Claire Oliver Gallery reopens with Solo Exhibition by Artist, Adebunmi Gbadebo




Adebunmi Gbadebo, installation of True Blue series at the 2020 Dhaka Art Summit. Image courtesy Claire Oliver Gallery

Claire Oliver Gallery announced a reopening of the gallery with a solo exhibition by Adebunmi Gbadebo entitled A Dilemma of Inheritance.

The exhibition will showcase the artist’s True Blue series, which is comprised of more than 45 works that grapple with concepts surrounding heredity and the evolution of memory and forgetting focused on two former slave plantations in South Carolina, both named True Blue.

Gbadebo’s conception behind the exhibition and its naming was sparked by author Ta-Nehisi Coates’ exploration of patrimony and the inheritance of status in his case for reparations, stating “We recognize our lineage as a generational trust, as inheritance, and the real dilemma posed by reparations is just that: a dilemma of inheritance. It is impossible to imagine America without the inheritance of slavery.” Within this inquiry, materiality is central to Gbadebo’s work, she employs Black hair, rice paper, cotton and indigo to create works that are visceral portraits of human narratives that have been erased by history.

Adebunmi Gbadebo, True Blue: Simon, Human Black Hair, Cotton, Rice Paper, Denim, Indigo, Hair Dye, Silk Screen Print, 22 x 28 in., 2019. Image courtesy Claire Oliver Gallery

“As an artist, I’m confronting my relationship with the color blue, Indigo, and materials cotton and rice in the context of their origins as commodities born of violence and enslavement. I’m interested in the whole system that produced these materials and how its memory has been treated,” states Gbadebo. “Furthermore, through the usage of Black human hair, the narratives I’m interested in depicting actually are the work itself.”

Above, awesome interview with Adebunmi Gbadebo, in the artist’s studio ~ on YouTube, co-presented with Claire Oliver Gallery.

Rejecting traditional art materials from European cannon, Gbadebo materially investigates history, commodities and identity that challenge the very substance of art making. With a studio practice anchored in material innovation and exploration, Gbadebo creates unique “portraits” by beating together human hair, cotton, rice paper and indigo dye. A central material for Gbadebo is the usage of human hair, which carries the very DNA of the people whose story she is telling: enlisting them as collaborators and symbolizing the humanity of the larger African Diaspora. As hair carries unique DNA chromosomes that remain for between 1,000 and 10,000 years, Gbadebo’s use of genes as a material reframes the microcosm of ancestry as point of entry through which to unpack larger global histories. The finished works are rendered as beautifully pigmented, layered portraits, or topological maps, of her community’s history.

Claire Oliver Gallery on Instagram

In her series 42 portraits, True Blue, Gbadebo explores two distinct former plantations in South Carolina called True Blue. 21 of the works in the series self into a former plantation on Pawley’s Island that is now a golf club where the history of enslavement has evolved into a location of leisure and privilege. Architectural renderings from the transformation of the land from a plantation to a golf club are incorporated into these works. Another 21 works are dedicated to the True Blue plantation in Fort Motte, where Gbadebo can trace her own families lineage, whose history is obscured by neglect. In confronting the erasure of the history of slavery on the land in these two locations, Gbadebo reasserts the legacy of this experience and reclaims the very products that were once the fruit of her people’s stolen labor.

A Dilemma of Inheritance marks the artists first solo exhibition in New York City and follows on critically acclaimed exhibitions in 2019 at 1-54 London Contemporary African Art Fair and UNTITLED Art, Miami with Claire Oliver Gallery.

Adebunmi Gbadebo: A Dilemma of Inheritance will be on view from September 17 to November 14, 2020, located at Claire Oliver Gallery,  2288 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, between 134th/135th Streets in Harlem. Stay tuned for information on social distancing and reservations. Don’t forget to wear a face mask. Follow Claire Oliver Gallery on Instagram.

Can’t make it to the gallery? Take a VR tour of ‘A Dilemma of Inheritance.’

Looking back to February, 2020, when Claire Oliver Gallery unveiled Bisa Butler: The Storm, the Whirlwind and the Earthquak. ~ and January, 2020, Judith Schaechter: Almost Better Angels.