Artistfacts: Njideka Akunyili Crosby

Njideka Akunyili Crosby

Let me preface this blog by stating that I absolutely love this artist’s work.

Njideka Akunyili Crosby is a young artist, born in Nigeria in 1983, who came to the United States at age 16/17 and now lives in Los Angeles.

Her work reflects on the two cultures  and is highly autobiographical. Many of the people portrayed are family members. Her practice uses a combination of painting, collage, drawing and printmaking. The language of image making is used in all of its variety with incredible power. Her canvases are made with acrylic paint, colored pencil, pastel, charcoal, fabric and print making in particular the use of transfers, a process used by Robert Rauschenberg among others.

The works are very idiosyncratic and highly recognizable, complex multilayered, materially dense works that some have compared to quilts. The images she transfers onto the canvas  come from popular Nigerian culture often from the 80’s and 90’s.  They are doorways to shared memories and inherited traditions. Traditions that have been hybridized or coopted through colonialism and globalization. The fabrics are often portrait or commemorative fabrics that speak to the history of her family and of Africa. Spaces are not closed but doors open onto rooms with other open doors, spaces are liminal,  on both sides of a boundary or threshold and characters cannot be boxed into one culture be it socio-economic or country.  Objects and spaces are layered one right on top of the other. Characters are built up.  Nothing is static.

In an interview she gave to The White Review in 2016  Njideka Akunyili Crosby  recounts how she first encountered Mary Louise Pratt’s ‘Arts of the Contact Zone’ (1991), which identifies ‘social spaces where cultures meet, clash and grapple with each other’, during her studies at Yale University School of Art.  The ‘contact zone’ has since become an underlying focus in the practice of the artist.  “It involves a lot of appropriation and exchanging of ideas, and usually something new comes out of that. This really resonated with me, since I come from a country that is a contact zone – first, from being a British colony up until 1960, and then with American movies and pop culture coming into the country. You begin to see traditions that have become a weird mix of different cultures.”


Njideka Akunyili Crosby has an MFA from Yale and is represented by Victoria Miro. There is a wonderful artist talk on the Whitney website from March 2016.


Artistfacts: Liza Lou

Liza Lou

Liza Lou is an American, female artist born in 1969. She attended San Francisco Art Institute and now lives in KwaZulu Natal South Africa as well as Los Angeles. Her work is arresting and engrossing.

Liza Lou specializes and is best known for sculptures and environments created entirely with beads initially applied with tweezers.  She therefore could be grouped with artists such as Tara Donovan, Jean Shin or Tom Friedman who work with large amounts of inexpensive and non- classical art materials that emphasize the need for intense and repetitive processes. Looking at her work one is awed by their perfection,  the immense amount of time and exacting effort required to make them yet,  especially with her earlier works such as The Kitchen and Backyard, they recreate common, every day almost banal environments bling-ed up through the use of multicolored, multifaceted glass beads. They comment on craft and women, feminism and time.  Somewhat a follow on to pop art.  Slightly later works, such as Trailer are more unsettling or satirical about the world around us. Although the Kitchen – a room sized sculpture- represented five years of solo labor, other works have employed assistants and, since her partial move to South Africa, close work with Zulu artisans. The artist has commented that when she first started to work with beads she was told that it was not allowed.  Her family at times bohemian later became born again fundamentalist Christians which may in part have been incorporated in the ambiguous melding of worlds.


Her works have included portraits of presidents, political consciousness raising sculptures dealing with violence and confinement such as Quick Cheap Overwhelming Victory, and Maximum Security or Security Fence, beautifully made and thought provoking sculptures such as Blanket, Book of Days, Cell, Continuous Mile, spiritual sculptures such as Book of Days  Deny and Repress Kitchenette, Devotional,  Gather.



A few figures- Homeostatis, Man, the Damned, The Heretic, The Worshiper, the Vessel, many with religious overtones or modeled after classical pieces are also a part of her work.



Since 2005, Liza Lou’s works seem to have moved away from creating environments to  more tonal, paintings still made with beads but emphasize the repetitive process of the works creation and the materiality and social consciousness demonstrated in the works. She is currently developing a major art work and sustainable employment project with a woman’s prison in Belem,  Brazil.  Her philosophical focus is on helping women, identifying with the day to day mundane, unrecognized environments of women and their  hand made work – craft- and elevating that to art.

Gallery representation is Lehman Maupin, Galerie Thaddeus Ropac, Goodman Gallery  and White Cube.