Women on the Plinth Catherine Wagley
Us & Them, Now & Then:
Reconstituting Group Material
Travis Diehl
The Offerings of EJ Hill
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
Interview with Jenni Sorkin Carmen Winant
Letter to the Editor Lady Parts, Lady Arts
Launch Party August 19th at Blum and Poe
Object Project
Featuring: Rebecca Morris,
Linda Stark, Alex Olson
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Photos by Jeff McClane
Reviews Mark Bradford
at the Venice Biennale
by Thomas Duncan

Broken Language
at Shulamiit Nazarian
by Angella d'Avignon

Artists of Color
at the Underground Museum
by Matt Stromberg

Anthony Lepore & Michael Henry Hayden
at Del Vaz Projects
by Aaron Horst

by Simone Krug

Analia Saban at
Sprueth Magers
by Hana Cohn
Kanye Westworld Travis Diehl
@richardhawkins01 Thomas Duncan
Support Structures: Alice Könitz and LAMOA Catherine Wagley
Interview with Penny Slinger Eliza Swann
Exquisite L.A.
taisha paggett
Ashley Hunt
Young Chung
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Letter to the Editor
Launch Party
Reviews Alessandro Pessoli
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Jennie Jieun Lee
by Stuart Krimko

Trisha Baga
by Lindsay Preston Zappas

Jimmie Durham
by Molly Larkey

Parallel City
by Hana Cohn

Jason Rhodes
by Matt Stromberg
Catherine Wagley
Put on a Happy Face:
On Dynasty Handbag
Travis Diehl
The Limits of Animality:
Simone Forti at ISCP
(L.A. in N.Y.)
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
More Wound Than Ruin:
Evaluating the
"Human Condition"
Jessica Simmons
Launch Party
Exquisite L.A.
Brenna Youngblood
Todd Gray
Rafa Esparza
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Creature by Thomas Duncan
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Karl Haendel by Aaron Horst
Wolfgang Tillmans by Eli Diner
Ma by Claire de Dobay Rifelj
The Rat Bastard Protective Association by Pablo Lopez
Kenneth Tam
's Basement
Travis Diehl
The Female
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Catherine Wagley
The Rise
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Art Witch
Amanda Yates Garcia
Interview with
Mernet Larsen
Julie Weitz
Agnes Martin
Jessica Simmons
Launch Party Carla Issue 6
Exquisite L.A.
Analia Saban
Ry Rocklen
Sarah Cain
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Made in L.A. 2016
Doug Aitken Electric Earth

Jean-Pascal Flavian and Mika Tajima
Mark A. Rodruigez
The Weeping Line
Molly Larkey, Aaron Horst,
Keith J. Varadi, Katie Bode,
Stuart Krimko, Matt Stromberg
at The Underground Museum
Catherine Wagley
The Art of Birth Carmen Winant
Escape from Bunker Hill
John Knight
Travis Diehl
Ed Boreal Speaks Benjamin Lord
Art Advice (from Men) Sarah Weber
Routine Pleasures
at the MAK Center
Jonathan Griffin
Launch Party Carla Issue 5
Exquisite L.A.
Fay Ray
John Baldessari
Claire Kennedy
Intro by Claressinka Anderson
Portraits by Joe Pugliese
Reviews Hana Cohn, Eli Diner,
Claire De Dobay Rifelj,
Katie Bode, Molly Larkey,
Keith J. Varadi
Moon, laub, and Love Catherine Wagley
Walk Artisanal Jonathan Griffin
Marva Marrow's
Inside the L.A. Artist
Anthony Pearson
Mystery Science Thater
Diana Thater
Aaron Horst
Informal Feminisms Federica Bueti and Jan Verwoert
Marva Marrow Photographs
Lita Albuquerque
Launch Party Carla Issue 4
Interiors and Interiority:
Njideka Akunyili Crosby
Char Jansen
Reviews Claire de Dobay Rifelj,
Matt Stromberg, Hana Cohn,
Lindsay Preston Zappas,
Simone Krug, Keith Vaughn,
Ikechukwu Casmir Onyewuenyi
Le Louvre, Las Vegas Evan Moffitt
iPhones, Flesh,
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at Arturo Bandini
Lindsay Preston Zappas
Women Talking About Barney Catherine Wagley
Lingua Ignota
Faith Wilding
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Benjamin Lord
A Conversation
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Char Jansen
How We Practice Carmen Winant
Launch Party Carla Issue 3
Share Your Piece of the Puzzle Federica Bueti
Amanda Ross-Ho Photographs
Erik Frydenborg
Reviews Eli Diner, Jonathan Griffin,
Don Edler, Aaron Horst
Hot Tears Carmen Winant
Slow View:
Molly Larkey
Anna Breininger and Kate Whitlock
Americanicity's Paintings
Orion Martin
at Favorite Goods
Tracy Jeanne Rosenthal
Layers of Leimert Park Catherine Wagley
Junkspace Junk Food
Parker Ito
at Kaldi, Smart Objects,
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Evan Moffitt
Melrose Hustle Keith Vaughn
Reviews Benjamin Lord, Aaron Horst, Stephen Kent
Top-Down Bottom-Up Jenny Gagalka
Snap Reviews Aaron Horst, Char Jansen, Randy Rice, Lindsay Preston Zappas
Max Maslansky Photographs
Monica Majoli
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White Lee, Black Lee
William Pope.L’s Reenactor
Travis Diehl
Dora Budor Interview Char Jensen
Metaphysical L.A.
Travis Diehl
Art for Art’s Sake:
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Anthony Pearson
A Dialogue in Two
Synchronous Atmospheres
Erik Morse
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#studio #visit
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Jibade-Khalil Huffman
Ben Medansky
I've been a lot of places,
seen so many faces
Nora Slade
Launch Party Carla Issue 1
Slow View:
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Anna Breininger
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ARTBOOK @ Hauser & Wirth
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Skibum MacArthur
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The Pit
Los Angeles Valley College
The Art Gallery @ GCC
1301 PE
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California African American Museum
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Interiors and Interiority:
Njideka Akunyili Crosby

Njideka Akunyili-Crosby, 5 Umezebi Street, New Haven, Enugu (2012). Acrylic, charcoal, pastel, color pencil, and transfer on paper, 84 × 105 inches. Collection of Craig Robins. Image courtesy of Tilton Gallery, New York. Photo: Max Yawney.

Njideka Akunyili-Crosby, 5 Umezebi Street, New Haven, Enugu (2012). Acrylic, charcoal, pastel, color pencil, and transfer on paper, 84 × 105 inches. Collection of Craig Robins. Image courtesy of Tilton Gallery, New York. Photo: Max Yawney.

When Njideka Akunyili Crosby’s American husband first accompanied the artist on a family visit to her native Nigeria, he wondered why on earth they had a sink in their dining room. Sometimes, it’s only when someone else points out the oddity of your cultural customs that you question where they’ve come from in the first place. Akunyili Crosby laughs heartily as she recounts the story of her husband’s encounter with the dining room sink. For her family, she tells me, the sink was a symbol of pride and prosperity; a luxurious commodity in a country where you eat with your hands, and where many homes don’t have access to clean running water. A cross-cultural experience gives plenty of opportunities to question the peculiar construction that is individual “culture”: we cobble together personal and national histories, practical needs, and folklore to assemble a sense of self identity.

Njideka Akunyili Crosby grew up in Enugu, Nigeria, and later moved to the US. More recently she resettled again, in Los Angeles, where she currently has her studio. She grew up in a family that was lower-middle class, though they would later become quite wealthy. As she has migrated, between cultures and between economical classes, Akunyili Crosby has been a keen documenter of the objects, interiors and domestic scenes in the places she has lived. Her close-up study of her surroundings then pans outwards in her large-scale, multimedia wall works (many of them as large as 11 feet). By using fragments of her family archives, her own photographs, and hand crafted elements such as Xerox and paint, her collages have a unique texture, that disrupts the idea that globalization brings cultural homogeneity.

The dining room sink makes an appearance in Tea Time in New Haven, Enugu (2013), a 7 x 9.25 foot dining room scene, consisting of painting, collage, pencil, charcoal and transfers on paper. As the work began to travel, Enugu (which refers to the town in which Akunyili Crosby grew up) was mistakenly dropped from its title; consequently, the work circulated throughout the US as if it were an interior scene in New Haven, CT—where the artist had in fact studied. She, of course, was delighted with the misreading, since the work had proved its message by itself. We approximate, and, in doing so, we inadvertently appropriate cultures; we find the things that resonate with our own experiences, and use them to express our agency.

Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Tea Time in New Haven Enugu (2013). Acrylic, collage, colored pencils, charcoal, and transfers on paper. 84 x 111 inches. Collection of Olga Schloss. Image courtesy of the artist. Photo: Jason Wyche.

Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Tea Time in New Haven, Enugu (2013). Acrylic, collage, colored pencils, charcoal, and transfers on paper. 84 x 111 inches. Collection of Olga Schloss. Image courtesy of the artist. Photo: Jason Wyche.

The ritual of taking tea in Nigeria is a vestige of British colonial times, but one that Nigerians have since made their own. Nigerian “tea time” is another way of refering to breakfast, and the table is set and left out all day. “I’m very interested in the habits and cultures we have in the country that are left over from when we were a colony, and in the ways they’ve been preserved and at the same time turned into something else: We’ve inherited a culture that has been pushed on to us, that we had to adopt, not by choice. Yet we’ve been able to find a way to co-opt that and make it our own, to change the inherited tradition to make it authentic to ourselves,” Akunyili Crosby enthuses.

Akunyili Crosby’s work relies on the recognizable, but its originality hinges on a scrutinization of the familiar domestic world. Though Crosby culls from her own constantly growing catalogue of quotidian vessels (that with passing time become archives of social histories), she continually introduces fictional elements into the composition. Brand-name products placed on the table in Tea Time in New Haven, Enugu are to be read like a puzzle: a set of clues as to the time, the place, and the lives of the inhabitants who once animated it. “I want to put the viewer inside the scene, to activate the visual queues and open up a liminal space,” Akunyili Crosby explains.

On the table in Tea Time In New Haven, Enugu is a wrapped loaf of bread. Each side of the loaf is treated in a different medium: one collaged, one painted, and one side transferred. The loaf is wrapped in packaging that reads “Will of God;” This specific packaging is something a Nigerian viewer would recognize. Akunyili Crosby starts to laugh infectiously again as she describes the brand. “In Nigeria we have this kind of humor to religion, to this Pentecostal Nigerian Christianity, that is a mixture of traditional and inherited religious practices. God comes into a lot of the names of products. We’ve taken this humor in the religion really far!”

Then there’s Millo—a refreshment marketed as a sports drink in many countries in Africa. Each country had a unique packaging for Millo, with a different sport depicted on the label: in Nigeria, it’s soccer. In Enugu, alongside a St. Louis Sugar box—the most widely used sugar brand during the ‘80s and ‘90s in Nigeria—there’s a box of Weetabix (a popular, low-cost British version of Australian breakfast cereal Weet-Bix), and a jar of Cadbury’s Bournvita (a powdered hot chocolate drink, first manufactured in England in the 1920s). I grew up in the UK, and both were common everyday products there, but in their Nigerian context, these items denote cultural status and wealth, signifying travel abroad and access to more expensive imported products. “I depict Nigeria as it existed when I left in late ‘90s, which is not the same as Nigerian culture now. A lot of my work is looking at Nigeria then and now, and how things have changed and stayed the same. It is very specific to Nigeria as I understand it and see it: It doesn’t speak to all parts of Africa, or Nigeria. It is my life, my autobiography, my family—but these cultural, economic and geographic experiences talk about something that is bigger than just me: They are a confluence of disparate things.”

Njideka Akunyili Crosby, I Still Face You, (2015). Acrylic, charcoal, colored pencils, collage, and Xerox transfers on paper, 84 x 105 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Victoria Miro, London. Photo: Jason Wyche.

Njideka Akunyili Crosby, I Still Face You (2015). Acrylic, charcoal, colored pencils, collage, and Xerox transfers on paper, 84 x 105 inches. Image courtesy of the artist and Victoria Miro, London. Photo: Jason Wyche.

The artist’s intense visual mining of interior space is a kind of investigation into how material details define time, place, and people. Akunyili Crosby’s work reveals the way we instinctively identify the nationalities of tourists, walking in the street—especially if they’re from our own country. It’s a game I’ve often played too (the shoes are usually a real giveaway). Consciously or not we’re constantly placing ourselves in relation to the things around us. In The Twain Shall Meet, a work Akunyili Crosby completed last year, the focus is again a table. The piece was painted from a series of photographs the artist took at her Grandmother’s house in Nigeria, after she had passed away. Everything was left as it had been before her death: a thermos, a kerosene lamp, pictures in frames, cups, and bowls. The composition is an altar of everyday life in a Nigerian village. Again, the table is laden with some objects that are familiar to the Western eye, but most that are not. Pan out from the table, and the background suddenly looks discordant. You won’t realize it at first, but the room the table is set in looks too European somehow—the interior architecture is too straight and solemn to come from the same place as the contents of that table. You can’t say why, you can just feel it, (as instinctively as I know how to spot a fellow Brit abroad). When I ask the artist about it, she reveals that the backdrop of the table scene is a replica of a Danish painting (by Vilhelm Hammershøi).

The more time you spend with the works, the more they reveal. The carefully connected strands of fiction, fact, truth, memory and experience that the artist weaves so masterfully together in her work slowly unravel. (The references to the masters of European painting come from Akunyili Crosby’s studies in America, while the table represents her personal ancestry, for example.) With these same gestural quotes Akunyili Crosby also asserts her unique dialogue with the history of painting, which of course has been previously dominated by male painters.

How do we conserve a sense of self, after so many migrations, and with the weight of so many histories, learnt, borrowed and lived? The layers of our lives are literally and fastidiously applied in Akunyili Crosby’s works. Despite all of the external matter they draw in, ultimately they give a very vivid sense of how unique identity construction is. Back on the Skype video on my computer screen, the artist leaps up suddenly and exclaims with excitement as she finds a quote she’s been trying to dig up by Brenda Cooper, from the book, A New Generation of African Writers: “…the massive weight of little things, the small solid possessions… are what embed one in one’s time and place.”[1] Akunyili Crosby sources these little things to create her massive paintings. Though, they embed her like so many of us in our time, in many times and many places, all at once.

Njideka Akunyili Crosby, And We Begin To Let Go (2013). Acrylic, charcoal, pastel, marble dust, collage, and transfers on paper. 84 ×105 inches. Image courtesy of the artist. Photo: Jason Wyche.

Njideka Akunyili Crosby, And We Begin To Let Go (2013). Acrylic, charcoal, pastel, marble dust, collage, and transfers on paper. 84 ×105 inches. Image courtesy of the artist. Photo: Jason Wyche.

[1] Cooper, Brenda. A New Generation of African Writers: Migration, Material Culture & Language. Woodbridge, Suffolk: James Currey, 2008. Print.

2016-07-12 (3)Originally published in Carla Issue 4.