Today from our friends at BOMB Magazine, we bring you author Erica Ando’s interview with Nigerian artist Njideka Akunyili Crosby. Crosby says of her paintings, “I always make sure the woman is in a position of power—where her agency is not questioned and where she is an active participant.” This article was originally published in BOMB 137: Fall 2016.
The figures who people Njideka Akunyili Crosby’s large-scale works—hybrids of painting, drawing, collage, and printmaking—inhabit familiar-looking domestic interiors. They appear quiet and pensive, poised in the moment before glances turn into conversation. The Nigerian-born artist, however, makes their voices heard—ruminations on the day-to-day negotiations of postcolonial life once so obvious as to be assumed, but which have taken on greater urgency as the issues of global immigration threaten to subsume them.
Trained at Swarthmore, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and Yale, Akunyili Crosby uses the languages and strategies of Western art, absorbing and subverting classical approaches in order to express ideas more pertinent to our times. Human interactions often serve as focal points in her works, revealing how immigrant life merges—and rattles—disparate identities. Despite the daily power struggles that fragment, divide, and segregate, Akunyili Crosby expresses the desire for wholeness in tight figurative compositions that contain layers of personal memories and of Nigerian culture and politics. Her survey exhibition at the Norton Museum of Art this past spring, the Prix Canson 2016 this summer, her participation in the Biennale de Montréal, along with her first solo show in Europe at Victoria Miro Gallery (London) this fall—all attest to the artist’s rising prominence and the clarity of her vision.