"A VIEW FROM AMMAN" - 522 West 19th Street, New York

October 26, 2023 to January 13, 2024
Opening reception October 26, 2023, 6 - 8 PM

Click for more information on Osaretin Ugiagbe

EXTENDED through JANUARY 13, 2024

Osaretin Ugiagbe, born in Lagos in 1986, has been moving from city to city since leaving Lagos 
at the age of 16. He travels within his mind, carrying his memories as baggage and 
reconstructing them in each new place and culture he discovers. Faces blend into an interior 
scene, leaving behind only an atmosphere where his memories intertwine.

Ugiagbe studied at the Royal College of Art in London and graduated in 2019 with a Master of 
Art (Painting Program). He has exhibited in several museums, including the Bronx Documentary 
Center and the Bronx Museum of Art, and his work is part of the collection at the Museum of 
Fine Art Houston. Articles about him have been featured in The New York Times and the 
Financial Times in London.

By concealing the faces in his artwork, Ugiagbe invites viewers to actively engage with the 
narratives of his protagonists. Furthermore, he conveys not only a sense of universality but also 
vulnerability and protection. This duality adds layers of complexity to the artwork, encouraging 
viewers to explore their own emotions and experiences.

The artist skillfully incorporates the motif of Bounty paper towels to obscure the faces of his 
characters, thus providing insightful commentary on the detrimental impact of globalized consumerism which inevitably leads to homogeneity. In doing so, Ugiagbe draws a parallel 
between the assimilative nature of Bounty paper towels, seamlessly absorbing and obscuring our 
distinctive identities. Additionally, as an immigrant himself, the artist evokes a lingering sense of 
displacement and transience as he navigates between contrasting realms.


Osaretin Ugiagbe: A View from Amman

 by Kurt McVey

“The work I do has always revolved around this act of wanting to be seen and also, not wanting to be seen; of being there but not being noticed; sometimes wanting to be noticed and scream out. This is something I’ve always struggled with; this whole feeling of noticing or looking.”


What’s in a name? For Osaretin Ugiagbe, the Nigerian-born (1986, Lagos) artist, it’s an invitation to a journey, an ongoing adventure on the road to profound self discovery. It’s also just a name. But like Lagos, the city Ugiagbe called home until moving to the Bronx (New York) when he was 16, names can come with baggage and expectations. Lagos (Portuguese for "lakes") is also the name of a city in Portugal, the mother-country or more specifically, the homonymous coastal town in the Algarve region from which Nigeria’s original 15th century colonizers hailed. Osaretin, in Nigerian, means “God’s strength.” Finding this strength is the trip. 


What’s in an accent? Accents are relative, of course, but for the 37-year-old Ugiagbe, his “accent” is something of an audio map, atlas, or sensory chronicle of an individual diaspora still unfolding, an unfinished narrative that only now, with his latest painting exhibition at New York’s Slag Gallery, A View from Amman, allows for a vast and calming moment of reflection; an acknowledgment of true belonging. But to what? To whom? To where? Too complex for a cocktail party exchange perhaps, Ugiagbe’s particular accent can boast strong and subtle flavors of Lagos, Nigeria, of course, including hints of French, British, Portuguese and a host of local African dialects. Outside of colonial traces, Ugiagbe carries subtle hints of subdued Cockney, perhaps from his time at the Royal College of Art in London, where he received his Masters in Art in 2019. Depending on the emotion or topic, one might get flavors from the aforementioned Bronx, itself a melting pot of European, Latin, West African and Caribbean dialects, just to name a few. The Bronx can also boast foundational links to Hip Hop, where the culture in all its forms was birthed, including the language, style, beats, flow, codes, and vibes.


In 2017, Osaretin staged a solo, black and white photo exhibition at the Bronx Documentary Center, which he called Unbelonging. That show chronicled a sentiment connected to 15 years of a life split between Nigeria and New York. When Ugiabe was 10, his father left for America and “the dream” after winning a Diversity Lottery exchange contest. But now, with his latest solo exhibition, A View from Amman, which features several, mostly-figurative paintings from Ugiagbe’s 2020 “Bounty” series, the artist is celebrating the notion of togetherness. The “Amman” in the title refers to the Capital City of Jordan, where the artist visited before returning to Baltimore, Maryland, where he currently resides and where he executed the paintings. Where does the accent of white blue-collar Baltimoreans differ from that of African-American Vernacular English? How can Ugiagbe take ownership of these places, languages, Blackness; The Culture? 


“It was a place I never thought I would visit,” Ugiagbe says of Jordan’s Amman. “A culture I didn't know much about. I visited yes, but I was also received. I was heard. Someone was waiting for me at the airport and I was hugged. I’m in this foreign place. Not in a hotel, but staying in a guest room in someone’s home. It was this dance of feeling each other out, of knowing somehow your journey will prepare you for the moment, whatever the moment is.”


Additional images and information can be found on the artist's pages:

Osaretin Ugiagbe