(New York, USA)
A PIPA Prize finalist in 2017, Antonio Obá inaugurated his first solo show in New York in the beginning of the month, May 3rd. “Pele de Dentro”, on view at Mendes Wood DM’s space in the Big Apple, showcases a selection of works by the artist produced in the last few years – among them, one of the works from the “Ambience with Mirrors” series, which he presented in the PIPA Prize Finalists’ Exhibition at MAM-Rio last year –, as well as recent paintings.
His work mixes Judeo-Christian liturgical iconography and influences from African religions (especially those of the Iorubá and Bacongo peoples), a blend that can be foreseen in his very name. While “Antonio”, his real first name, pays homage to Santo Antonio, Saint Anthony, “Obá”, an adopted last name, used to mean ‘king’ in the Benin Empire of West Africa.
Such a mix does not reinforce the Brazilian myth of miscegenation, however. On the contrary, it criticizes the belief that the three main ethnicities that compose the Brazilian ethos, namely European, Indigenous and African, were merged in a single and happy national identity without any violence. Obá thus uses his paintings, installations and (quite controversial) performances to denounce the violence of the colonization processes in Brazil, retracing some of the customs and rituals of traditions erased from the official history of the country.
That may be the reason why Obá’s works seem to be shrouded in an aura of transcendence. “If, like black bodies in the world, we often still find ourselves lost and out of place, the works of Antônio Obá announce that the first place to be reconquered is the one that we carry inside us,” says the introductory text to the show. “Antônio Obá challenges us to move away from the notion of urban centralities as points where everything happens at an accelerated rhythm towards investigating the re-emergence of our interior. In this encounter, we recognize ourselves in other rhythms, in other beings, in other affectivities, in other intensities, in a communion with the ancestry that composes us, that inhabits us and constitutes us.” See some of Obá’s work featured in “Pele de Dentro”:
“Pele de Dentro”, solo show by Antonio Obá
On view from May 3rd through June 22nd, 2018