This summer, Gallery 1957 hosts a solo exhibition of new paintings and multimedia work by Togo-born Nigerian artist Modupeola Fadugba, curated by Katherine Finerty. Fadugba’s multi-media practice encompasses painting, drawing, and socially-engaged installation that address ideas of identity, social justice, and game theory in order to navigate contested cultural hierarchies. Her new series, Dreams from the Deep End, is informed by the artist’s recent residency at the International Studio & Curatorial Program (ISCP) in New York City.
The swimming pool is a nostalgic yet contested space where communities gather to play, learn, rest, and resist. Yet within this watery oasis there also lurks more turbulent experiences of risk, exclusion, and the looming chance of drowning. Nonetheless, in the deep end, resilience surfaces and togetherness triumphs.
As an avid and lifelong swimmer, artist Modupeola Fadugba has a profound personal affinity for the pool and its capacity to foster health, creativity, and confidence. This exhibition presents an immersive installation expanding upon her ongoing focus on powerful black figures in water together.
During Fadugba’s recent residency at ISCP in New York City, she created a new body of work highlighting The Harlem Honeys and Bears – a synchronised swimming team of senior citizens who perform sensational water acrobatics and offer free swim lessons to local children. Through paintings, multimedia documentation, and research including Jeff Wiltse’s Contested Waters: A Social History of Swimming Pools, Fadugba represents the trials and triumphs experienced by this community whilst diving into the socio-political history of public swimming pools and race relations in America.
The artist’s deep immersion into this community resulted in a creative process whereby abstraction evolved into narrative representation. Creamy pastels and meditative monochromaticity accompany bursts of detail in the form of alluring pool tiles, painstakingly rendered portraits, and intimate multimedia documentation. This new series thus presents a unique development of reverent realism in Fadugba’s artistic practice, reflecting her aspiration to empower individual bodies and voices in this resilient community.
Here, swimming pools represent safe and democratic spaces where one rarely contemplates the dire truism to “sink or swim”. In Modupeola Fadugba’s sustainable poolscapes we’re not just taught how to swim – we’re taught how to dream from the deep end.
Text by Katherine Finerty