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Complexities, Portraiture and Abstract Dialogues in Contemporary Nigerian Emerging and Established Artists, curated by Atim Annette Oton and Burns Effiom

The work of some Nigerian artists bridge a complex dialogue between abstract composition in drawing, pencils, oil paint and mixed media and realism in portraiture. It situates its core in story telling, form, abstract and textual composition.

With diverse culutral and ethnic groups in Nigeria, there is a strong belief in the HEAD as a potent image that plays a central role in how a person is seen by others as the essence of LIFE. It is regarded as a seat of power and determinant of personal destiny. Among the KALABARIS, the head is revered, especially the Forehead which is taken as the locus of the spirit, TEME which is believed to be in control of BEHAVIOR and indirectly DESTINY. Apart from the physical head, the INNER head (Ori-Inu) among the Yorubas is a focus of many important rituals and altars are dedicated to inner heads of the past. The importance of the head is not only represented through art works but also in elaborate hairstyle and headwear. Art just like energy is not linked to any particular place but rather is part of the invisible fabric of globalization.

This exhibition gathers the work of 15 emerging and established Nigerian artists from the secondary market and explores portraiture, the head and mind through drawing, paint, mixed media and compositions that illustrate rawness, abstraction, culture and ideas of some of the diverse ethnic groups in Nigeria.

Joseph Eze paints an intimate scene of hair dressing, Stanley Dudu present a series of portraits of women in charcoals, pastels, oils and acrylics, Afi Ekong has a study of Nigerian sculptural forms, Nelson Okoh depicts a female face, Babalola Lawson and Emmanuel abstracts highlight the themes of the exhibition. Other artists include Joel Otuedor, Nyemike Onwuka, Larry Isimah, Yinka Fabayo, Tayo Adenike Unwana Noah, Emmanuel Awa, Burns Effiom, Sotoyne Jumbo and Oshogbo Informal Artists.






JANUARY 20 – FEBRUARY 28, 2018


“My latest work incorporates both, the techniques of printmaking and drawing. I utilize the linear planes and curved lines to create dimensions that narrate my journey. My life has many stories, the struggles, the joys, in short, my art tells of the contrasting emotions within me.” Robert likes to use recycled materials, old canvases, wood found in the street, old paper or used clothing. His choices of mediums are crayon, pens, ink, paint and etching tools. “I like the work ethics of Basquiat and Picasso. Their attitudes towards life, the lack of fear and strong use of color fuels my ideologies”.


Robert “Bob“Daniels was born in Mount Vernon, New York. He attended public school in New York City and was an avid reader in his youth. This early love for books fueled his daydreams. One of seven children, he turned these daydreams into his earliest art. His love of the Saturday Evening Post inspired him to drawing and color on the brown paper bags that his mom compiled from grocery shopping. Bob continued to draw and win prizes at every educational level. His self- portrait won first prize in a county high school art contest. Bob is a passionate mixed medium artist who uses all types of mediums and surfaces to express both his feelings and visions. Robert uses the colorful stories of his Caribbean heritage and his ancestral history to weave his stories. Daniels is a graduate of Herbert H. Lehman College. He has a BA in Studio Art. His area of specialization is Printmaking and Graphic Art. He has won many prizes and awards for art in Westchester County, New York and was proclaimed a nationally recognized artist by the state proclamation in 2000. Robert is currently living in Barzano, Italia. His latest work is mostly figurative black and white pen work.


JULY 8 – SEPTEMBER 9, 2017

Conversations in Patterns, Textiles, Figures and Portraits: JAMILLA OKUBO AND IFY CHIEJINA is an exhibition that speaks to the process of art by Kenyan American artist Jamilla Okubo and Nigerian American artist Ify Chiejina. It opens Saturday, July 8 from 4:00-7PM at CALABAR GALLERY, located at 2504 Frederick Douglass Boulevard at the corner of 135th Street in New York City.

SEE Conversations in Patterns- Textiles, Figures, and portraits

JANUARY 26, 2017 – April 28, 2017


view online here

Contemporary African Spirituality envisions what cultural practices have been mixed, juxtaposed and collided with ideas, themes, materiality and techniques that are African and Modern. View a power point presentation.



Fally Sène Sow, Serge Diakota Mabilama , Nancy Mteki, Sikhumbuzo Makandula, Henri Abraham Guirma, Tania L. Balan-Gaubert, Elvira Clayton, Ahmed Tijay Mohammed, Ida Owens, Rhonda Gray, Rehema Chachage, Anthony Olubunmi Akinbola, Mukhtara Yusuf, Joyce Morrow Jones, Sokari Ekine, Tyrone McCants and Nico Phooko. – PRESS RELEASE HERE: press-release-contemporary-african-spirituality

Work in the show includes paintings, mixed media, photography, film, sculpture and installation. Additionally, the work of the show will be shown digitally at ART AFRICA FAIR in Capetown.



MAY 11- JUNE 30, 2017

I am a process based visual artist that thinks conceptually. I create portraits and figurative pieces by referencing photographs. I aim to recreate and use the person/s depicted in a photograph to make work that signifies empowerment, and shows the importance of developing a healthy sense of self. Losing my mother to cancer has made it clearer to me that we as human beings have very little control over the outcome of many circumstances. Art-making allows me to cope with that fact. I use a number of different mediums to make my art pieces, and despite the fact that I follow certain steps, the end product changes. I do design a space for myself to see the things which I do possess control over, such as the subject matter I wish to portray in my art. Fertility and Mental health are topics that I am currently exploring in my work.

Ify Chiejina (Ifeatuanya Chiejina) is a visual artist born and raised in NYC, a black Igbo female visual artist with ideas, thoughts, and truths that are reflective of Nigerian customs and traditions. She primarily works in acrylic paint on canvas and or paper, and also in wet and dry based mediums such as charcoal and distorts the human figure. Her portraits and figurative pieces express emotions, personalities and character. As a visual artist, she is concerned with identifying the significance of self with feelings and thoughts, than depicting the head and body due to her upbringing, influences of German Abstract Expressionists, Expressionists, and Graphic artists.

Black Lives in Words and Images: tba

Black Lives in Words and Images speaks to the world of blackness in these times and since the election of Barack Obama. Exploring the positive and negative impacts of black lives, this exhibition seeks to capture a slice of Black Lives.

NATURE: Environment: Earth: TBA

NATURE: Environment: Earth engages in dialogues that speak to artists whose work is based on nature, the environment and earth. It explores the movements, the issues and the solutions.

Harlem and Brooklyn Dialogues: TBA

Harlem and Brooklyn Dialogues explores narratives of Harlem, the place, and Brooklyn, the place, in the lives and work of artists. It seeks to understand the similarities and differences of these two vital New York neighborhoods.

ART Politics: What Cause?: TBA

ART Politics: What Cause? dares to dive into what political issues artists are contemplating and the politics of art making in these times.

Brooklyn is the World: TBA

Brooklyn is the World, the exhibition explores the notion of being at the center of the universe and what it takes to be in the world’s eye. It explores the intrinsic diversity of this city, its people and culture at crossroads.



ELEMENTIKS: A Symbolic Interpretation of the Four Elements – Water, Air, Fire and Earth by Mboolomi


Beatrice Lebreton and Ibou Ndoye are the two artists of Mboolomi.

Mboolomi (together in Wolof) is a team of two New York based artists with a common heritage and love for African culture collaborating on projects. Elementiks is a series of 104 small paintings and 12 medium size paintings exploring the symbolism of the four elements by each of these two artists.


RED FORBIDDEN SPACE: New York, Baltimore, Philadelphia and Tetuan, Morocco by TAEESHA MUHAMMAD


There is an unspoken language in being a woman. No matter the origin, there are customs and societal norms that dictate the movement women make. The beat of a woman’s life, in traditional settings has always started in the home. It is there where she is allowed to thrive in a certain space; where she moves freely and has a bit of control in a limited area. The fire in her can rage in this allotted space, and she can become the She that she will always be. Women have to find their groove and create a life within the limitations. In Red Forbidden Silence: The Secret Life of Women, we construct woman’s spaces, through tips and valleys of emotions, and assemble the ebb and flow of everyday life. There is complexity in the secret lives of women. The “piled on” things that all have to deal with as women… the expectations, experiences, responsibilities, the joy, pain, work, play, wins, losses, relationships, heartache, the hard, the soft, surroundings, future and past. There is a necessary facade to how feelings are interpreted and responded to. The sameness in hue and shape allow for the mold of emotions to hold in the crevice.

Taeesha Muhammad, a Brooklyn bred, Harlem based artist has been creating assemblages about women and traveling the globe to discover and observe how women live in space and time. 

JULY 28 – SEPTEMBER 9, 2016


Dripping Ink is a series of images that started in 2003. The series is a collection of authors of the African diaspora. The Nigerian Chapter is a segment of the series.


JUNE 23 – JULY 25, 2016

BISA WENDY WASHINGTON and WILHELMINA OBATOLA GRANT: Narrating the Feminine with Assemblages and Found Objects





“My critical observation and keen interest in Cubism as a style and the ingenuity of Picasso, actually drove my mind to the genesis of this transfiguration which to me was inevitable, taking account of revelation of African aesthetics to the 1800s anthropologists causing their influx into Africa, most especially North East and the ancient Egyptian records. This activity consequently lured several other interests and inquisition which eventually created and inspired several artists including Picasso. My investigation on Picasso cubism and adaptation of African works and motifs, grew more with the portrait of Madame Gertrude, not to talk of Guernica and earlyillustrations of African sculptures. I always think that this development has been suppressed and made unpopular over the years probably because it is considered  “irrelevant” or seemingly a “derogatory association”. Whichever way the art Utopians decide, I refer to it as Picasso audacity of ingenuity, which has provoked this very pomposity of exposition I definitely tag as “AfroGentrification of Picasso”.