Ifeyinwa Joy Chiamonwu, “Genesis” at 24th Street. Jack Shainman Gallery
I am a vessel of my Igbo ancestors.
I am here to tell our stories and to preserve the rich cultural identity and traditions of our people. I do not take this responsibility for granted. It’s the trip of a lifetime.
This exhibit is the first page of a thousand pages of historical Igbo wills.
The exhibition is an introduction to the visions of the vessel and the ancestors who speak through it.
-Ifeyinwa Joy Chiamonwu, December 2021
Jack Shainman Gallery has the pleasure to present Genesis, Ifeyinwa Joy Chiamonwufirst exhibition with the gallery.
Growing up in Anambra State in Nigeria, Chiamonwu learned that tradition, community, and most importantly, family are values to be placed above all others. Chiamonwu chose to highlight these same priorities in Genesis, his first solo exhibition, a collection of works on paper and canvas featuring members of his family and close friends as representations of mythological deities, customs and cultural beliefs Igbo past and present.
Born in 1995, Chiamonwu says she has witnessed the recession of many of her tight-knit tribal traditions and cultural practices and the Igbo community, and in response, she has shaped her practice to preserve them. The range of Igbo identities around the world is vast and Chiamonwu has chosen to focus his expression on the types of physical, tribal and cultural figure objects that played such a big role in his childhood and are dear to his heart as a child. she thinks about her community. Over the years, she has made an effort to spend time with local elders; to listen to and protect their stories through her works of art so that she can then share them with present and future generations, locally and around the world.
Paintings like Nne Mmiri (Igbo water goddess) demonstrate the types of rich myths and stories that Chiamonwu seeks to embody. As the queen of the marine world, Nne Mmiri is considered the embodiment of beauty, fertility and wealth. She holds her kingdom in her hands, sparkling and beautiful with vivacity. The accompanying person is a python; his messenger and a symbol of his strength. Along with Igbo deities, Chiamonwu also portrays calmer and more domestic aspects of his culture, as in Umunne (siblings). Starring her own brother and sister as models, she contrasts their brightly colored Ankara wrappers and adornments with the serene calm of her siblings. Most striking is the feeling of ease, contentment and security with one another, in a way that often only comes from a bond nurtured throughout life.
Chiamonwu’s remarkable skill is completely self-taught. Although she studied education in college, a long-standing fascination with art from her youth has led her to devote countless hours to developing the meticulous technique that she uses today. The plausibility is striking, to such an extent that the subjects seem to come out of the pictorial plane and enter our world like almost tangible figures imbued with warmth and life. The discipline and effort evident in every drawing and painting ultimately echoes the love and respect she has for each character in her own life. In this way, Genesis is not only a preservation of the Igbo culture of Chiamonwu, but also a tribute to the personal relationships and the unique history one has with those around them.
Opening January 13 at our space at 513 West 20th Street is Down here, an exhibition of the work of Carrie Mae Weems, and This tender and fragile thing opening to school | Jack Shainman Gallery on January 15, 2022. Upcoming exhibitions include Barkley L. Hendricks, in the painting in our gallery at 513 West 20th Street, and Claudette Schreuders in our space 524 West 24th Street, both open on February 24, 2022.