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50 GOLBORNE | AKAA, 2018 | Booth A8

9 - 11 November, 2018

50 Golborne is delighted to be present at AKAA Paris for the third time consecutively. 

This year, the London based gallery’s presentation  focuses on the notion of mascarade as a marker of a potent relationship, both historic and contemporary, between African and diasporic cultures. 

This is the first time that African- American artists Willie Cole (b. Somerville, NJ, USA, 1955) and Jakob Dwight (b. USA, 1977)’s works will be introduced in France. They will be completed by the photographic works of three female artists: Phyllis Galembo (b. New York, USA, 1952), Leah Gordon (b. Ellesmere Port, UK, 1959) and Fatoumata Diabate (b. Bamako, Mali, 1980.

American artist Phyllis Galembo has been investigating the transformative power of full-body masquerade in Africa and its diaspora through her portrait photography for thirty years. Through the systematic placement of her richly costumed sitters in front of neutral backgrounds such as papered walls and trees, the resulting sumptuous photographs are a revelatory celebration of the evocative potency and artistry of masquerade traditions.

Also using photography as her main medium, Leah Gordon – who lives between Haiti and UK – explores ‘spaces between documentation, public memory and the phantasmatic theatre of the historic imagination’ (Beasley 2013). Her signature black and white pieces in which the masqueraded subjects look back at the viewer in a direct, almost confrontational manner, express the body as a site of resistance, a recurrent theme from Africa to its diaspora.

Fatoumata Diabate’s series, ‘Man as Object’ and ‘Man as Animal’ use masquerade to convey notions relating to memory. Inspired by traditional oral Malian fables, the photographic process prioritizes collaboration: the sitters create their own masks from humble materials Diabate has assembled while participants together discuss stories they heard as children. Leaving behind their cool/urban personas, the sitters, frequently young Malians from Bamako or settled in Europe, reconnect with what Diabate calls 'the protective power of the masquerade'. 

‘Men of Iron’ by New York based artist Willie Cole redefines what Malcolm X called ‘the house negro’ as a warrior rather than a domesticated and docile slave and uses household irons as a visual metaphor for the well-known diagrams of slave ships, presenting them in masquerade formation on his own body. The ironic tone is emphasized by the titles of the face and back portraits inspired by colonial ethnology books.  Cole alludes to the daily battle of “African-American male to build for himself a successful domestic life in the context of contemporary American life in which identity politics appears to him as necessary.

Jakob Dwight uses algorithms to generate unique patterns, which reference mask imagery. ‘Through his placement of digital images within silhouettes of African masks originally found in Seattle Art Museum, 'Autonomous Prism’ examines the concept and form of the mask and the decontextualization of African artefacts when shown in museum settings, highlighting the necessarily live performative nature of masquerade. Through the visual discrepancies and evolutions between each digital image in the Autonomous Prism series, of which 50 Golborne presents one single moment captured in time, Dwight uses masquerade to question the nature of identity: are we the same from moment to moment? 

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