Young British artist Tunji Adeniyi-Jones teamed up with Duncan Grant for the Bloomsbury set artist’s first solo exhibition since his death in 1978
The latest artist to join London’s White Cube Gallery is 28-year-old British painter Tunji Adeniyi-Jones, who in September presented his first UK solo show in Charleston, the Sussex farmhouse and studio. Bloomsbury’s set artist Vanessa Bell. and Duncan Grant.
Adeniyi-Jones’ exhibition (September 18-March 13), composed entirely of new works, accompanies the recreation of Grant’s first solo exhibition from 1920, which opened at the Paterson-Carfax Gallery on Old Bond Street in London, and includes 30 paintings, some of which have never been seen before. This is the first solo exhibition of Grant’s work since his death in 1978.
Parallels have been drawn between Grant and Adeniyi-Jones’ vivid color palettes and their dynamic and expressive treatment of the body. As Adeniyi-Jones said in a statement, “The characters in my work are expressions of my identity and there is something very rewarding about using the body as a vehicle for telling stories. It’s also something that I really admire and appreciate about Duncan Grant’s work, his exploration and focus on fitness.
However, Adeniyi-Jones’ take on modernism is distinctly West African. Her color palette is influenced by the oranges, yellows, scarlet and fuchsias that appear in the Dutch batik designs found in West Africa, while her muscular figures address the perception of the black body in Western painting, especially its emphasis on physicality.
According to Susan May, Global Artistic Director of White Cube, gallery staff first discovered Adeniyi-Jones’ work in 2017, after seeing her work in New York City. “Since then, we have been following the evolution of his practice,” she says. “The evolution of his pictorial vocabulary, with increasingly sophisticated compositions and palette, indicates an artist who intends to broaden the language of his work.”
Conversations began with the gallery last year while Adeniyi-Jones was still living in London. He has since moved to the United States, where his paintings continue to be shaped by “travel, movement and cultural hybridity,” as he puts it. The artist is represented by Morán Morán in Los Angeles and Nicelle Beauchene Galley in New York.
White Cube’s decision to represent Adeniyi-Jones reflects an ongoing effort by the gallery to diversify its roster of historically white artists. As May says, “We have been working with a global roster for many decades now, but there is always more to be done to represent the widest range of voices. The defining characteristic when making decisions about representation is the quality of the practice and its ability to speak to future generations. Art and artists are extremely influential in helping to shape positive social attitudes towards diversity, and it is important for us to be able to reflect these perspectives.
White Cube will hold its first exhibition of Adeniyi-Jones’ work in Bermondsey in November (November 19-January 2022), which will feature a suite of new paintings and works on paper. Prices are not disclosed.