in review: We Are All Bewitched at Big Medium
Akirash, Owo Ni Koko/Importance of Money (2016) (detail)
Akirash (Olaniyi Rasheed Akindiya) returns with We Are All Bewitched, his first local show since 2014. The artist spent last year traveling extensively, with fellowships in New Mexico, Oklahoma, and Brazil, and he displayed exhibits in Senegal and Australia earlier this year. But Akirash, who lives in Austin, has shown work at many of the city's finest art spaces, including Co-Lab Projects, MASS Gallery, and the Museum of Achievement, and if you've seen any of his earlier shows, you have an idea of what to expect: colorful large-scale sculptures made of recyclable materials, accompanied by ritualistic and provocative performances.
"Did you see his exhibit at Co-Lab a few years ago, with the blood?" one attendee asked me as I took in his new work. I had not, unfortunately, and I missed his performance this go round as well. Perusing his website, it's clear that his performances are as arresting as his sculpture, if not more so. Encouraging communal participation and incorporating music, dance, and body paint, they do what art does best: bring our world into contact with the possibility of a better, more magical place.
Akirash, Inflation (2016)
The sculptures of We Are All Bewitched set the backdrop for that world, using ordinary materials like plastic utensils and cardboard to provide commentary on the nature of waste, juxtaposing the importance of necessities like food and sanitation with the gluttony of Western materialism and the utter uselessness of money as a physical object. Paper printouts of bills in global denominations lie scattered around a toilet from which a giant colorful cardboard tree grows in the exhibit's centerpiece, Inflation. The symbolism is obvious, but the scale is impressive and the choice of materials engaging. IES L'OGUN ISE/Hardworking is remedy for Hunger is composed primarily of forks and spoons arranged in geometric patterns and painted black, yellow, and red, like a burning wood pit. On the wall opposite, Owo Ni Koko/Importance of Money presents an indecipherable construction of what looks like crumpled-up garbage painted over in every color of squiggle. What does it say about the importance of money? Nothing revelatory, but it's pleasant to look at.
Although Akirash's performances are an integral component of his work, his sculptures are impressive in their own right, making We Are All Bewitched a worthy entry in Akirash's distinct oeuvre of playful, socially conscious work.