Ebitenyefa Baralaye:
Facial Recognition

March 1, 2023

By Hannah Martin


          “Portraiture can serve as a record for people’s families, dynasties, and cultures,” reflects artist Ebitenyefa Baralaye. Following the racial reckoning of 2020 and the death of his father that same year, the Nigerian-born, Detroit-based sculptor has embraced figuration while contemplating his own identity. Two new bodies of work riff on the 19th-century face jugs created by enslaved people in the American South, particularly the work of David Drake, a.k.a. Dave the Potter. “There’s a duality,” Baralaye explains of the objects, which served both practical and spiritual purposes. “It speaks to the pain and agony of enslavement—the objectification of Black people but it’s also a vessel for poetic expression.” Finished in a black satin glaze, his Akanza series mixes his and his father’s abstracted facial features. Meanwhile, his All My Relation series (named after an inscription by Dave the Potter) pays homage to his Nigerian ancestors through an imagined archive of eyes, ears, and noses. Works from both projects go on display February 15 at Friedman Benda’s Los Angeles gallery, alongside large ceramic finials and columns inspired by the work of Yoruba artisan Olowe of Ise and Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí. A finial, Baralaye notes, has almost as much to say as a face: “As the capstone of an architectural structure, it’s expressive, it describes and exalts the nature and context of a place, it conveys a sense of identity.”baralaye.com 


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