February 21, 2024

Beauty Arts

The Arts Authority

Spotlight: Artist Mequitta Ahuja Tells Her Family’s Story Through Portraits Based on Her Late Grandmother’s Research

Spotlight: Artist Mequitta Ahuja Tells Her Family’s Story Through Portraits Based on Her Late Grandmother’s Research

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About the Artist: By way of her exercise, figurative painter Mequitta Ahuja (b. 1976) seeks to redefine the execution and knowledge of self-portraiture. Partaking with each historic and up to date modes of self-portraiture and drawing inspiration from a various vary of artists—from Nicolas Poussin’s Self-Portrait (1650) to the do the job of Kerry James Marshall—Ahuja’s self-portraits solution the style as a sort of photo-earning rather of a simple interrogation of id. Finally, her work inquiries the methods ability, culture, girls, and people today of coloration have been and are remaining portrayed in the Western canon. Not long ago, two of her performs have been obtained for the long-lasting collections of the Whitney Museum of American Artwork and the Grand Rapids Art Museum: Most important Adore (2020) and Portrait of Her Mother (2020) respectively. In both equally operates, Ahuja depicts herself holding up a likeness of her mother, creating a multilayered portrait that is deeply personalized as properly as touches on historical traditions of self-portraiture.

Installation view of Mequitta Ahuja, Portrait of her Mother (2020) at Grand Rapids Art Museum. Courtesy of Aicon Gallery, New York.

Installation check out of Mequitta Ahuja, Portrait of Her Mother (2020) at Grand Rapids Art Museum. Courtesy of Aicon Gallery, New York.

What You Require to Know: Opening now, Aicon Gallery in New York is presenting a solo exhibition of Ahuja’s modern paintings, “Black-word,” which will be on look at by means of February 11, 2023. The aim of her 2nd solo display with Aicon Gallery is on the concept of genealogy, both on a personalized amount for the artist as properly as a broader thematic examine of heritage, inventive tradition, and identity. The core features of the paintings’ subject matter make any difference are primarily based on investigation and writings begun by Ahuja’s late grandmother in the 1950s that seem into her family’s tale and historical past. The artist inherited a prosperity of archival supplies from her grandmother, such as letters, authorities paperwork, and approximately 1,000 photographs. To develop illustrations or photos of her 19th-century Black ancestors primarily based on these methods, Ahuja taps traditional artwork historic compositional arrangements—such as the Madonna breastfeeding Child Jesus and banderoles or very long, ribbon-shaped scrolls—to illustrate the matrilineal story that is deeply personal nevertheless greatly relatable and recognizable.

Why We Like It: Ahuja’s ability to deftly synthesize the historic and common with the contemporary and individual makes it possible for for a excellent total of complexity in equally subject matter and style. This is highlighted in performs this sort of as As They Be sure to (2022), which consists of a footnote inside the body. The portray portrays a person of Ahuja’s ancestors, Milly Morris, breastfeeding her youngster. The infant details up at their mother’s identify emblazoned on a banderole, evoking the Madonna and Child motif observed in Renaissance artwork. A further collection of will work, like Milly is However at Aunt’s Cabin (2022), mark a stylistic departure from the substantial-scale self-portraits for which Ahuja is most perfectly-regarded. Listed here, the artist reproduces the handwriting and textual content from an 1838 letter written by David White, a white Quaker who, together with his cousin Aaron, served relocate no cost people of coloration, together with Milly, from the slave state of North Carolina to Indiana. The cacophony of shade and letters visually expresses the emotional and narrative intricacies of both the second in heritage as perfectly the artist’s very own familial historical past.

See featured operates from the exhibition under.

Mequitta Ahuja, As They Please (2022). Courtesy of Aicon Gallery, New York.

Mequitta Ahuja, As They Be sure to (2022). Courtesy of Aicon Gallery, New York.

Mequitta Ahuja, Babbler (2022). Courtesy of Aicon Gallery, New York.

Mequitta Ahuja, Babbler (2022). Courtesy of Aicon Gallery, New York.

Mequitta Ahuja, Milly is yet at Aunts Cabin (2022). Courtesy of Aicon Gallery, New York.

Mequitta Ahuja, Milly is But at Aunts Cabin (2022). Courtesy of Aicon Gallery, New York.

Mequitta Ahuja, Portrait Study I (2021). Courtesy of Aicon Gallery, New York.

Mequitta Ahuja, Portrait Review I (2021). Courtesy of Aicon Gallery, New York.

Mequitta Ahuja: Black-term” is on check out via February 11, 2023.

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