One of the most important African artists to have achieved international recognition in recent years, Njideka Akunyili Crosby draws upon her own experience as a Nigerian immigrant living in the United States in order to address global themes of relocation. Evoking a myriad of artistic languages drawing from Manet, Bonnard and Braque to Matisse, Robert Rauschenberg and Kerry James Marshall, Untitled takes its rightful place within a preeminent and multifaceted art historical lineage that is both private and universal in scope.
In 2010, after a year of experimentation and classes in postcolonial history and diasporic studies at Yale University School of Art, Crosby’s practice crystallized into her signature style. Seeking to reflect the experience of geographic dislocation, Crosby began to build up a reservoir of source imagery: fabrics from her childhood, old family snapshots, plants from Africa and Los Angeles, shoes and garments both traditional and cosmopolitan. Her settings slip between cultures, juxtaposing conflicting scenery, props, hairstyles and costumes.
Untitled exists in what the artist refers to as a “third space,” a place that is the result of the confluence of history and contemporary politics. Crosby explains, “That’s the thing with the third space: You recognize elements of this and this, but it’s not quite anything you can wrap your head around anymore” she said. “With Nigeria, all the tribes mix in, and then the British presence, but then American Pop culture starts coming in, like every other country in the world” (N. A. Crosby, quoted in C. Brutvan, “Interview with Njideka Akunyili Crosby,” in Njideka Akunyili Crosby: I Refuse to be Invisible, exh. cat., Norton Museum, West Palm Beach, 2016, p. 21). By creating the “Third Space,” Crosby is able to start a broader conversation about global identity and its place in contemporary art.