Georges Adéagbo: Abraham – L’ami de Dieu
November 20, 2000—March 30, 2001
P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center presents Abraham - L'ami de Dieu (Abraham - Friend of God) by Georges Adéagbo, the artist’s premiere U.S. exhibition. Adéagbo's installations address intercultural exchange and contemporary society from an African perspective. This installation explores essential moments of P.S.1's development and the need to re-address and "rewrite" histories. References to P.S.1's past and present are creatively combined with stories of democracy and emancipation in America.
Adéagbo’s works are grounded in a number of different traditions, from altar design to ‘tourist art’, from contemporary ‘Western’ installation to African story-telling. Each project combines paintings, sculptures, books, hand-written texts, photographs, newspaper articles, objects, and other memorabilia into a work that refers to the destinies of individuals and civilizations. His installations are made not only to be seen, but also to be walked through and read. They illustrate thought processes, mental associations and philosophical and political inquiry. In the installations, objects are laid out on the floor or hung along the walls. While recalling at first glance the displays of street vendors and flea markets, his work resists notions of commodification and the objects in his installations are associated for poetic and philosophical reasons.
Adéagbo’s work also addresses the most common art historical narrative relating to the birth of Western modernism. According to this narrative, many European artists moved beyond the representational art of the late 19th century by exploring non-Western traditions such as African mask carving, which also provided a basis for exoticism at the height of colonialism. Adéagbo’s art explicitly uses a reversed strategy: he collects curiosities, objects and information from the exhibition location (in this case from New York City) and brings them back to Africa. There, they function as source material for sculptures and paintings. A new artwork then emerges out of the artist’s projections, fantasies, and misunderstandings.
Adéagbo was born in Cotonou, Benin, West Africa in 1942, where he still lives and works. The eldest of eleven children, he studied law in Paris. Shortly before getting his degree, in 1971, he returned to Cotonou due to the sudden death of his father. Unable to return to France, he began to create installations in his home and courtyard without exhibiting them for 23 years. Unfamiliar with contemporary art, he did not define his complex compositions as artworks and only accepted this definition bestowed by others later. Adéagbo began exhibiting his installations publicly in 1994 in Besancon, France (“La route de l’art sur la route de l’esclave - The Route of Art on the Route of Slavery.”) His work was subsequently included in “Big City” (Serpentine Gallery, London, 1995), “Die Anderen Modernen” (Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin, 1997), The Second Johannesburg Biennial (1997), and the São Paulo Biennial in 1998. An outdoor
day-long installation at the Arsenale, “The Story of the Lion”, was an award winner at the 48th Venice Biennial in 1999. In 2000, he participated in “La Ville, le Jardin, la Mémoire” at Villa Medici, Rome and a solo exhibition of his work was held at the Toyota Museum, Japan.
On Sunday, November 19th at 3:00pm at P.S.1, Georges Adéagbo will discuss his work with P.S.1 Senior Curator Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev; Carlos Basualdo, Chief Curator, Wexner Center for the Arts; and Stephan Kohler, independent curator.
Georges Adéagbo: Abraham – L’ami de Dieu is curated by P.S.1 Senior Curator Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev with Larissa Harris as Project Manager.
This exhibition is made possible by Daniel Shapiro.
Additional generous support is provided by Services Culturels de L’Ambassade Francaise: www.frenchculture.org, Air Afrique and CTL-Presse.de.
Special thanks to Stephan Kohler and jointadventures.org for their assistance in organizing the exhibition.