Barthélémy Toguo's multi-disciplinary work on view at the Parrish Art Museum
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Barthélémy Toguo's multi-disciplinary work on view at the Parrish Art Museum
Homo Planta E, 2018. Watercolor ink on canvas, 18 x 24. Courtesy of the artist.

WATER MILL, NY.- The Parrish Art Museum presents Barthélémy Toguo: The Beauty of Our Voice, the 2018 Platform exhibition featuring the internationally renowned artist whose multi-disciplinary work addresses issues of migration, mobility, colonialism, race, and the relationship between the global north and south. On view at the Museum from August 5 – October 14, 2018, the exhibition features new watercolor paintings, sculpture, installation, photography, performance, and a community art project. The Beauty of Our Voice is the first solo exhibition in an American museum by Toguo (Cameroon, b. 1967), following tours-de-force at international biennials including Venice, Havana, and Sydney, as well as this year's Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale in Japan.

“Barthélémy Toguo is very much an artist of his time who moves between cultures and identities, and absorbs the anguish in our world to create strong and uncompromising work that ultimately points toward our common humanity. As an African living in Paris who has recently spent more time in the United States, he has created work for the Parrish that reflects interconnected histories,” said Corinne Erni, Senior Curator of ArtsReach and Special Projects. “I am thankful for our new partnership with The Watermill Center, which allowed Barthélémy to immerse himself in the Hamptons to create his work.”

Barthélémy Toguo: The Beauty of Our Voice features existing work as well as work created during Toguo's residency in June at The Watermill Center where he was invited as the 2018 Inga Maren Otto Fellow. The unique new collaboration between Watermill and the Parrish supports the Platform mission to present process-based projects that transcend disciplinary boundaries, encouraging new ways to experience art, architecture, and the landscape.

Road to Exile
The centerpiece of The Beauty of Our Voice is Road to Exile—a monumental installation that addresses the migrant and refugee crisis, specifically the desire of young Africans to escape in hopes of a better life. Installed in one of the Museum’s largest galleries, Road to Exile is a life-size boat built by Toguo at the Watermill Center. Heavily laden with bags made from African fabrics, the structure is placed on the precarious surface of glass bottles, evoking the danger of a journey that not all survive. In the artist’s response to the Museum’s holdings, Road to Exile is surrounded by more than 100 works from the Parrish collection dating from the mid-19thcentury to today, depicting boats in various settings and eras. They include paintings by Thomas Moran, Fairfield Porter, Louis Michel Eilshemius, and others; as well as actual-size facsimiles of works on paper by members of the important 19th-century American Painter-Etcher movement. The juxtaposition of Toguo's Road to Exile with these works—many of which idealize the tranquil harbor life or romanticize boats as symbols of wealth and power, or exoticism and exploration—reveals the stark contrasts and ambiguous history of seafaring. Toguo initiated Road to Exile for the National Museum of Immigration in Paris in 2008 and has since created versions for institutions worldwide.

Mobile Cafeteria
Toguo is transforming an entire gallery at the Museum for Mobile Cafeteria, a participatory installation inspired by African street cafés. At once playful and informative, Mobile Cafeteria is a space for visitors to reflect on the economic, social, and cultural relationships between the global north and south, as well as its imbalances and possible transformations. Toguo built furniture for the space, where visitors are invited to play African board games and watch recorded African soccer games while learning about Bandjoun Station, a center for culture, art, education, and agriculture founded by the artist in his native Cameroon.

Mobile Cafeteria also serves as a gallery for Toguo’s artwork that explores socio-political issues in Africa and the U.S. as well as their historical correlation. Three nearly life-size staged photographs from his 2005/2008 series Stupid African President, featuring the artist posing as and commenting on corrupt African politicians, will be on view: Speech, Afrika Oil?, and Forest Destruction.

Toguo's new series of pencil drawings on canvas, Black Lives Matter, depicts 10 African Americans killed since 2012 by law enforcement and civilians in the United States. Two wooden guns suspended by metal chains are aimed at portraits of Rekia Boyd, Michael Brown, Philando Castile, Terence Crutcher, Tyre King, Trayvon Martin, Keith Scott, Walter Scott, Alton Sterling, and Christian Taylor. Mobile Cafeteria will also feature large-scale and several smaller paintings that Toguo created at Watermill. Painted predominantly in olive green watercolor ink, the paintings depict human-like forms morphing into animal shapes or abstract creatures, erasing the separation between humans and nature.

Head Above Water—Hamptons
Toguo engaged nearly 100 Hamptons residents for his ongoing, worldwide community art project Head Above Water, created to provide an international platform for everyday people by bringing their voices into museum spaces. Since 2004, the artist has asked people living in challenging socio-political situations to write something about their lives, dreams, and hopes on a postcard addressed to him. For Head Above Water—Hamptons, Parrish and Watermill educators met with young adults from area schools and the Shinnecock Indian Nation who were asked to answer the question, “Where do I fit in in American society?” Toguo provided postcards printed with his original artwork of a horse head, an iconic image that evokes Native Americans and freedom, as well as wealth and imperialism. The 96 framed postcards will be on view in the Museum’s Spine Gallery, alongside postcards from Lagos (2005) and Mexico (2008).

Barthélémy Toguo
Barthélémy Toguo addressed issues of global social and cultural turmoil with the site-specific installation Urban Requiem presented at the 2015 Venice Biennial. The artist often inserts himself into his work, as in Stupid African President (2005 – 2008) and the performance piece Torture in Guantanamo (2006) presented in The Unhomely, 2nd International Biennial of Contemporary Art of Seville, Spain. In 2007 Toguo founded Bandjoun Station, an international center for artistic exchange that reflects the artist's commitment to self-determination by Africans in setting their own prices for agricultural products and artwork.

Toguo’s work is in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art and Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Musée d'art contemporain, Lyon; Fondation Louis Vuitton; and Kunstsammlungen der Stadt, Düsseldorf, among others. Solo exhibitions of his work have been presented at institutions including Uppsala Art Museum, Sweden; Musée d'art moderne et contemporain de Saint-Etiennne, France; La Verrière by Hermès, Brussels; Fundaçao Gulbenkian, Lisbon; and Palais de Tokyo, Paris. Notable group shows include Echigo-Tsumari Art Triennale (2018); Art/ Afrique, le nouvel atelier at Fondation Louis Vuitton (2017); All The World's Futures at the Venice Biennale (2015); Body Language at the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York (2013); La Triennale: Intense Proximity, Palais de Tokyo, Paris (2012); the 11th Havana Biennial (2012); A terrible beauty is born, 11th Biennale de Lyon, France; the 18th Sydney Biennale (2011); and Laughing in a Foreign Language, Hayward Gallery, London (2008). His large-scale painting Rwanda was included in the 2018 Art Basel UNLIMITED Sector.

Toguo was made a Knight of the Order of Arts and Literature in France in 2011 and was short-listed for the Prix Marcel Duchamp in 2016. He trained at the École Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Abidjan, Ivory Coast; the École Supérieure d'Art in Grenoble, France; and the Kunstakademie, Düsseldorf, Germany. The artist currently lives between Paris and Bandjoun, Cameroon.

Platform: Barthélémy Toguo: The Beauty of Our Voice is made possible, in part, by the generous support of The Dorothy Lichtenstein ArtsReach Fund, established by Agnes Gund; Galerie Lelong & Co.; Burger Collection, Hong Kong; Andrea Kerzner; the Cultural Services of the French Embassy in the United States; and CRUSHCURATORIAL.

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