A Group Exhibition in Upstate New York Examines Black Excellence in an Imperfect World—See Images Here

Feb 23, 2021

What the gallery says: “The University Art Museum, University at Albany, is pleased to present ‘i.de.al.is.tic,’ a new exhibition that features three rising Black artists and explores each artist’s acceptance of imperfection and their relationship to idealism.

“Curated by Michael Mosby, ‘i.de.al.is.tic’ brings together the work of artists Anthony Olubunmi Akinbola, Sean Desiree, and Marcus Leslie Singleton. The exhibition explores each artist’s relationship to the concept of idealism—the unrealistic aim for perfection. Singleton deals with the everyday, while Akinbola abstracts the concept of a Black identity, and Desiree objectively describes the inherent beauty in public housing units. In each of these artist’s practices there is an acceptance of imperfection, and through this resolve a true picture of a complex Black narrative emerges.”

Why it’s worth a look: In distinct and innovative ways, all three artists bring visual tropes and signifiers long associated with Black American life and identity under the microscope, juxtaposing joy and hardship in glimmering snapshots of day-to-day life.

There are Akinbola’s collaged durags, which are a symbol of Black excellence and respectability within the community, but have been criminalized in the wider culture; Desiree’s tender (and sometimes claustrophobic) woodworked depictions of public housing, and the spirit of connection it provides; and Singleton’s highly emotive and sensitive paintings of figures living their lives as authentically as possible.

“These are works that make you think,” Mosby says. “They require more looking. It may not be obvious at first why they are connected, or what they mean. But together, they weave a narrative that’s rooted in pursuing our highest selves and our dreams, all while contending with the imperfect contexts that inform our stories.”

What it looks like:

Anthony Akinbola, Camouflage #020 (Chorus) (2020). Photo courtesy of the artist.

Anthony Akinbola, Chopped and Screwed #02 (2019). Photo courtesy of the artist.

Marcus Leslie Singleton, Love Letter to the Dogon (2020). Photo courtesy the artist.

Marcus Leslie Singleton, Guard at the Guggenheim (2019). Photo courtesy the artist.

Marcus Leslie Singleton, Love Letter to the Dogon II (2020). Photo courtesy the artist.

Sean Desiree, Marble Hill (2020). Photo courtesy the artist.

Sean Desiree, Franklin (2019). Photo courtesy the artist.

Sean Desiree, Greenwood Manor (2019). Photo courtesy the artist.