Omar Victor Diop: Project Diaspora

SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film, Atlanta, GA, United States
17 Feb 2017 - 20 Aug 2017

Omar Victor Diop: Project Diaspora

Omar Victor Diop, 'Dom Nicolau,' pigment inkjet print on Hahnemühle paper, 2014. Courtesy of the artist and MAGNIN-A, Paris.

SCAD FASH Museum of Fashion + Film presents the first solo museum exhibition by celebrated photographer Omar Victor Diop.

“Project Diaspora” is a rich, meticulously crafted essay of 18 works of art that explore the often neglected, but deeply entangled historical relationships between Africa and the rest of the world, including trade, early diplomatic encounters and the legacy of slavery. Diop’s photographs focus on the representation of Africans in Western and Asian art history from the 15th to the 19th centuries, as he recreates portraits of individuals who became prominent figures in their unique contexts.

Diop’s dynamic recreation of historic images addresses various concerns and influences. He pays close attention to the costumes of his references and adds whimsical details, such as colorful patterned backgrounds and adornment. Having left the corporate world to pursue a career in photography, Diop has worked extensively as a fashion photographer, and this experience is evident in the styling and construction of his conceptual bodies of work. The inclusion of sports memorabilia and objects — such as gloves, soccer balls and whistles — seem idiosyncratic, but allude to the stereotypical representation of the black male in popular culture. The combination of fashion and sport in the images also unravels and comments on perceptions of masculinity.

In “Project Diaspora” the artist uses himself as subject in a manner that resists a reading of mere self-portraiture, and instead serves as a conscious act to transport these iconic images and their significance into the present. Furthermore, the artist exercises agency and control over representation that the original subjects of such historic portraiture might have been denied.

The tradition of West African studio photography – and its well-known proponents such as Malian photographers Seydou Keïta and Malick Sidibé – is also an important influence in “Project Diaspora” and other work by Diop. It is within these studio environments, with their fashionable and proud sitters, that the visual languages and the embodiment of an African modernity and emancipation emerged since the 1950s, amid a period of independence and liberation from colonial oppression.

The exhibition is curated by Storm Janse van Rensburg, SCAD head curator of exhibitions.




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