Born in London and raised in Lagos, multimedia artist and Member of the “Most Excellent Order of the British Empire” Yinka Shonibare explores the inheritances of colonialism in our contemporary, globalized world. Best known for using wax print cloth to represent historic cultural and economic interdependence, Shonibare also has long plumbed a rich palette of other media and symbols—including firearms. The works by Shonibare in the Davis collections exemplify his theatrical depictions of beauty and violence. The sculptural double portrait How to Blow Up Two Heads at Once (Ladies) combines eighteenth century dueling pistols, late nineteenth century dress patterns, and twenty-first century Dutch fabric produced for African and African Diasporic markets. The artist has explained that the tense standoff between two headless women examines “the pointlessness of conflict in general.” With allusions to literary and film traditions such as Westerns, science fiction, and ethnography, Shonibare’s new woodblock print and collage series Cowboy Angels takes up icons of between-ness: not only cowboys and angels, but also African masqueraders, Harlequins, stock tables, and the familiar wax print cloth. Whether engaged in a duel or astride a horse, these characters are ready, with their guns drawn—but for what uncertain futures?
Curated by Amanda Gilvin, Assistant Curator, the exhibition is generously supported by the Constance Rhind Robey ’81 Fund for Museum Exhibitions.
Image Credit: Yinka Shonibare MBE, Cowboy Angel V, 2017. Woodcut with fabric collage. Museum purchase, Erna Bottigheimer Sands (Class of 1929) Art Acquisition 2018.59.6. © Yinka Shonibare MBE. All Rights Reserved, DACS/ ARS, NY 2018.