Anthony Akinbola

People like Blackness—but if it’s too Black, or if it seems too intimidating, then they don’t want it anymore.

—  Anthony Akinbola's quote about his theme on "Anthony Akinbola’s Durag Paintings Subvert Power Dynamics in Museum Spaces", by Taylor Hoskings on Vice. 2019.

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Local Import Show. MAD Museum.

Anthony Akinbola’s durag paintings invite curiosity in hearing the words durag and painting next to each other. By taking something that is uniquely Black out of its usual context, it subverts the associations normally ascribed to it and frees it as a medium to be used in a new way. Durags are layered across a painted base to create color blocks, stretched and pulled to create a play between colors, textures and movements; not unlike Color Field painters but with different mediums. In his monochrome works, textures come alive in the various fabrics used in the way brush strokes create textures on canvas. As he describes: "Originally I was just trying to use that material to connect. But through using it, I was able to unlock it and continue working with it."

The durag medium also calls into question the meaning an object holds. To those in the Black community, a utility to press hair; to those who make them, commerce; to others a fashion statement; but to all an immediately recognizable item. The white “Made in” tags, most clearly visible in his monochrome works, are particularly interesting in highlighting the relationship of the objects’ maker and end user. Both have had an intimate hand in the object’s life despite physical and cultural distances, which reinforces the shared connections we all experience.  

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