UNCHAINED: THE COTTON CANDY COWBOYS
1O FEB 2022- 20 MAR, 2022
In Olayombo’s inaugural exhibition, Black figures are clothed in an array of rose-coloured clothing and Stetsons, which the artist presents to discuss masculinity and societal gender assertions and associations.
On view from February 10, 2022 – 20 March 2022, Samuel Olayombo is a Nigerian figurative painter who creates vibrant, dramatic, large-scale canvases, of predominantly male portraits, that challenge gender normalcy and toxic masculinity.
In Olayombo’s inaugural exhibition titled Unchained: The Cotton Candy Cowboys, Black figures are clothed in an array of rose-coloured clothing and Stetsons, which the artist presents to discuss masculinity and societal gender assertions and associations. The pink clothing and background serve as an emblem of softness, kindness, nurturance, and compassion; qualities that are often thought of as feminine.
The works throughout the show build on crossing the boundaries of traditional masculinity. In sharp contrast to the dark skin, the pink colour scheme accentuates the figures and imagines the notion of men in pink from a fresh perspective. The Black male figures affirm the stoic strength of the Western cowboy archetype and yet unveils the sweet, delicate, and dynamic nature of masculinity. Even though the artist’s figures appear to be posing and rigid, they seem carefree and light-hearted. Olayombo envisions his striking portraits as an effort to change representations of masculinity and shift ideas on what it means to be a man.
The dark palette-painted skin of Olayombo’s cowboys pays homage to the body scarification culture of the Ife, a Yoruba tribe of Nigeria. In an attempt to reaffirm and replicate a controversial cultural ritual of diverse root explanations and spiritual significance.
Unchained: The Cotton Candy Cowboys positions the Black cowboy in our visual purview and assert visibility, grounded in the significant history that has gone underrepresented. The rich legacy of Black cowboys in the American West, according to historical literature, accounted for up to an estimated 25 percent of workers in the range-cattle industry from the 1860s to 1880s. The exhibition focuses on the cowboy hero as a Black gallant figure and subverts the early image of the American cowboy into one that is dynamically intersectional. Olayombo’s robust manly subjects submerged in pink, foster freedom of expression, and translate into a staple of strength and confidence.