New York, NY - albertz benda is thrilled to present Conrad Egyir & Patrick Quarm: Anansesem, exploring the palimpsestic nature of identity in an increasingly globalized society. On view from September 5 through October 5, 2019 the exhibition comprises new bodies of work by both artists, drawing from their respective experiences growing up in post-colonial Ghana and currently living in the United States.
Woven into Conrad Egyir’s narrative paintings and portraits are symbols from the rich storytelling traditions of West Africa, the coded texts and visually-based languages of Ghana, and anachronisms borrowed from across cultures and historical eras. The artist incorporates graphic-design strategies and laser cut text to create new modes of representation for traditional objects, such as okyeame poma (a linguist’s staff), and for archetypes such as warrior or messenger. The compositions include oil, acrylic, glitter, Plexiglas, wood, and found fabric flowers against minimal backgrounds.
Having witnessed the social instrumentation and weaponization of images in Africa and America, Egyir removes these symbols from their original context and presents them in new configurations that challenge existing perceptions about age, sex, class, or race. The subjects in each painting take on multiple staged roles: as both an antagonist and a protagonist, a parent and child, a friend and foe, or a noble and a commoner. “It is a tool that behooves the viewer to step into the multiple incarnations of each subject,” says Egyir, “in reverence of the collective human spirit.
Patrick Quarm’s paintings explore questions of cultural authenticity and hybridity. Painting figures directly onto spliced and layered African print fabrics, the interplay between the realism of the portraits and the geometric abstraction of the textiles emphasizes the mutable nature of identity.
Quarm’s subjects range from self-portraits to family groupings; the figures are in dialogue with each other as well as with the background material, emerging from or dissolving into the patterns in the fabric. Perforations throughout the top layers reveal alternate designs underneath, creating a cultural and personal stratigraphic record that demands excavation. “If you take an individual they are made up of several stories, several histories,” Quarm explains. “You have to dig further.”
The fabric itself carries its own history of cultural exchange: commonly known as African wax print, the material originated in Indonesia and was subsequently introduced to the African continent by Dutch merchants. Different communities applied new patterns and production techniques, generating a visual language based on fusion that the artist continues to develop through his manipulation of the material.
About Conrad Egyir
Conrad Egyir (b. 1989, Ghana; lives and works in Detroit) has an MFA from the Cranbrook Academy of Art. His work has been featured in group shows at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit, Cranbrook Art Museum (Bloomfield Hills, MI) and Grand Rapids Art Museum (MI). Paintings have been acquired by the Rennie Collection (Vancouver, BC), the Jimenez-Colon Collection (Puerto Rico) and the Cranbrook Art Museum (MI). Recent solo shows include Successions and Reflections: Heirs of a New Country, Library Street Collective, Detroit, MI (January 26 - March 23, 2019); and Conrad Egyir: Ameliorations at Jessica Silverman Gallery, San Francisco, CA (May 9 – June 28, 2019). He is currently a Kettering Family Foundation resident of the International Studio & Curatorial program in Brooklyn, New York.
About Patrick Quarm
Patrick Quarm (b. 1988, Ghana; lives and works in Detroit) graduated from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana (2012) with a BFA in Painting and a Masters of Fine Art degree at Texas Tech University (2018). Patrick’s work has been showcased around the world at K.N.U.S.T Museum Kumasi, Ghana; Peckham International Art Fair (PIAF), London, England; Caviel Museum of African American History, Lubbock, Texas. He has also served as a teaching assistant and Adjunct Professor for painting and drawing courses in both Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology and Texas Tech University.