part of Nigerian art history, serving as conduits of memory and shedding light on economic and socio-political realities of past civilisations. From the ancient Nok terracottas to the magnificent bronzes of Ife and Benin to carved masks among various tribes in Nigeria, these objects have been instrumental to modern historians in understanding the daily workings of these ancient cities. Sculpture — in both medium and form — has since then undergone a constant evolution in its engagement with contemporary societies. We are currently witnessing an emergence of artistic talents and practice broadening the scope of this collectable medium.


The bodies of work featured were carefully selected to expand the existing discourse on current modes of sculptural expression and to also explore the dialogue between object and audience. Exhibiting artists are Olu Amoda, Adewale Alimi, Raqib Bashorun, Dare Adenuga, Ayanfe Olarinde, Richardson Ovbiebo, Emmanuel Adeyemi, Segun Okewumi and Rotimi Onigbinde. 


From early works such as Olu Amoda’s Sunflower, to the recent installation by Emmanuel Adeyemi Not Today Does the World End, Not Tomorrow, the exhibition explores issues of consumerism, pollution and recycling prevalent in modern cities. Working primarily in wood, Alimi Adewale’s sculptures explore contemporary issues ranging from solitude, as informed by current happenings, to the beauty and history of place and the importance of free speech in modern cities.


Ayanfe Olarinde’s Somewhere In-Between considers how changing social structures and values in communities bring about a state of liminality — where the past is momentarily negated and the future has yet to begin — and ultimately transformation. Incorporating found and industrial objects such as wheels, doors, perspex, wood and metal, Richardson Ovbiebo ‘Neighbours’ series dissect issues in urban planning, power shortages and socio-economic gaps, which are all magnified in a rapidly developing city like Lagos.

Presenting work across various media, Sculpting the City aims to add to the existing discourse on materiality and technique in sculptural practice while also examining the social realities in which these objects are produced. The sculptures, beyond their aesthetic qualities, serve as repositories of knowledge and reference points in the continuous dialogue with modern societies.