Informed by art historical and literary sources, Njideka Akunyili Crosby's complex, multi-layered works reflect contemporary transcultural identity. Combining drawing, painting and collage on paper, Akunyili Crosby's large-scale figurative compositions are drawn from the artist's memories and experiences. She uses the visual language and inherited traditions of classical academic western painting, particularly the portrait and still life. Akunyili Crosby's characters and scenes, however, occupy the liminal, in-between zone that post-colonial theorist Homi K. Bhabha refers to as 'the third space', a point of overlap, conflation and mixing of cultural influences specific to diaspora communities.
Akunyili Crosby was born in Nigeria, where she lived until the age of sixteen. In 1999 she moved to the United States, where she has remained since that time. Her cultural identity combines strong attachments to the country of her birth and to her adopted home, a hybrid identity that is reflected in her work. The artist populates her work with images of family and friends, in scenarios with details derived from everyday domestic experiences in Nigeria and America. These include recollections from the formative years of her upbringing, as well as more recent relationships and experiences. Her work often features an element of self-portrait, as in a series of intimate scenes of the artist with her husband made in the early years of their marriage.
Akunyili Crosby's painterly compositions are complemented and enhanced by carefully chosen and integrated collage elements, predominantly acetone-transfer prints of small photographic images. Some of these images are from the artist's archive of personal snapshots, magazines and advertisements, while others are sourced from the internet; they feature images with a thematic resonance to each particular work. These elements present a compelling visual metaphor for the layers of personal memory and cultural history that inform and heighten the experience of the present.
Akunyili Crosby was born in Enugu, Nigeria in 1983 and currently lives and works in Los Angeles. She was awarded Foreign Policy’s Leading 100 Global Thinkers of 2015 alongside the Next Generation Prize, New Museum of Contemporary Art, 2015. She is the recipient of the Smithsonian American Art Museum's James Dicke Contemporary Art Prize, 2014. Recent solo exhibitions include I Refuse to be Invisible, Norton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach (2016) and The Beautyful Ones, Art + Practice, Los Angeles (2015), staged concurrently with a solo presentation at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles (2015); Akunyili Crosby has recently displayed work at institutional venues including the New Musueum, New York (2015); The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2014); Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Durham, North Carolina (2014); Landcommandery of Alden-Biesen, Bilzen, Belgium (2014); Tiwani Contemporary, London (two-person show with Simone Leigh, 2013); Sensei Exchange, New York (two-person show with Doron Langberg, 2013); Gallery Zidoun, Luxembourg (two-person show with Abigail DeVille, 2013); BRIC, New York (2013); Bronx Museum, New York (2013); The Studio Museum In Harlem, New York (2012) and the Museum of New Art Detroit (2012). Her work is in the collections of major museums including Yale University Art Gallery, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, The Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, The Studio Museum in Harlem, The Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University and Tate.