Dozie Arts is proud to present "IHÚ", an exhibition of sixteen new paintings by Joseph Eze. After the success of "ATITI" (or, in English, "Waste"), his first solo show in the United States which opened in 2021, Eze returns to New York for his second with a deeply poetic and provocative exploration of individual and collective cultural identities. Looking outwards and inwards from his studio in Lagos, Nigeria, the artist meditates on deep histories of European colonialism and ethnic tribal identity within Africa as well as the unstoppable contemporary forces of globalisation and multiculturalism that are sweeping the entire world. "IHÚ" is the Igbo language word meaning 'Face'. As visual, physical and psychological borders between the self and the 'other' collapse and are thrown up again at ever more dizzying speed, Eze's intricate, multi-layered portraits reflect the unease and disorientation of individuality as well as the potential dissolution of self in collective identity and the weight of history.
After many years constructing experimental narrative paintings using a plethora of found objects and surfaces, why has Eze found himself concentrating so forcefully to the human face at this cultural and historical moment? 'For a very long time in my work my fascination with the human face has led me to investigate and reinvestigate its potentialities as a conveyor of emotions, a betrayer of motive, a concealer of intents and a usurper of attention...' he writes, 'as I [now] explore identity among other themes, I'm once again reverting to the face as a possible indicator of our present complex cultural identities.'
In each portrait the human head emerges from darkness as though spot-lit on a theatre stage, hovering closely over (but not attached to) a delicate white lace ruff, reminiscent of the status-seeking portraits of wealthy seventeenth century Europeans. Occasionally the eyes look out at us, but more often the lids are lowered or closed or declining to meet our gaze. Are we looking at portrait of an individual human in the twenty first century, or the idea of one? Is this a person with an inner life, or a mesh of symbols with no ultimate soul? Is there now, in fact, any difference? In his studio, Eze has painstakingly constructed the skin, features and hair using imagery and text torn from glossy American magazines, combined with classical European portraiture techniques and held together by a web of glowing intricate abstract patterning reminiscent of both scarification and of the Uli designs traditional to the Igbo tribal group of which Eze is part. The effect is deliberately jarring and arresting in its beauty - the visual elements are so disparate and contradictory and yet, in the artist's hands, they do somehow synthesise, expand and cohere into a greater whole.
"IHÚ" quite literally brings the viewer 'face to face' with some of the most pertinent and unsettling questions of our times. The internal and external conflicts of identity touch the entire world and grow more urgent and inescapable every day. Instead of providing one-sided polemics or easy answers, "IHÚ" offers a hopeful vision of the power of humanity; that destruction from conflict is not inevitable, and that coexistence in peace, or at least in tolerance, is both beautiful and possible.
The exhibition will take place at One Art Space gallery, 23 Warren St, New York City. The show will run from November 8th to 14th 2022 with the opening reception on November 8th from 6-9pm. This is Joseph Eze's seventh solo show globally and second solo show in NYC.