This exhibition brings together artists from West Africa and the diaspora whose work examines the symbolic, economic, and everyday value of objects and materials—man-made or otherwise—in our commodity-driven yet increasingly digitized world. Inspired by currents of renewed artistic and scholarly interest in the poetic relationship between things and humans in contemporary society, Material Effects features existing and newly commissioned works of video art, sculpture, performance, and installation art.
Presented across two galleries at the MSU Broad, the exhibition is anchored by a video work by Antje Majewski that spotlights the reflections of pioneering sculptor and performance artist Issa Samb on the intrinsic qualities of objects. Samb’s insights link the contemporary works on view with a socially conscious, avant-garde tradition dating back to the 1960s and 1970s in which notions of improvisation, temporality, and hybridity came to define a radical African aesthetic. Building on this lineage, Ibrahim Mahama transforms used jute sacks into a large-scale, site-specific work that investigates the material remnants of Ghana’s commodity markets. Zohra Opoku delves into the rich history of West African textiles to comment on the formation of individual and societal identities. Through the close study of the natural world and its resources, Otobong Nkanga maps personal and collective memories of place, while Jelili Atiku and Bernard Akoi-Jackson use their bodies in concert with found and fashioned objects to spark discussions about institutional power and contemporary socio-political issues.
Artists featured in the exhibition include: Bernard Akoi-Jackson, Jelili Atiku, Ibrahim Mahama, Antje Majewski and Issa Samb, Otobong Nkanga, and Zohra Opoku.
Material Effects is organized by the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University and guest curated by Yesomi Umolu. Support for this exhibition is provided by the Harpo Foundation; Eli and Edythe Broad endowed exhibitions fund; and the MSU Broad’s general exhibitions fund.