The “New Photography” series at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) has received criticism in recent editions for being too conceptual and lacking cohesiveness. However, the latest installment brings a refreshing change, putting an end to the losing streak. For the first time in the series’ history, “New Photography” focuses on photographers with ties to Lagos, Nigeria, also known as Èkó in the Yoruba language. This shift in geographic perspective is a significant milestone, as African art, especially African photography, has rarely been given prominence at MoMA.
Curated by Oluremi C. Onabanjo, the exhibition challenges conventional notions of documenting a city and its people through photography. Instead of featuring a large group of artists as in previous editions, Onabanjo selects only seven artists, allowing for a more in-depth exploration of their practices. Each artist finds innovative ways to pay homage to the citizens and history of Lagos, blending conceptual approaches with more traditional techniques. The common thread among all the artists is a fascination with the medium of photography itself—its purpose, audience, and revelatory potential.
Among the featured artists, Logo Oluwamuyiwa stands out with his captivating black-and-white photographs of Lagos. He employs oblique angles and distorted perspectives to provide a fresh view of the city. In his work “Oil Wonders II” (2018), an upside-down shot reveals two standing figures with only their sandaled feet visible at the bottom. Above them, a reflective puddle exposes their upper bodies. Oluwamuyiwa’s prints, vinyl wallpapers, and films redefine our perception of Lagos, challenging us to see it from unconventional angles.
Karl Ohiri‘s project, Lagos Studios Archives, collects damaged studio portraits that reflect the passage of time. The scanned and re-photographed images display bruises and discoloration, showcasing their own haunting beauty. Kelani Abass also incorporates family photographs from the past, repurposing them in her own work through letterpress techniques.
In this groundbreaking “New Photography” show, MoMA finally breaks free from its previous shortcomings, offering an engaging and cohesive exploration of Lagos’s vibrant artistic talent. By shining a spotlight on these photographers, the exhibition not only celebrates their individual contributions but also creates a platform for African photography to thrive within the art world.
Head to the MoMA’s website for more information.
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