Additional Images

Text from Beyond Skin Exhibition at Simchoitz Gallery, April 17 - May 8, 2021. 

Clottey has made work that centers around ideas of image-making and identity construction. Taking a cue from mid-century black and white photography made on the coast of West Africa, Clottey seeks to update the visual language of historical images to fit the contemporary.

Both the paintings rendered in duct tape and oil on cork and those made on large sheets of yupo paper are based on existing photographs. Clottey chose his subjects for their expressive nature, drawn to the voice behind the individual. Some are recognizable, such as Chadwick Boseman or Michaela Coel, but some are plucked by the artist from the endless scroll of social media. This specific artwork is of Michaela Coel. She created, wrote, produced, co-directed, and starred in the comedy-drama series "I May Destroy You", inspired by her own experience of sexual assault. The show launched on BBC One in the UK and HBO in the US in June 2020 to widespread acclaim. Coel was the first Black woman to win the Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing for a Limited Series, Movie, or Dramatic Special at the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards for "I May Destroy You".

Clottey plays with fashion as a form of identity construction. Fabrics act as historical records that are passed on as material culture. The juxtaposition of the figures’ intense subjectivity and the vibrant clothing which adorns them challenges colonialist notions of the agency of the sitter. In the artist’s world, black bodies are no longer props; they assert their independence, pushing beyond antiquated notions of personhood.

Through fashion, the artist also playfully engages with culturally ingrained conventions of gender and sexuality. In Colored Man, the figure sits in a relaxed pose. Dressed in a suit of fuchsia and purple with a brightly patterned lapel, he projects a stereotypically masculine energy. Pink, still associated almost exclusively with femininity in the artist’s native Ghanaian culture, is repurposed here, freed from the confines of a heteronormative masculinity. Choice of material has played a significant role in Clottey’s practice, and here it is no different. . . Large tondo charcoal drawings included in the exhibition act as another reference to historical African photography. Inspired by visages of African warriors, Clottey’s black and white portraits examine hairstyle as a means to trace cultural histories that exist outside of archival records. In the tondo drawings, as in the duct tape paintings, the artist engages with historical visual languages and updates them to fit our time. - Text by Katya Gause, 2021.
Acquired from Simchowitz Gallery, Los Angeles, California

17/04/2021 - 08/05/2021

Beyond Skin | Simchowitz Gallery