“After reading Kwasi Kwarteng’s book ‘Ghosts of Empire’, I was struck by the spectre of colonialism and imperialism in our macro and micro-environments; so I wanted to investigate what role art and culture play in cracking open this conversation to a broader audience. Given what is happening in all corners of the world, it felt appropriate to organise an exhibition that articulates the nuances of the Black and Asian diasporic experience and asks questions about how these communities have persevered and shaped the cultural fabric. Of our global society.” – Larry Ossei-Mensah
This Autumn, Ben Brown Fine Arts is unveiling a new group exhibition titled Ghosts of Empires ll, curated by Ghanaian-American curator and cultural critic Larry Ossei-Mensah. It will be held at the London gallery (15 September – 22 October 2022). The exhibition explores the intersections, overlaps, and dissonance between the Black Atlantic and Asia Imperialist Trade routes and brings together an extraordinary group of contemporary artists hailing from African and Asian diasporas.
This seminal exhibition features the work of Hurvin Anderson, Adam de Boer, Delphine Desane, Theaster Gates, Jeanne F. Jalandoni, Tidawhitney Lek, Chris Ofili, Fadekemi Ogunsanya, Maia Cruz Palileo, Miguel Angel Payano Jr., Paul Anthony Smith, Zao Wou-Ki and Livien Yin.
Inspired by the formative text by British-Ghanaian author and MP Kwasi Kwarteng, Ghosts of Empire: Britain’s Legacies in the Modern World, the exhibition at its crux is an examination of how artists from African and Asian diasporas are using their artistic practices as a platform to engage with the legacies of slavery, migration, colonialism, imperialism trade, and sovereignty, in contemporary times. By amplifying the conscious acts of liberation, resistance, and perseverance these communities have exhibited – despite their historical circumstances – Ghosts of Empires ll will provide a forum for a nuanced understanding of their collective diasporic histories.
“This show will highlight the oversights in the historical narratives we’ve been taught designed to focus on cultural differences and articulate varying overlaps within these communities. A multitude of communities have been oppressed because of colonisation and imperialism, who, despite that, have been able to thrive and create rich cultures that have had a heavy influence on contemporary society.” Larry Ossei- Mensah
The curatorial process seeks to present dialogues and points of view that illustrate how these narratives cross, intermingle, and overlap by finding the reverberations and echoes across time and space, calling attention to the fact that the residue of the past is omnipresent and that history, culture, and identity are neither linear nor easily demarcated. Working in painting, photography, sculpture, textiles, and various mixed media, employing traditional and new techniques, these artists have all found ways to examine their unique and often multifarious cultural histories via rigorous artistic practices.
The exhibition Ghosts of Empires ll at Ben Brown Fine Arts London comprises the culmination of a two-part group exhibition presented in its first iteration at Ben Brown Fine Arts Hong Kong earlier this year.
ABOUT LARRY OSSEI-MENSAH
Larry Ossei-Mensah uses contemporary art as a vehicle to redefine how we see ourselves and the world around us. The Ghanaian-American curator and cultural critic have organised exhibitions and programs globally at commercial and nonprofit spaces. A native of The Bronx, Ossei-Mensah is the co-founder of ARTNOIR, a global collective designed to engage this generation’s diverse creative class and celebrate the artistry of Black and Brown artists worldwide. Ossei-Mensah contributed to the first-ever Ghanaian Pavilion at the 2019 Venice Biennale with an essay on the work of visual artist Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. He is also the former Susanne Feld Hilberry Senior Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCAD), Detroit. Currently, He serves as Curator-at-Large at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), where he curated the New York Times-heralded exhibition Let Freedom Ring and FLOATING WORLD OF THE CLOUD QUILT, a solo exhibition by Saya Woolfalk. In 2021, Ossei-Mensah co-curated the critically acclaimed 7th Athens Biennale – ECLIPSE with OMSK Social Club. Recently Ossei-Mensah curated Purring Monsters with Mirrors on their Back featuring Guadalupe Maravilla at MCA Denver. He also curated Ghanaian painter Amoako Boafo’s first museum solo exhibition, Soul of Black Folks, at the Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD), San Francisco, and the Contemporary Art Museum Houston, which opened in Spring 2022. Ossei-Mensah’s work has been profiled in publications such as The New York Times, Artsy, Cultured Magazine, Frieze Magazine, Monocle, Ocula, WWD, The Robb Report, and Artnet.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Hurvin Anderson (b. 1965, Birmingham, UK)
Hurvin Anderson studied at Wimbledon School of Art and Royal College of Art in London, receiving a BA and MA during the 1990s. Anderson takes inspiration for his paintings from his heritage as a second-generation Jamaican- British artist. Anderson is known for his paintings that are both abstract and figurative depictions of human landscapes, which are often public places or leisure sites that bear the features of his origins. Anderson investigates themes of familial roots, displacement, and the visibility of Blackness. The artist’s chosen subjects overlap his parents’ generation’s experiences with his own. The sense of something familiar yet absent is conveyed through his canvases in their displaced sense of place and obscure comprehension of detail. Anderson also works from photographs instead of memory, further heightening his aesthetic of distance. Anderson completed a Caribbean Contemporary Arts Residency Program in Trinidad in 2002. The artist’s works can be found in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and Tate, London, among others. Anderson lives and works in London.
Adam de Boer (b. 1984, Riverside, CA)
Adam de Boer graduated with a BA in Painting from the College of Creative Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara (2006) and an MA in Fine Art from the Chelsea College of Art, London (2012). Recent exhibitions include Gajah Gallery, Singapore and Yogyakarta (2022/2021); Gazelli Art House, London (2021); The Hole, New York (2021); ISA Art + Design, Jakarta (2020); Hunter Shaw Fine Art, Los Angeles (2020/2018); World Trade Centre, Jakarta (2018); and ARTJOG, Yogyakarta (2018/2015). In 2017, de Boer was awarded a Fulbright research fellowship to Indonesia. Other grants include the Joan Mitchell Foundation, Arts for India, The Cultural Development Corporation, DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, and The Santa Barbara Arts Fund. For the past ten years, de Boer has travelled throughout Indonesia to investigate his Eurasian heritage. His recent work employs imagery and traditional crafts from the region to connect his artistic practice with those of his distant cultural forebears. The artist currently lives in Los Angeles.
Delphine Desane (b. 1988, Paris, France)
Delphine Desane is a painter and sculptor living and working in New York City. Born and raised in France to Haitian parents, she started painting during her maternity leave in 2017. Desane paints individuals of the African and Caribbean diaspora – primarily women – within familial contexts. Many of her portraits of women are drawn from her experiences of motherhood, Black womanhood, and her experience as an immigrant in the United States. Desane’s portraits are full of expression against coloured backgrounds, which exalt their inner state of mind.
Desane had her first solo exhibition at Luce Gallery in Turin, Italy, in 2021. In addition, the artist has participated in various group exhibitions, including Black Femme: Sovereign of WAP and the Virtual Realm, Canada Gallery, New York, (2021); Contemporary Domesticity, Taymour Grahne Gallery, London (2021); Black Voices/Black Microcosm, CFHILL, Stockholm (2020); A Peripheral Reverie, PENSKE projects, Los Angeles (2020); and a residency at the POCOAPOCO in Oaxaca, Mexico (2020).
Desane first gained international recognition after she was commissioned to make a work for the cover of the Vogue Italia January 2020 issue. Her works have been acquired by the Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden (MACAAL), Marrakech, and multiple private collections across the United States and Europe.
Theaster Gates (b. 1973, Chicago, IL)
Theaster Gates (b. 1973) was born and raised in Chicago, where he currently lives and works. Drawing from his earlier vocational pursuits in public service, urban planning, and religious studies, Gates works to redeem spaces that have been left behind, centring his practice on the possibility of the “life within things.” Over the past decade, Gates has demonstrated the intricacy of Blackness through space theory and land development, sculpture, and performance. Through the expansiveness of his approach as a thinker, maker, and builder, he extends the artist’s role as an agent of change. His performative practice and visual works find roots in Black knowledge, history, and archives. With a celebrated stronghold in Chicago, Gates’s career has seen international recognition from his participation in the Whitney Biennial (2010), documenta 13 (2012), and the Venice Biennale (2015) to major museum exhibitions all over the world. Recent solo exhibitions include The Listening Room, Seattle Art Museum (2011–12); 13th Ballad, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2013); Soul Manufacturing Corporation: To Make the Thing that Makes the Things, Fabric Workshop and Museum, Philadelphia (2013); Processions, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, DC (2016); True Value, Fondazione Prada, Milan (2016); Black Archive, Kunsthaus Bregenz, Austria (2016); How to Build a House Museum, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto (2016); The Minor Arts, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC (2017); Black Madonna, Kunstmuseum Basel (2018) and Sprengel Museum, Hannover (2018); The Black Image Corporation, Fondazione Prada, Milan (2018); Amalgam, Palais de Tokyo, Paris and Tate Modern, London (2019); Black Chapel, Haus der Kunst, Munich (2019); Tate Liverpool (2019); TANK Shanghai (2021); Prada Rong Zhai, Shanghai (2021); and Black Chapel, the Serpentine Pavilion, London (2022). Many of Gates’s recent exhibitions, including Black Madonna and The Black Image Corporation, are a part of his ongoing engagement with the archives of Johnson Publishing Company. Gates has been the recipient of numerous awards and honours, including the Arts Mundi 6 Prize (2017); the Légion d’Honneur (2017); the Nasher Prize for Sculpture (2018); the Urban Land Institute, J.C. Nichols Prize for Visionaries in Urban Development (2018); the World Economic Forum Crystal Award (2020); an Honorary Fellowship from the Royal Institute of British Architects (2021); and the twelfth Frederick Kiesler Prize for Architecture and the Arts (2022). In addition, gates were inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2021. Public collections include the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate Modern, London; and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago.
Jeanne F. Jalandoni (b. 1993, New York, NY) (Detail Top Photo)
Jeanne F. Jalandoni is a painter and textile artist born and based in New York City. Her work navigates Filipino American cultural identity through personal research on historic Western influences on the Philippines, family archives, and personal experience growing up as a second-generation American who has never been to the Philippines. She uses national symbols such as the carabao, bangus, and mangoes to express characteristics she associates with her biculturalism, aiming to redefine their meaning and reclaim the Filipino American narrative. Jalandoni received her BFA in Studio Art with a concentration in painting at New York University (2015). Jalandoni has had solo shows with Taymour Grahne Projects, virtual (2021); Real Art Ways, Connecticut (2019); the Little Underground Gallery/Jefferson Market Library, New York (2018); and the Berkshire Art Museum, Massachusetts (2018). Jalandoni has exhibited in various group shows, including, Considering Mass and Density, Textile Arts Center, Brooklyn (2021); Super Sarap, curated by Patricia Cariño Valdez, Asia Society Texas, Houston, (2019) and curated Cultural Cousins: a show of Filipinx and Latinx artists, ChaShaMa, New York (2019). Jalandoni was an artist-in-residence at 36 Chase & Barns Residency, Massachusetts (2018) and the Textile Arts Center, Brooklyn (2021). Jalandoni was awarded the Real Award, Hartford, CT (2019), and the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC) Creative Engagement Grant, New York (2019).
Tidawhitney Lek (b. 1992, Long Beach, CA)
Tidawhitney Lek is a Cambodian-American painter. Her work plays with narrative and the Asian experiences of first-generation Americans. These bright and sombre paintings present nuances of domesticity, figures and hands interacting in composition as culture and Southeast-Asian elements echo through mundane objects found in places like the home. She reinvents the conventional mediums like pastel, acrylic, and oil paints on canvas, interchanging textures as pictorial spaces recede and soften. Lek graduated with her BFA from California State University, Long Beach, emphasising drawing and Painting (2017). Her work has been exhibited at the Carolyn Campagna Kleefeld Contemporary Art Museum, Long Beach, CA, and the Museum of Latin American Art, Long Beach, CA. In 2020, she was selected as a finalist for the Department of Cultural Affairs public art commission LAX Airport Police Facility in Los Angeles.
Chris Ofili (b. 1968, Manchester, England)
Chris Ofili received his BFA from the Chelsea School of Art, London, in 1991 and an MFA from the Royal College of Art, London, in 1993. He is considered one of the Young British Artists (YBAs). Ofili has been influenced by various sources, from works by William Blake to the Bible. The artist is also inspired by specific music genres, including jazz and hip-hop. Ofili became known for his unorthodox use of materials in his works, like elephant dung, glitter, beads, and resin. His works are multi-layered and self-aware, often exploring diverse themes, from Black history and sacred ideals to high and low culture. Ofili has had solo exhibitions at institutions around the world, including the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami (2017- 2019); National Gallery, London (2017); New Museum, New York (2014), and travelling to Aspen Art Museum (2015); The Arts Club of Chicago, Chicago (2010); Tate Britain, London (2010 and 2005); Kestner Gesellschaft Hannover, Germany (2006); The Studio Museum, Harlem, New York (2005); and Serpentine Gallery, London (1998). The artist represented Britain in the 50th Venice Biennale in 2003 and won the Turner Prize in 1998.
Fadekemi Ogunsanya (b. 1995, Lagos, Nigeria)
Fadekemi Ogunsanya is a multi-disciplinary Nigerian artist based between Lagos and London. She received her MA in Architecture from the Architectural Association in London in 2020. She began painting in 2016, first in a more colourful figurative style, and then from 2018 onwards, with differing shades of blue watercolour and gouache. Recently she has experimented with oil and oil pastel. Ogunsanya’s architectural background imbued her interest in objects. She views her work as both two-dimensional and three-dimensional. In 2019, she began making prototypes for hand-painted, laser-cut, wooden frames that could hold each painting and allow them to straddle the space between image and object. Her debut exhibition, titled Sweet Joy, Sweet Suffering, took place in Lagos in June 2021. Ogunsanya’s work has been exhibited at Art X Live, Lagos, and she has collaborated with fashion brands Kenneth Ize and WAFFLESNCREAM.
Maia Cruz Palileo (b. 1979, Chicago, IL)
Maia Cruz Palileo is a multi-disciplinary, Brooklyn-based artist. Migration and the permeable concept of home are constant themes in the artist’s work. Influenced by the oral history of Palileo family’s arrival in the United States from the Philippines, as well as the history between the two countries, the artist infuses these narratives using both memory and imagination. When stories and memories are subjected to time and constant retelling, the narratives become questionable, bordering the line between fact and fiction, while remaining cloaked in the convincingly familiar. Palileo has had solo exhibitions at the CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts, San Francisco (2021); the Katzen Arts Center, Washington D.C. (2019); Monique Meloche Gallery, Chicago (2019); Pioneer Works, Brooklyn (2018); Taymour Grahne Gallery, New York (2017); and Cuchifritos Gallery + Project Space, curated by Jordan Buschur, New York (2015). Palileo’s work has been included in exhibitions at Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco (2019); Perrotin, New York, (2019); The Rubin Museum of Art, New York (2018); St. Joseph’s College Gallery, Brooklyn (2017); Corridor Gallery, Brooklyn (2016); and the Bronx Museum of the Arts (2011). Palileo is a recipient of the Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Grant, Jerome Foundation Travel and Study Program Grant, Rema Hort Mann Foundation Emerging Artist Grant, NYFA Painting Fellowship, Joan Mitchell Foundation MFA Award, and the Astraea Visual Arts Fund Award. The artist received an MFA in sculpture from Brooklyn College, City University of New York, and a BA in Studio Art at Mount Holyoke College, Massachusetts. Palileo has participated in residencies at Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Madison, Maine; Lower East Side Print Shop, New York; Millay Colony, Austerlitz, New York; and the Joan Mitchell Center, New Orleans.
Miguel Angel Payano Jr. (b. 1980, New York, NY)
Miguel Angel Payano Jr. is an Afro-Caribbean American artist working between Beijing and New York. With a visual vernacular that is informed by American, Caribbean, and Chinese cultures, he creates works that oscillate between painting and sculpture and investigates class, identity formation/socialisation and storytelling. His transcultural surrealist sensibilities bind aesthetics with humour and the grotesque, often translating and transgressing different artistic forms. Payano received a dual degree in Studio Art and Chinese Language from Williams College in Massachusetts in 2003 before moving to China and attending the renowned Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing, where he graduated with an MFA in 2008. In 2020, Payano received a second MFA from Hunter College in New York, where he was the recipient of the S&W Scholarship. Payano has exhibited at LDX Contemporary Art Center, Beijing; Charles Moffett, New York; Make Room, Los Angeles; the Williams College Wilde Gallery in Williamstown, Massachusetts; and the Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing.
Paul Anthony Smith (b. 1988, St Anne’s Bay, Jamaica)
Paul Anthony Smith was born in Jamaica and currently lives and works in Brooklyn. The artist creates paintings with unique picotage, a stippling method used commonly in textile printing where brass pins driven into wooden blocks are used to create highlight and shadow patterns on fabric. The artist utilises this method on pigment prints that explore the artist’s autobiography, as well as issues of identity within the African diaspora. Referencing both W.E.B. Du Bois’ concept of double consciousness and Frantz Fanon’s theory of cultural confusions caused by colonialism, Smith alludes to diasporic rituals of adorning the body. Memory, migration, and home are central to Smith’s work, which probes questions of hybrid identities between worlds old and new. Smith’s layered picotage is often patterned in the style of Caribbean breeze block fences and modernist architectural elements that function as veils, meant both to obscure and to protect Smith’s subjects from the external gaze. Picotage serves as an access point as Smith interrogates which elements of identity are allowed to pass through the complexities of borders and migration. Selected solo exhibitions include Tradewinds at Jack Shainman Gallery, New York (2021); Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha (2019); The Green Gallery, Milwaukee (2018); and Walls Without Borders at Atlanta Contemporary, Atlanta (2017). His work is in public collections, including 21c Museum, Louisville; Blanton Museum of Art, the University of Texas at Austin; Belger Arts Center, Kansas City; Minneapolis Institute of Art; and Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina.
Zao Wou-Ki (b. 1921, Beijing, China; d. 2013, Nyon, Switzerland)
Zao Wou-Ki was born in Bejing (then “Peking”) and studied calligraphy and painting at the School of Fine Arts in Hangzhou. He moved to Paris in 1948, where he spent the remainder of his life. Zao worked primarily in oils, ink, and watercolour but also experimented with engraving and lithography. Zao is famously known for his synthesis between Eastern calligraphy and European Art Informel; a unique style defined by contrasting colors, intense linework, and lyrical abstraction. His legacy of more than seventy years presents a life of experimentation and negotiation between Chinese and Western artistic traditions. Zao is a master of the post-war era artists and among the highest-selling Chinese painters of his generation. Zao’s first solo exhibition was in 1949 at Galerie Creuze in Paris. The artist proceeded to take part in international exhibitions, which included the group show The School of Paris 1959: The Internationals (1959), Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. Retrospectives of his work have been presented at Hayden Gallery, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge (1964); Museum Folkwang, Essen (1965); Fine Arts Museum, Taipei (1993); and Jeu de Paume, Paris (2003). He received Japan’s Imperial Prize for painting (1994) and was elected to the Académie des Beaux-Arts, Paris (2002). In 2006, the artist was inducted into the Order National de la Légion d’honneur, France’s highest order of merit. Zao’s paintings are a part of many museum collections worldwide, including the Centre Pompidou, Paris; Fundaciò Joan Miró, Barcelona; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Museum of Modern Art, New York; National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and Tate, London.
Livien Yin (b. 1990, Cambridge, MA)
Livien Yin is an artist currently living and working in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Her practice is primarily focused on painting and sculpture. She received her MFA in Art Practice at Stanford University and her BA in Studio Art at Reed College. She was awarded the Nō Studios Visual Art Grant (2021), the Graduate Fellowship at Headlands Center for the Arts (2019- 2020), the American Austrian Foundation/Seebacher Prize for Fine Arts (2019), and recently completed an artist residency at the Marble House Project in Dorset, Vermont. Yin had her debut solo exhibition, Paper Suns, in 2021 at The New Gallery in Calgary, Alberta.
In 2004, Ben Brown Fine Arts opened its first location in the heart of Mayfair, London. The gallery quickly established itself on the international art scene with exhibitions of long-term gallery artists Candida Höfer, Tony Bevan, Claude & François-Xavier Lalanne, and Heinz Mack, amongst others, as well as noteworthy exhibitions of 20th-century masters including Lucio Fontana, Alighiero Boetti and Gerhard Richter. In 2009, Ben Brown Fine Arts opened an exhibition space in Hong Kong, becoming the first international gallery to move to the city that would soon become a major global art hub. In Hong Kong, the gallery introduced notable exhibitions of Pablo Picasso, Sean Scully, Frank Auerbach, and Miquel Barceló and survey exhibitions of Chinese contemporary photography, the Düsseldorf School of Photography, 20th-century Italian art, and the ZERO movement. In 2021, Ben Brown Fine Arts opened a third location in Palm Beach, Florida, with an inaugural exhibition celebrating the legacy of American and European 20th-century artists who developed radical approaches to making art, among them Alexander Calder, Georg Baselitz, and Andy Warhol. In addition, the galleries regularly exhibit and develop programming for our renowned stable of international, multi-disciplinarian contemporary artists, including those above as well as Yoan Capote, Rob and Nick Carter, Kitty Chou, Awol Erizku, Nabil Nahas, José Parlá, Enoc Perez, Ena Swansea, Hank Willis Thomas, Gavin Turk, and Jan Worst. With multi-lingual staff based in London, Hong Kong, New York, and Palm Beach, the gallery has strong relationships with private collectors, advisors, and public institutions, sourcing and placing important primary and secondary artworks for them. Ben Brown Fine Arts participates in major art fairs worldwide, including Art Basel, Art Basel Hong Kong, Art Basel Miami Beach, The Armory Show, Frieze Masters, TEFAF Maastricht, TEFAF New York, and West Bund Art & Design.
GHOSTS OF EMPIRES ll CURATED BY LARRY OSSEI-MENSAH
HURVIN ANDERSON | ADAM DE BOER | DELPHINE DESANE | THEASTER GATES JEANNE F. JALANDONI | TIDAWHITNEY LEK | CHRIS OFILI | FADEKEMI OGUNSANYA | MAIA CRUZ PALILEO | MIGUEL ANGEL PAYANO JR. | PAUL ANTHONY SMITH | ZAO WOU-KI | LIVIEN YIN
Ben Brown Fine Arts London, 12 Brook’s Mews, London W1K 4DG (15 September – 22 October 2022)