Among the 225 exhibitors at 2023’s Armory Show, held September 8–10 at the Javits Center, there were galleries showing breathtaking works from artists from around the world. Most of the pieces were efforts to show modern-day African and African diaspora lives in occasionally dreamlike, but more often everyday, circumstances.

The London, England-based Jack Bell Gallery showcased Marc Padeu’s work, exhibiting his efforts to “paint the everyday life of the people around me, my family, and friends.” The Cameroonian-born artist had pieces like “La bague de Roxane (Roxane’s ring)” (acrylic on canvas, 2023), a work that pops with vibrant colors while zeroing in on a joyful, celebratory moment among three female friends.

In the backdrop of his painting “From Fantasy to Escape 5” (acrylic and sgraffito on canvas 2023), Hilary Balu, from Kinshasa, capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo, showed the expansiveness and lushness the DRC can provide and sets the nation’s people, with their acquired clothing, products, and faraway gazes, as static juxtapositions.

The artist and architect Arthur Timothy also turned his attention to Black lives, by recapturing family poses and embraces that were initially his family’s old photographic images, taken when they lived in Ghana, Sierra Leone, and later England. The Ghana-based Gallery 1957 included paintings by Timothy such as “Colossus” (oil on linen, 2023), which pays tribute to his late brother, Desmond.

The nonprofit Aperture Foundation featured photographic works by various artists, including Carlos Idun-Tawiah. With “Flower Boy” (Accra, 2023), Idun-Tawiah said he was reflecting on “growing up in a Christian and Ghanaian home,” the artist wrote: “I tried to highlight the ethos of Sundays from a vernacular perspective. I played with visual nostalgia, juxtapositions, color and gesture to fully extract the tenor of Sundays in Ghana from as far back as I could remember.” In “Mommy, Smile” (2023) the artist looked back at his initial interest in photography, and the various disposable and different camera brands he used as he tried to define his style. And with “Hide and Seek” (2023), Idun-Tawiah explained that he had created “a memoir of my childhood friendships and that of many people who grew up in communal environments. This is my own way of highlighting the joy of friendship and community especially among boys, and how quickly yet deeply we get connected to each other through leisure and our aspirations. I also sought to express the beauty of the mundane and how far that goes into synthesizing our communities; like how a ball could bring hundreds of us together on a dusty pitch, to how flying kites and chasing sunsets at the beach felt like therapy.”

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