Yaw Owusu - Reflections from the (In)Visible Past: London, UK
Gallery 1957, London is pleased to present Reflections from the (In)Visible Past, a solo exhibition of new work by artist Yaw Owusu curated by Kilolo Luckett. Owusu’s second solo exhibition with the gallery and first in London, the exhibition features some of the artist’s most ambitious works to date - demonstrating an expansion of scale, depth and concept.
A Penny for Your Thought
Yaw Owusu’s new series of monumental sculptures feature dynamic, abstract geographies that interrogate systems of value, mobility, and power. Composed mainly of Ghanaian pesewa coins, pennies from the United States of America, and repurposed steel, Yaw skillfully uses various domestic liquids and compounds to dye the surfaces of different currency and industrial metals. Eschewing the brush, he uses alchemy to paint the surfaces of coins, which results in a range of kaleidoscopic colors that reflect, change, and disappear when exposed to different lighting conditions. The complex surfaces of his materials powerfully allude to hidden, erased, and visible labor of Black people across global histories.
Yaw’s iridescent, futuristic forms made of malleable and rigid materials serve as sites of unsettled, contested, and fictitious histories perpetrated by modern day colonialism.
Created during the period of lockdown and social activism in the United States, the sculptures in Yaw Owusu: Reflections from the (In)Visible Past foreground the resilience, resistance, and legacy of people of African descent. In Black Wall Street, 1921 – 2021, Yaw pays tribute to the hundreds of African Americans who were murdered by a mob of white supremacists in 1921 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Known as the Tulsa Race Massacre, jealous of Black Tulsans, white rioters looted and burned down the Greenwood District, a vibrant, Black business district. For Black Wall Street, his largest work in the exhibition, Yaw overlayed aerial maps of Greenwood from the past hundred years. Masses of grey coins grouped together forming the likeness of ashes – evidence of the burned wreckage, the violence and hostility against Black people within the legacy of white supremacy. Burnished golden steel triangles wrap around woven strips of malleable silver to create a protective force field honoring the women, men, and children whose lives were senselessly taken. Yaw creates a dialogue that brings the weighted body of Blackness to bear. Within the space of manipulated currency and the history of relegating Blacks to the economic and social margins Black people played a central role to building the wealth of Europe and the Americas. Yaw’s work gives testimony to the energy and strength that Black people carry throughout generations.
An excerpt from the curatorial essay by Kilolo Luckett.