Saturday, February 28, 2015

George Osodi and Hassan Hajjaj @ Newark Museum

Last evening, Newark Museum opened two photography exhibitions: George Osodi's Royals and Regalia: Inside the Palaces of Nigeria's Monarchs and Hassan Hajjaj: My Rock Stars. The Lagos-based Osodi has made a name in the international art scene for his documentary photography, whereas the UK-based, Moroccan Hajjaj is best known for his candy-palette, anti-ethnographic portraits of Moroccan hipsters. In this double exhibition, Osodi presents a new body of work, quite different from anything he had done previously--powerful portraits of Nigerian royalty whose stunning regalia and palace decor speak equally about their economic status, the weight of tradition, survival of peoples, and the surprising layering of material cultures required for the production of the spectacle of real and symbolic power of these ancient and modern monarchies. For his part, Hajjaj continues his portrait practice, in which mid-twentieth-century, pattern-intensive African photo-portrait styles collide with psychedelic--or is it electric Kool-Aid colors of the 1960s America. The rock stars featured in the present show are in fact musicians that, according to the artist, have been on some influence in his life and work.They are not the anonymous denizens of urban Morocco he presented in the well-circulated Kesh Angels series. More to say later. But, between these two exhibitions are some of the most impressive portrait photographs I have seen in a while

Anyways, thanks again to Senior Curator, Christa Clarke, and the Newark Museum for making shows like this possible in the North East. This is one more reason Newark remains my favorite museum in the area. Do yourself a favor, go see these two exhibitions. But if you cannot, and if you missed the opening, here are some photos:

All photos: Chika Okeke-Agulu

Senior Curator Christa Clarke and George Osodi

Christa, George and Ugochukwu-Smooth Nzewi (Dartmouth College Museum curator)

Perrin Lathrop (of Princeton) and Kimberly Gant (Mellon curatorial fellow at Newark)

Hassan Hajjaj (second right)

George with family and fans

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