Wole Lagunju is a Nigerian-born artist whose work is transcribed as a multifaceted practice that spans oil, acrylic, and ink washes and ranges from haunting, pared-down ink portraits to renderings of Black figures in colourful, patterned attire set against lush, psychedelic backdrops by Artsy. Best known for his large-scale figurative works splicing Western visual culture – models and celebrities, from magazines and museums – with diverse Nigerian motifs, in particular, Gelede masks traditionally used by male dancers to play female parts in masquerade, “Cut from the same Cloth” seeks to bridge the gap between two distinct strands of Lagunju’s practice: conceptually, and physically.
The exhibition featured new large-scale works on canvas, exemplary of Lagunju’s ongoing Gelede series, alongside smaller, conceptually different works that have been rendered in the same oil paints on the same material surface. Applying pigment with a pallet knife onto canvas offcuts, Lagunju’s new paintings are literally cut from the same cloth as his larger works – exhibited together, each illuminates aspects of itself in the other, showing they are not so different after all.
The exhibition started on the 01st of September and ends today, but you can still get access to the catalogue on Artsy.
I’ve long been interested in a certain, stubborn eclecticism in Lagunju’s work – two strands to his practice with roots going way back, distinct but in conversation with each other.Ed Cross
Wole Lagunju said, “In 2014, after my exhibition Wole Lagunju: African Diaspora Artist and Transnational Visuality at James Madison University, Virginia, United States, I decided to engage with images of men and women that appear in pop culture and high-end glossy magazines to further my artistic practice. In the exhibition catalogue, I reiterated how the configurations derived from combining these images with Gelede masks and costumes might best be left to the imagination. And fast-forward to 2022, it seems that the reinterpretation of contemporary fashion is all the rage in contemporary African art; not surprising, perhaps.
The purpose of my recent paintings in “Cut from the Same Cloth” is to question existing canons of race, reimagine heritage and respond to global influences. In my juxtaposition of traditional Yoruba iconography with that of Western Euro-American culture, I hope to instigate new conversations about stereotypes of racial superiority while fostering intercultural understanding. However, I will not interject in the resulting conversations or proffer solutions to existing issues relating to cultural relationships or diplomacy when it comes to interpreting them.