Nú Barreto: Africa: Renversante, renversée

Galerie Nathalie Obadia, Paris, France
08 Nov 2018 - 29 Dec 2018

Nu Barreto, Etats Désunis d’Afrique (EDA) / Desunited States of Africa (DSA), 2017. Acrylic on Fabriano paper, 27 3/5 × 39 2/5 in; 70 × 100 cm. Courtesy

Nu Barreto, Etats Désunis d’Afrique (EDA) / Desunited States of Africa (DSA), 2017. Acrylic on Fabriano paper, 27 3/5 × 39 2/5 in; 70 × 100 cm. Courtesy

The Nathalie Obadia Gallery is very happy to present Africa: Renversante, renversée. The first solo exhibition of Nú Barreto at the gallery will be on view November 8 through December 29.

Born in 1966 in Sao Domingos, Guinea-Bissau, Nú Barreto is a major figure in the contemporary art scene of Africa. He incorporates various stages of the moving history of the African continent through several mediums including paintings that will be presented in the exhibition.

In 2009, Nú Barreto began a new series of paintings revisiting the American flag in pan-African colors. États Désunis d’Afrique is a variation of nine works presented in the exhibition at the gallery. The artist investigates here a new approach and questions different themes, notably that of the disunion of the African people.

By resuming the structure of the American flag and referring to the American Flag of Jasper Johns (1954-1955), Nú Barreto is part of a line of artists who use the visual power of the symbol to highlight societal issues. Like David Hammons with African-American flag (1990), who challenged the opinion on African-American cultural identity. By appropriating the color palette of the UNIA flag (Universal Negro Improvement Association), he proposed a hybrid reinterpretation of this flag. This historical work clearly marked the political dimension of his work.

Nú Barreto’s work explores the culture and history of the African continent. The paintings of the series États Désunis d’Afrique are all made with the colors common to the flags of African nations: red, green, black. They are composed of fifty-four stars representing each state of the continent. Scattered on the canvas, sometimes even torn from the flag in Désités – or suspended with Deraciné, the arrangement of these symbols testifies the disorder related to conflicts between states.

Beyond the political differences that separate us from a Utopian vision of a united African nation, it is also an entire continent that faces its sometimes bloody legacy. The work Yako (sympathy with pain, word of Akan origin in Ivory Coast), is a flag dotted with sockets piercing the canvas and arranged on the ground; Nú Barreto echoes here the fratricidal wars, the coups d’etat that took place in the twentieth century. Similarly, the use of bones in some of his works accentuates the violence of his message and denounces the genocides of Africa.

Vandalisme coloré, a flag stitched with a multitude of pins, like a voodoo doll, sums up the pain and the stigmata of the people still today. Despite the difficulties, Nú Barreto highlights the intellectual and cultural resources that benefit African nations. Like a message of hope, books by African authors hanging on the canvas of the work The Source presents Africa as a reservoir of optimism.

The work of Nú Barreto seems to be constantly bubbling. His work is anchored both in history and in the news. The artist challenges us by marked actions, body-to-body with his works: it makes us feel some violence and rage, as visual as metaphorical, without leaving aside the search for a singular aesthetic. The use of cowries, shells and other gray-gray transform these flags into sculptures and remind us of the textile works of El Anatsui made of thousands of crushed capsules. The flags of Nú Barreto become exutory paintings, windows open on the world, witnesses of the history of a people.

Nú Barreto was born in 1966 in Sao Domingo (Guinea-Bissau). He lives and works in Paris (France). Arrived in 1989 in France to study photography and then enter the National School of Image Gobelins. The multidisciplinary and committed work of Nú Barreto has been the subject of numerous solo and collective exhibitions. In 2018, he exhibited alongside El Anatsui, Issac Julien or William Kentridge in Reloaded Avant Garde 2018 at the gallery Sabine Knust (Munich, Germany). The artist also benefited from a personal exhibition Ressonãncia, Casas at the Taipa Museum in 2015 (Macau, China). He also participated in the exhibition 100 obras 10 años at the foundation Arpád Szenes and Viera da Silva in 2012 (Lisbon, Portugal) and at the Biennale of Contemporary African Art in Dakar in 2006 (Senegal). Nú Barreto also represented the Guinea Pavilion at the Lisbon World Fair in 1998 (Portugal).


Galerie Nathalie Obadia
3 rue du Cloître Saint-Merri
75004 – Paris – France



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