Cinga Samson Questions Certain Aesthetics at Perrotin

Amadoda Akafani, Afana Ngeentshebe Zodwa (men are different, though they look alike) is a show consisting of 28 works spanning two floors at Perrotin New York’s gallery space by Cape Town based artist Cinga Samson. The paintings capture the desires and dreams of young African men like himself. Going further though, the themes he conveys appeal to even a large majority of people. We all hope to be important and we all want to lead a life of luxury and acceptance, which is why, more often than not, Samson’s works resonate with any viewer on a much deeper level.

Installation view courtesy of Perrotin New York

Walking through the large space on the first floor, you notice that a majority of the works are manageably sized, and moving to the second floor, they are even more so. This offers the idea that a Samson piece is a livable piece, and could be a realistic work to bring home and hang on your own wall (even in a minuscule apartment – this is New York after all). Even his larger pieces are not so absurdly sized that they disenfranchise any potential buyer. In his early 20’s, Samson joined Isibane, a collective of artists in Cape Town, which helped shape his unpretentious, almost saturnine scenes. Uplifted by fellow artists, he began to explore larger motifs relating to materialization, culture, even life. He doesn’t want to be an artist that feeds Western notions about what Africa is, but he does want to communicate his own experiences as an African himself.

Installation view courtesy of Perrotin New York

Cinga Samson does consider his audience as a whole, however, and brazenly puts them at unease. He knows that the Western throngs have a certain inherent bias in their viewing habits, and he wants his works to make viewers uncomfortable. He says that the painting is not for you, the painting is for itself. Coaxing introspective thoughts out of the quiet confidence exuding from his portraits, the viewer seems to matter less and less to the nonchalant subjects within the frame.

Installation view courtesy of Perrotin New York

With impeccable detail, Samson delineates designer brands, lush cityscapes of Cape Town, and languid figures – making it that much more jarring that the eyes he paints are completely vacant. You might expect this vacancy to cause the face to itself be dull or lifeless, but the exact opposite happens. His works are almost alive with the feeling that the figures are staring back at you. You are the one intruding on the scene, again circling back to his idea that the paintings are for themselves.

Installation view courtesy of Perrotin New York

Along the lines of introspection, this seemed to be the artist’s own personal study on the subject. The title of the show comes from a phrase often spoken to him by his father. Samson says that his father would say those words “to affirm him and his choices, to affirm his individual humanity and his decision to pursue art.” Essentially, it was his father’s way of saying that it is ok to be yourself. You don’t have to be like others to fit in. And why fit in when you can more easily stand out and produce works like these? This is the young artist’s first solo exhibition at Perrotin and in the United States in general, but it definitely will not be his last.

Amadoda Akafani, Afana Ngeentshebe Zodwa (men are different, though they look alike) will be on view at Perrotin New York through April 11, 2020.

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