Blending cotton, Black hair, rice paper, and shades of blue, Adebunmi Gbadebo considers the materiality of lineage. Her impressive solo exhibition at Claire Oliver Gallery, A Dilemma of Inheritance, focuses on her True Blue portraits. The series gathers artifacts from two South Carolina plantations (both also named True Blue), including one in Fort Motte, back to which Gbadebo traces her family.
True Blue‘s first 21 portraits subsume the architectural plans of the other plantation — now a golf course on Pawley’s Island. Cotton pigmentation, hair dye, pulverized denim, and indigo yield a warm blue gradient among portraits bearing coiled and loc’ed hair donated from around the world. The remaining 21 are named for enslaved individuals, whose assigned names have been reclaimed from plantation owner George Pawley’s will.
Gbadebo deepens her textual exploration of memory in the large-scale work, “A New and Accurate Map of the Land Formerly Known as Negroland” (2020). Black hair overtakes salvaged maps of “the New World” and the True Blue plantation, drawn by cartographer Emanuel Bowen, collapsing the problematic histories of the West African slave trade with 18th century mappings of the New World. Here, Gbadebo allows for a new map to emerge.
Adebumni Gbadebo: A Dilemma of Inheritance continues through November 14 at Claire Oliver Gallery (2288 Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Boulevard, Harlem, Manhattan).