Joseph A. Abu

10 November – 17 December

NicholsAtlanta is delighted to announce a solo-exhibition featuring new paintings by the Atlanta-based, contemporary expressionist artist Joseph A. Abu (b. 1993, Lagos, Nigeria).

In his first solo exhibition, entitled Black As Light, Abu exhibits entirely new paintings that focuses on the color black and its playfulness with light. In this exhilarating exhibition, the paintings consist of two shades of black that adjust between lighter and darker as the viewer moves about the space. To add to this moving work, a portion of blue is added. Despite the darkness of the two colors, one point emerges clearly from the juxtaposition – the sharpness of the black added by the softness of the blue commands your attention. The result is an amazing body of work in concert with light!

The artist’s work depicts kinetic moments about his human experience. His art style adopts techniques of mark making, automatism and expressionism to create works based on personal/shared values and beauty. His creative process often starts with an absent mind, initial renderings, meditation and eventually painting. This method allows Abu to approach his work with an expressive yet focused manner that results in unique works of art. He takes on the challenge of true expression in each body of work with texture, color, and form.

“Making art is simply showing my humanity. If you get to see it, I hope you can relate your experiences to or through it.”

Abu received a Master of Public Administration from Cornell University in 2019, believing at the time that his interest in government outweighed his love of painting. Since then, he has participated in group exhibitions such as SLAP Collective Group Art Show, Brooklyn, NY; Fable Jones Studios, Brooklyn, NY; Rye Art Center, Rye, NY; Echo Contemporary Art, Atlanta, GA; among others. His showing at NicholsAtlanta is the artist’s first solo exhibition.

His work has been featured in the online publication Gallerium Art (“Migration 2021”), 2022;, 2021; and, Pigment Magazine, 2021.

Artist’s Statement

Black as light is a visual experiment of black paint and its relationship to light. This experiment started, like most of my work, as an attempt to cultivate a unique visual language that captures the thoughts and feelings beyond my language capabilities. However, as I thought about the context for this language, I began to experiment with different shades of black in a focused, yet playful manner. The use of black paint as both the subject and object, comparable to techniques of Kerry James Marshall and Pierre Soulages, was my starting point. However, through experimentation and incorporation of my own techniques of mark making and abstract expressionism, I was able to combine references and personal elements to manipulate light in unique circumstances.

Some discoveries of these experiments include what I consider light and dark expressions. Light expressions are instances where two closely related shades of black are stacked on top of each other, with the lighter shade as the background and the darker shade as the foreground, creating an illuminating surface. Dark expressions are instances where the background is composed of a dynamic color landscape, layered beneath a translucent black wash creating dimensional depth and pronounced forms.

The privilege of painting abstractly is the freedom to experiment with materials, process, and subject matter. Therefore, I must admit, these are paintings about paintings! However, the combination of intent and intuitive discovery has resulted in paintings of implied beauty and artistic discernment. Additionally, these works are not explicit in visual intent. As a result, the viewer should take the time to examine the textures, shadows, and feelings derived to find meaning and personal interpretation.

Demetri Burke exhibits paintings in this show with a focus on Black masculinity, showcasing the everyday magic and vulnerability of those under said theme. Digging deeper, the paintings aim to provide a biological and historical narrative of Black males in America.

Burke received his BFA in Studio with a concentration in Drawing, Painting, and Printmaking from Georgia State University, Atlanta, GA. He has had a solo exhibition at the MINT Gallery, Atlanta. His work has been included in group exhibitions at NYC Culture Club, New York; Southwest Arts Center, Atlanta; New York Academy of Art, New York; YoungArts Gallery, Miami; among others. Residencies have included The Hambidge Center, MINT Gallery Leap Year Residency (2021-2022), and the Andrew W. Mellon Undergraduate Curatorial Fellowship Program (2021 Mellon Summer Academy, High Museum of Art). Along with exhibiting throughout the U.S., his work has been featured in various publications including New American Paintings South, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and ArtsATL.

José Ibarra Rizo’s portraits document individuals and their diverse experiences as migrants or children of migrants in the American South, aiming for the work to humanize an experience that is often misrepresented in the media and rarely found in fine art.

Rizo received his BA in Studio Art from Georgia College & State University, Milledgeville, GA. His solo exhibitions have included Atlanta’s Airport Atrium Gallery and the MINT Gallery, Atlanta. His selected group exhibitions consist of exhibiting at the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, Atlanta; Arts and Entertainment, Atlanta; and Swan Coach House Gallery, Atlanta. Some of his awards consist of Finalist in the Aperture 2022 Portfolio Prize; Lensculture B&W Photography Awards, 1st Place Single, Amsterdam; Artist Grant Recipient, IDEA Capital, Atlanta; and he was selected into the 2022-2023 Class of Leap Year Artists at MINT Gallery. His work has been recognized in such publications as Group Vine, The Guardian, and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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