Where are They Now? Njideka Akunyili Crosby’s Ike Ya
Njideka Akunyili Crosby’s first exhibitions in Los Angeles were organized by former Hammer assistant curator Jamillah James in 2015. The exhibitions were installed at the Hammer Museum and Art + Practice, an art and social services organization founded by artist Mark Bradford and philanthropist Eileen Harris Norton in the Leimert Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. Crosby’s current exhibition at the Contemporary Arts Center Cincinnati includes Ike Ya (2016), which is part of the Hammer’s permanent collection.
Ike Ya was created specifically for Crosby’s first solo exhibition in Europe entitled Portals, installed at Victoria Miro Gallery in London in 2016. Many of Crosby’s paintings are actually portals of some kind or another, providing glimpses into her personal life while momentarily transporting the viewer to the domestic spaces she experienced as a child in Nigeria. After her move to the United States in 1999, Crosby discovered her passion for painting upon enrolling in her first art class at the age of 16. Her artwork challenges traditional aesthetics, integrating image transfers into large-scale mixed media objects that explore domestic settings and the dynamics of personal relations. The collaged elements and image transfers on Crosby’s large paper canvases provide interesting insights into life in contemporary Nigeria; popular culture references from the media depict a life that is not so different from that in the West.
Her work often provides a portal into a third space, one of hybridity, where Crosby intersects her cultural experiences in Nigeria and the West to diminish the limitations of geography. In turn, Crosby interrupts the preconceived notions of Nigeria as anything other than modern. The third space Crosby enacts occurs in the seemingly banal environment of the home—a familiar place for most. Carefully placed image transfers create the illusion that the painting extends beyond the surface, and is a habitable environment. The viewer becomes part of the dialogue in which Crosby addresses cultural intersections that are under acknowledged. The work succeeds in questioning the blind spots of the Eurocentric art historical canon, addressing issues of race and race-relations in a decisively personal way. She juxtaposes photographs taken in the homes of family members in Nigeria with those from her own home in the United States, unifying these distant places on the canvas. Her exhibition Njideka Akunyili Crosby: The Predecessors continues to celebrate the familial relations that shape her practice.
Njideka Akunyili Crosby’s Ike Ya is included in Njideka Akunyili Crosby: The Predecessors, on view at the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, Ohio from July 14 to October 1, 2017 and the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College from October 14 to December 31, 2017.
 Homi K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture. (London: Routledge, 1994), 179.
Tags: where are they now, collections