Yinka Shonibare’s work explores race, class, cultural identity, and colonialism, primarily through use of brightly colored “African” batik fabric. The British-Nigerian artist has utilized these patterns in many forms and mediums to mine their history and associations with the European colonization of West Africa, and to question the meaning of cultural and national definitions. Most notably, Shonibare has highlighted these important issues in a manner that also speaks to the confluence of many identities in public spaces: he has displayed his Nelson’s Ship in a Bottle for the 2010 Fourth Plinth Commission at Trafalgar Square in London, and his Wind Sculpture VII was installed permanently outside the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art in 2016.
Shonibare’s talk at The New School accompanies Public Art Fund’s upcoming exhibition, Wind Sculpture (SG) I, a new sculpture commissioned for Doris C. Freedman Plaza at the southeast entrance to Central Park. Created from fiberglass and covered with an intricate pattern, the 23-foot-tall sculpture will rise above the plaza, reminiscent of the untethered sail of a ship billowing in the breeze. Its unique, hand-painted pattern in turquoise, red, and orange — colors that the artist associates with his childhood on the beaches of Lagos — is inspired by Dutch wax batik print, which Shonibare has called the “perfect metaphor for multilayered identities”. This is the first work in a second generation of his celebrated Wind Sculpture series and continues Shonibare’s ongoing examination of the construction of cultural identity through the lens of colonialism. Wind Sculpture (SG) I will be on view March 7 – October 14, 2018 at Doris C. Freedman Plaza, Central Park.
For the Public Art Fund Talk at The New School, Shonibare will be in conversation with Nicholas Baume, Director and Chief Curator of Public Art Fund, who organized Wind Sculpture (SG) I.