CHICAGO — I STAND BY ME, Amoako Boafo’s first solo-exhibition at Mariane Ibrahim gallery, depicts the complexity of the artist’s subjects, emphasizing the dynamic intimacy between Boafo and each sitter. Using prints and brushstrokes to depict jewelry and fabric, the artist employs his fingers to render skin, conveying light and texture in a manner that bridges Impressionism and Expressionism.
Housed in one room, the exhibition showcases 10 works created amid the coronavirus pandemic. Each portrait features a loved one of the artist, composed in a manner that highlights posture and subtle facial expressions. In “Self portrait with pink pants” and “The Pink Background” (both 2020), Boafo’s finger-work contours black and brown cheekbones with stripes of deep blues and sharp reds. His focus on destabilizing normative approaches to rendering Black skin echoes that of fellow West African diasporic painters like Toyin Ojih Odutola and Collins Obijiaku, though his brushwork often also draws comparisons to Egon Schiele (likewise a longtime resident of Vienna, Austria).
Boafo has made a splash in the US this year, with a recent residency at Miami’s Rubell Museum, and his paintings appearing in current shows at Los Angeles’s Kohn Gallery, and of course, here in Chicago. The artist’s work, however, goes beyond oil on canvas. In 2013, he and Sunanda Mesquita, a painter and curator who is also his partner, founded We Dey, an art space invested in platforming and being in conversation with Black and brown, up-and-coming visual artists in Vienna.
Boafo’s practice, both on and off the canvas, is dedicated to honoring the intimate space held between Black artists and their subjects.