April 10 - May 8, 2021
From the gallery:
“Responding to images of police killings of Black people, since 2016 photographer Mikael Owunna has worked to articulate an alternative vision of the Black body as the incarnation of the eternal cosmos. Using his engineering background, Owunna built a camera flash that only transmits ultraviolet light, and in each photoshoot he begins by hand painting his sitters’ nude bodies with fluorescent paints that glow under ultraviolet light. Owunna clicks down on the shutter in total darkness, and for a fraction of a second their Black bodies illuminate as the universe, transfiguring the Black body into transcendent, ethereal vessels.
Owunna writes, “Infinite Essence is my response to pervasive media images of Black people dead and dying. Being gunned down by police officers, drowning and washing up on the shores of the Mediterranean, starving and suffering in award-winning photography. The trope of the Black body as a site of death is everywhere.” Infinite Essence explores a transfigured vision of the Black body in relationship with West African spiritual and cosmological systems, particularly Igbo and Dogon. Each image references myths and divine principles from both systems, connecting Black bodies of the present across space and time to our ancestral conceptions of the universe.
About the artist: Mikael Owunna is a queer Nigerian-Swedish American multi-media artist and engineer based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Exploring the intersections of visual media with engineering, optics, Blackness, and African cosmologies, his work seeks to elucidate an emancipatory vision of possibility that pushes Black people beyond all boundaries, restrictions, and frontiers. Owunna’s work has been exhibited across Asia, Europe, and North America and been collected by institutions such as the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, Equal Justice Initiative, Duke University, and National Taiwan Museum. His work has also been featured in media ranging from the New York Times to CNN, NPR, VICE, and The Guardian. He has lectured at venues including Harvard Law School, World Press Photo (Netherlands), Tate Modern (UK), and TEDx. Owunna’s first published monograph Limitless Africans was released in 2019 by FotoEvidence, and he was awarded as a finalist for the FotoEvidence Book Award with World Press Photo.”
On View: April 10, 2021 | 1–5 pm
2023 E Cesar Chavez St.
Austin, 78702 TexasGet directions