CHARLESTON, SC.- The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art
at the College of Charleston presents an exhibition of work by Swiss-Guinean photographer and art director Namsa Leuba entitled Crossed Looks. The exhibition is on view from August 27 to December 11, 2021 at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Arts galleries.
NAMSA LEUBA: CROSSED LOOKS
Crossed Looks is the first solo exhibition of Swiss-Guinean artist Namsa Leuba in the United States. The show features over 90 works from the photographers projects in Guinea, South Africa, Nigeria, and Benin, and it premieres new work created in Tahiti. As a photographer working across documentary, fashion, and performance, Namsa Leubas images explore the fluid visual identity of the African diaspora. With a dual heritage between Guinea and Switzerland, Leuba draws inspiration from her own experience growing up between two different cultural traditions.
Leubas images are influenced by the Animist traditions of her mothers family in Guinea Conakry, and the visual codes of statues, masquerades, and religious ceremonies in West Africa. They are also inspired by contemporary fashion and design. The result is a unique perspective that straddles reality and fantasy. She re-stages and constructs narrative scenes in collaboration with her sitters, incorporating bold colors, striking patterns, and intricate clothing and props. Leuba often uses models that she informally meets in the street, who become active collaborators in the portraits. Leubas photographs pose fundamental questions about the medium of photography and its role in forming our understanding of the cultural Other. Leuba states: I have always been characterized as the Other, whether I am too African to be European or too European to be African. In this unique positioning, I am interested in the politics of the gazewho is looking, who is being looked at, and the medium of which this looking occurs.
Leuba has continued her focus in challenging the visual representation of the cultural other in her newest series, Illusions, created in Tahiti. After living in Tahiti for over two years, Leuba collaborated with a group of transgender youths to re-stage imagery reminiscent of the Primitivist paintings of Paul Gauguin and tropical images in modern art. The series poses an ideological assault to the symbolism of Gauguins paintings in Tahiti, which fetishized the indigenous female body and its myths of exoticism. Through her photographs, Leuba ultimately searches for a visual sense of belonging, of finding a vocabulary that speaks to the experiences and perspectives of not fitting in one ready-made mold. The title of this exhibition, Crossed Looks, references this diverse perspective, creating an alternative visual proposition that transcends fixed modes of representation.
The exhibition is organized by guest curator Joseph Gergel, currently based in Lagos, Nigeria. The exhibitions accompanying publication, Namsa Leuba: Crossed Looks, was designed by Swiss design studio Maximage and will be published by Damiani.