Amoako Boafo’s latest body of work, “I Stand By Me,” pauses our surroundings. In a time of introspection, Boafo’s exhibition at Mariane Ibrahim forces the viewer to reflect on the year’s elapsed time.
The thin, visible yet small brush strokes, each imbued with multiple pigments, speaks to the signature technique of Boafo, while also paying homage to Impressionist works. The lighting on the figure is vibrant and creates a space around each viewer, introducing an intimate experience. Motion is evident through the depiction of the postures of each figure, all of whom appear to be posing for the viewer. This execution is apparent in “Green Beret” (2020). The relaxed nature of the subject, who stands with elbows bent, shows leisure, set against a plain white background. The uncolored background allows the viewer to focus on the figure and interact with them. As he expels the background he touches on the changing world around us, where self-reflection genuinely takes place.
Interacting with a Black figure in the public sphere has been political, historically and even more so currently, and Boafo forces the viewer to confront their internal feelings of interacting with Blackness. The scale of the figures, with the simple, muted backgrounds creates a vibrant ambience that requires no people.
The visual experience of art and human interaction is questioned, explored and emphasized within Mariane Ibrahim’s gallery. More often than not Blackness is placed under an umbrella, yet Boafo depicts the shades of his figures tactilely with his fingers. The intimacy of constructing Blackness in his own image is powerful, yet subtle for the viewer.
Liveliness is apparent throughout “I Stand By Me,” each painting placed in a distant and effective place on the gallery walls. The oversized paintings distribute energy actively as you walk through the gallery. Space and scale play major roles in the experience. The spirit of these figures only becomes potent when you realize they are tied to the walls around them. Each figure is adorned in fabrics that have been created through a photo-transfer method. Between photo-transfer, mark-making and Impressionist notes, each figure has a story of their own. “I Stand By Me” places the viewer in the maze of emotions that creates an introspective experience bound by space. (Caira Moreira-Brown)
Amoako Boafo, “I Stand By Me,” Mariane Ibrahim, 437 North Paulina, through October 24.