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Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Any Number of Preoccupations

Solo show at Studio Museum in Harlem. 2010 - 2011
Date: 11 November, 2010 until 13 March, 2011
Curator: Thelma Golden
Organiser: Studio Museum of Harlem

Major Studio Museum in Harlem exhibition by British artist, Lynette-Yiadom Boakye, called Any Number of Preoccupations, 11 November 2010 – 13 March 2011.

Yiadom-Boakye distinguished herself by producing the most enigmatic of portraits. She tended to take as her subjects Black people, not drawn from life, but instead taken – assembled almost – from a variety of secondary material. The significance of the successes achieved thus far by Yiadom-Boakye cannot easily be overstated. It appeared that Yiadom-Boakye had found ways to present a largely non-racial reading of the Black image. In a world in which the white image stood for the general and the Black image stood for the racially or ethnically or culturally specific, Yiadom-Boakye seemed able to use, or construct the Black image in ways that, whilst not exactly transcending race, or difference, were able to wrestle it free from the limited range of readings that historically seemed to plague the Black image. Yiadom-Boakye seemed able to break what had been, for so many practitioners, a somewhat debilitating coupling of the words Black and artist, even though her portraits reflected an unblinking examination of Black portraiture.

The men and women presented in Yiadom-Boakye’s portraits were oftentimes decidedly dark-skinned and as such, represented an almost over-determination of Blackness. In some portraits, this was achieved by the visibility of the whites of the subjects’ eyes. In others, this sense of over-determination was achieved by the showing of the subjects’ teeth. There was also the use of the decidedly dark backgrounds or overall environments in which the artist located her subjects. For a Black artist to be able to paint Black people and to draw positive attention from the art world was rare indeed.

This was an important exhibition by the artist, coming as it did with a substantial colour catalogue. From one of the catalogue’s essays, by Naomi Beckwith:

“Central to the exhibition Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Any number of Preoccupations is the recent painting entitled Any Number of Preoccupations. In addition to lending the exhibition its title, this exceptional canvas by Yiadom-Boakye demonstrates the artist’s considerable skills in figuration and color and is indicative of the most prominent feature of her painting practice: her body of work consists entirely of human figures, the majority of which are black.” Beckwith’s essay concludes, “Yiadom-Boakye’s paintings are not neat in the same way that historical narratives are muddled, untidy and representationally suspect.”

Related items

click to show details of Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Any Number of Preoccupations

»  Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Any Number of Preoccupations

Catalogue relating to an exhibition, 2010

People in this exhibition

»  Lynette Yiadom-Boakye

Born, 1977 in London

Exhibition venues

»  Studio Museum in Harlem

New York, United States of America