This focused exhibition of works by Njideka Akunyili Crosby (b. 1983), Yale MFA 2011, is the final show in the series of three exhibitions curated by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Hilton Als.
Akunyili Crosby is a leading contemporary artist whose work offers critical perspectives on postcolonial history and experience as well as transnational identities. Born and raised in Nigeria, she came to the United States in 1999 to attend the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and Swarthmore College, before obtaining an mfa from Yale University. Now based in Los Angeles, Akunyili Crosby has been the subject of a sequence of high-profile and well-received solo exhibitions in both the United States and the United Kingdom, notably at the Baltimore Museum of Art, Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, and the National Portrait Gallery, London. In 2017 she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship “genius grant.”
The group of pictures selected by Als and Akunyili Crosby focus on the artist’s ongoing series The Beautyful Ones. The title references a novel by the Ghanaian author Ayi Kwei Armah. Set in postindependence Ghana, The Beautyful Ones Are Not Yet Born (1968) is a commentary on the state of the postcolonial African nation-state. Its arrival in 1968, a year of worldwide civic and social unrest, cemented its universal themes of loss and political awakening. The series is comprised of intimate portraits of Nigerian youth in domestic interior scenes. Some are children the artist came across in family albums or selected from photographs taken during her annual visits home. This exhibition assembles works from the series and places them into new critical contexts shaped by Als’s perspectives on contemporary art.