‘Rotimi Fani-Kayode (1955-1989)’ Exhibition Opens Feb. 8 at Palitz Gallery
“Rotimi Fani-Kayode (1955-1989)” is a solo retrospective of the work of this seminal and highly influential figure in 1980s black British and African contemporary art. Although his career was cut short by his untimely death at the age of 34, Fani-Kayode nonetheless remains an important influence in contemporary photography. Syracuse University’s Palitz Gallery will host the exhibition, which opens Feb. 8 and is presented by Light Work in partnership with Autograph ABP.
“Rotimi Fani-Kayode (1955-1989)” will run Feb. 8 through April 15. The gallery is open Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. and is free and open to the public. There will be a panel discussion exploring the artist and his impact on contemporary photography at 6 p.m. on Feb. 11. The panel, moderated by M. Neelika Jayawardane, includes guest speakers Elliot Ross and Derica Shields. Contact 212-826-0320 or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on the discussion or exhibition.
Curated by Mark Sealy and Renée Mussai of Autograph ABP, Light Work staff was given access to the negatives from which to create the reprints on display in “Rotimi Fani-Kayode (1955-1989)”– all are ink on etching rag. The exhibition features a selection of his most important photographic works produced between 1985-1989, including large-scale color works and arresting black and white images. Fani-Kayode is co-founder and first chair photographic of Autograph ABP. His photographs have been exhibited internationally since 1985, with numerous recent solo exhibitions in London, Boston, New York and Cape Town.
The artist’s portraits explore complex personal and politically engaged notions of desire, spirituality and cultural dislocation. They depict the black male body as a focal point both to interpret and probe the boundaries of spiritual and erotic fantasy, and of cultural and sexual difference. Ancestral rituals and a provocative, multi-layered symbolism fuse with archetypal motifs from European and African cultures and subcultures, inspired by what Yoruba priests call “the technique of ecstasy.” Hence Fani-Kayode uses the medium of photography not only to question issues of sexuality and homoerotic desire, but also to address themes of diaspora and belonging, and the tensions between his homosexuality and his Yoruba upbringing. This exhibition runs during a period where punitive legislation in Nigeria has been enacted, just as in other countries in Africa, in recent years outlawing same-sex marriages and membership in gay rights organizations.
Fani-Kayode was born in Lagos, Nigeria, to a prominent Yoruba family, which left Africa as refugees in 1966 and moved the United Kingdom. He later studied at Georgetown University and the Pratt Institute before settling permanently in London in 1983, where he lived and worked until his death in 1989. In 2003, his work featured in the African Pavilion at the 50th Venice Biennale and in 2011 in ARS 11 at Kiasma-Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki, Finland.
Fani-Kayode’s work is represented in the collections of numerous institutions and private collectors, including the Victoria & Albert Museum, Walther Family Foundation, Harvard University’s Hutchins Center, Kiasma-Museum of Contemporary Art and the collection of Yinka Shonibare MBE, among others.