G.A.S. Foundation is thrilled to be hosting Umar Rashid at G.A.S. Lagos. Rashid is a contemporary Los Angeles-based artist, renowned for his thought-provoking work showcasing alternative historical narratives. His fictional Frenglish Empire (1648 - 1880) provides the narrative for his paintings and installations.
Through his practice, Rashid explores the intricacies of race, gender, class, and power, inviting the viewer to challenge their understanding of the intersections of these complex issues. His chosen iconography is a fascinating blend of contemporary and historical imagery. His residency runs from 15th February until 15th March 2023 and is supported by Tiwani Contemporary where he is currently presenting The Undiscovered Genius of the Niger Delta, a solo exhibition of new work.
What is the current focus of your practice?
For nearly two decades, my artistic practice has employed satirical elements that run cultural critique and reappropriate the history of the colonial era, through the lens of my imagined western empire, "the Frenglish."
This ongoing storyline subverts the traditional narratives of colonialism. It creates a discourse that invites viewers to consider a nuanced understanding of this period, helping to reshape our collective understanding of history.
Battle of Malibu, Part 1 (Detail). Photo: Kinstler (2022)
What drew you to apply for this residency, and how will it inform your wider practice?
I have always wished to visit Lagos, and was eager to experience the city’s fabulous bustle and vibrant and dynamic character. As an African American of part-Nigerian descent, I hope to get the chance to explore the region and reconnect with my ancestral roots and heritage. I’ve also been a fan of Yinka Shonibare’s work since my first interactions, and I think it’s great to be at his residency space.
Made in L.A. 2020: A version. Installation view at The Huntington Art Museum, San Marino. Photo: Joshua White / JWPictures.com
Can you give us an insight into how you hope to use the opportunity?
I look forward to relaxing, reflecting and nurturing new ideas outside my usual comfort zone. During my stay in Lagos, I’ll also connect with the local ecosystem, artists, galleries, and local Adire textile artisans. I plan to spend my time in Lagos absorbing and reflecting on my experiences, and incorporating them into my wider creative practice.
The Effects of Sugarcane on Monarchy, 2007
Umar Rashid was born in 1976 in Chicago, Illinois, and currently lives and works in Los Angeles, California. He earned his BA at Southern Illinois University in 2000.
For the past seventeen years, the Los Angeles-based artist has documented the complex, historical and episodic saga of a fictional world superpower – the Frenglish Empire. Between 1658 and 1880, the Frenglish rule a transcontinental area comprised of dominions, protectorates and colonies, including England, France, Turkey, India, the Caribbean, and Australia. Over the next two centuries, the Frenglish Empire engages in military endeavours, political intrigues, dynastic alliances and, significantly, colonial exploits and enterprises arising from survivalist and expansionist imperial policies. During its course, it comes up against a number of rival states agitating for power who emerge as significant players in the 18th century, including its suzerain, the North American Belhaven Republic and a recalcitrant Dutch republic, the Batavian Empire.
Across portraits, maps, flags, artefacts, vignettes, drawings, and other visual remnants of an imagined empire and its multiple interactions, Rashid reveals pivotal events and the ever-changing fortunes of a lively array of protagonists, both elite and quotidian, all peculiar to a highly novel parallel universe. In this polyglot and multi-racial world of the mid-17th and late 19th centuries, Rashid collapses time, geography and the real-life dichotomies of race, class, gender, religion, sexuality and power. His iconographic work synthesises comic culture, African cosmology, Egyptology, Classical mythology, Native American ledger art, hip hop, Persian miniature, Afrofuturism, grand history paintings and Renaissance portraiture. In remixing myriad histories – some recognisable and others esoteric, including but not limited to Western European, African and Ottoman, Rashid offers a revisionist, forensic and often humorous panorama of the early and late Modern periods. His work challenges the legacies and linearities of imperial and colonial historiographies and their influence on the construction of modernity.
Recent exhibitions include MoMa PS1, New York, US (2022); Cokkie Snoei, Rotterdam, NL (2022); Almine Rech, Paris, France (2022); Half Gallery, New York, USA (2021); Blum & Poe, LA, USA (2021); Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, USA in partnership with The Huntington, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, USA, (2020); University of Arizona, Tucson, USA (2018); University of Memphis, Memphis, USA (2017); Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, USA (2014); Wellin Museum of Art, Clinton, USA (2013); the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey, Summit, USA (2013); the Nevada Museum of Art, Reno, USA (2013) and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Denver, USA (2012) .
His work is included in the collections of the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art, Jorge Perez Collection, Brooklyn Museum, Santa Barbara Museum of Art, the Progressive Collection, 21C Museum, the Nevada Museum of Art, and the Wellin Museum of Art, amongst others.
During his residency, Umar will be exhibiting at the Sharjah Biennial and at Tiwani Contemporary Lagos. His residency is supported by Tiwani Contemporary.