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For Maiden Voyage II: Heliocentric Forms of Blackness, Azikiwe Mohammed, in his first show with Western Exhibitions, looks at sites of respite, sections of calm and the Black languages that have been built to give voice to these often disguised spaces. Through painting, sculpture, neon and textile works, Mohammed asks: How does one plant roots when the ground is sour? What does that fruit look like when it grows and what does it say to the wind when everyone has blown out the candles? Using Chicago histories both public and personal — The Green Mill, Cabrini Green, Candy Man, Chief Keef, data sets as provided by the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation, Earth, Wind & Fire, the Art Ensemble of Chicago, stockyards, steel mills, The Stroll — to investigate a form that seems ever more distant, Mohammed looks not for an answer to our shapes but invites you to look with those that have been looking for longer than the moon is round. Maiden Voyage II: Heliocentric Forms of Blackness opens with a free public reception from 5 to 8pm on Friday, June 24 and runs through August 13, 2022. Gallery hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 11am-6pm.
Says Mohammed: “Both Herbie Hancock and Ramsey Lewis have albums called Maiden Voyage (Hancock in ’65 and Lewis in ’68), both of which I own, but never put two and two together until just now. Where were they trying to go for the first time when the departure point (Chicago) was the same? What is the promise of something elsewhere that isn’t being provided here?”
Azikiwe Mohammed’s work — painting, photography, sculpture, performance and found ephemera — is rooted in themes of Black place-making. Interested in constructing spaces of safety and welcome for people of color and for immigrants whose space is often threatened, Mohammed—who self-identifies not as an artist, but as a “dude who makes stuff”—often makes temporary homes and physical spaces for Black people. Sometimes he designs places to relax, environments where a shared language is spoken, or sometimes places where new languages can be created. His exhibitions turn galleries into homey spaces intended to put all visitors at ease. Using art to invoke community uplift is also key to his practice, exemplified by his recently launched Black Painters Academy, offering free classes and mutual aid in lower Manhattan and the New Davonhaime Food Bank, a non-location-based food bank serving as wide a variety of communities and spaces as possible thru re-directing monies for the arts into monies for food.
Azikiwe Mohammed is a 2005 graduate of Bard College, where he studied photography and fine arts. Mohammed received a Rauschenberg Artists Fund Grant in 2021, a Rema Hort Mann Emerging Artist Grant in 2016 and an Art Matters Grant in 2015. Mohammed’s solo exhibitions include the SCAD Museum of Art, Savannah, GA; Transformer, Washington, DC; Yeh Art Gallery, St. John’s University, Queens, NY; Mindy Solomon Gallery, Miami, FL; Elijah Wheat Showroom, Newburgh, NY and Anna Zorina Gallery, New York, NY; as well as multiple solo offerings at SPRING/BREAK Art Show, New York. He has participated in group exhibitions at MoMA PS1, Queens, New York; Antenna Gallery, New Orleans, Louisiana; Charlie James Gallery, Los Angeles, California and The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, among others. He is an alumnus of Pioneer Works in Brooklyn, New York, and Mana Contemporary in Jersey City, New Jersey. His work has been featured extensively in magazines, including VICE, I-D, Artforum, Forbes, BOMB and Hyperallergic. Mohammed lives and works in New York City.
Image: Azikiwe Mohammed "Waitig at 7:22pm, Curtain Open," 2021. Acrylic and gouache on board, 18h x 22w in.