Marking Collins Obijiaku’s inaugural solo presentation with the Roberts Projects gallery (Culver City, CA), “Collins Obijiaku: Unexpected Sittings,” brings together fifteen new portraits created over the last year. “Unexpected Sittings” explores the potential behind every interaction, and how in these dynamic and, at times complicated spaces, one can become inspired to an unfamiliar degree.
As stated by the artist, “there is an unlimited wealth of ideas that are bound within the fabrics of chance conversations or interactions that unfold and progress naturally. And many of these ideas, or fresh perspectives, carry the potential to nudge us, as [either] individuals and groups, into the path of positive change.”
Heavily influenced by a deep, familial connection to the cultural heritage and immediate environment around him, Obijiaku’s paintings are infused with a sense of everyday life and personal experience. His portraits frequently depict human vulnerability, while examining identity and intimacy. “Unexpected Sittings” features family and friends—both old and new—painted in the same style: quarter-length portraits with unbroken eye contact, a shallow depth of field with no identifying background, and muted, organic colors. Fusing style with content, Obijiaku captures each of his subject’s distinct personalities in the subtlest of detail.
Obijiaku’s practice is recognizable for its distinct render, topographical linework, and emotive qualities. Working directly on the surface of either paper or canvas, he slowly builds out the contours of the face with considerable skill. The effect is one not unlike silverpoint, a technique of drawing difficult to correct mastered by Albrecht Dürer. This embrace of both spontaneity and skill captures the intricacies of mark-making, as well as the intangible qualities of the depicted subject. The contrasting color and light, and rich textural quality of painted details, further highlight the artist’s hand.
About Collins Obijiaku
Self-taught and phenomenally self-assured, Collins Obijiaku’s (b.1995 Kaduna, Nigeria; based in Abuja, Nigeria) elegant portraits of Black men and women gaze directly at the viewer. The artist uses various materials, often mixing oil, acrylic, and charcoal to achieve soft gradients, seductive texture, and beguiling linework; seen up close, the arrangements of his brushstrokes are almost cartographical in appearance. The artist’s subjects are both people close to him and strangers he meets on the street, which allows Obijiaku to create intimate records of his home and surrounding community.
Obijiaku has exhibited internationally, including New York, London, Lagos, and Accra. He was an artist-in-residence at Black Rock Senegal, a multi-disciplinary residency program founded by Kehinde Wiley in Dakar, Senegal, in 2020.
About Roberts Projects
Established in 1999, Roberts Projects aims to foster diverse perspectives within a broader context of contemporary artistic practices through its exhibitions and programs, with a focus on challenging, critical voices. The gallery represents multiple generations of internationally recognized, established artists as well as emerging artists.
The gallery commissions projects in a variety of media, including painting, sculpture and film, and programming emphasizing museum-quality, installation-based exhibitions, provocative interventions and surveys of historical significance. Over the last twenty years, Roberts Projects has mounted over 160 exhibitions of note including Amoako Boafo, Noah Davis, Jeffrey Gibson, David Hammons, Titus Kaphar, Daniel Joseph Martinez, Wangari Mathenge, Adam Pendleton, Otis Kwame Kye Quaicoe, Rachel Rosenthal, Betye Saar, Hank Willis Thomas, and Kehinde Wiley.
Recent collaborations include MoMA and LACMA for Betye Saar exhibitions, Kehinde Wiley at Saint Louis Art Museum, Jeffrey Gibson at Wellin Museum and Denver Art Museum, Kehinde Wiley’s President Barack Obama portrait for National Portrait Gallery, and the Getty Research Institute acquisition of Betye Saar’s archives.