Band of Vices is pleased to present We’ve Always Been Here, the first solo portraiture exhibition by 21-year old Monica Ikegwu. The exhibition will feature over 14 large-scale oil on canvas portraits. She is an award-winning painter and has been hailed as one of the most exciting emerging artists of her generation. Ikegwu is originally from Baltimore, MD and is currently a student at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA).
At the basis of Ikegwu’s oeuvre is a profound appreciation of color, composition, draftsmanship & subject matter. By painting her young African American demographic, she exhibits a seasoned level of sophistication of the rendering of her portraiture, which belies her youth of twenty-one years.
It is not surprising to learn that she was the inaugural winner of the XL Catlin Art Prize in 2018, which is a “new juried art contest and traveling exhibition of 40 two-dimensional figurative works” and represents thenation’s most prestigious student art competition with over 700 applicants. With the honor, she received a $10,000 award. The winning painting was entitled “Jaden” and is part of a portrait series of young African American males with a red light reflected on their faces which symbolizes mainstream marginalization and a continually fraught relationship with police and law enforcement.
Issues of identity, power, societal ideas, narrative and the history of art are some of the themes that surface in her work along with a youthful sense of joie de vivre, confidence and self-assuredness are hallmark themes which emerge in her portraiture. She uses art as a tool to elevate the visibility of her African American subjects. As an emerging artist, her sensibility is being created and developing before our very eyes. There is evidence of a thoughtful and brilliant mind at work, from the title of her show alone, one that is incredibly prescient and knowing, We’ve Always Been Here!
There is an immediacy of language, of posture, of character inherent in her oeuvre that is undeniable. As you approach any of these portraits you want to know more about these young people as they reveal a palpable humanness, a psychological intensity that becomes intoxicating. Some renderings are bold, some tender but all are exquisitely fashioned in the latest urban styles and attire. She shows that these Baltimoreans revel in the centrality of their Blackness, they wear it as a badge of honor that they are young, gifted and black and that their rightful place should be holding court in a portrait as the central protagonist.
Ikegwu understands that she beckons from a long rich line of African American portrait painters including such giants as Joshua Johnson (ca.1763-ca.1830, America’s first African American portrait painter who was a former slave and also hails from Baltimore), Henry Ossawa Tanner, Barkley L. Hendricks, Kehinde Wiley & her mentor & professor at MICA Amy Sherald, among others.
We’ve Always Been Here will be on view from September 14th to October 12th, 2019 with an Opening & Artist Reception on Saturday, September 14th, from 6pm to 9pm. The Artist will be in attendance!!!