In the newly commissioned exhibition Forgotten, Nudes, Landscapes, Gideon Appah uses newspaper clippings, entertainment posters, and films spanning the 1950s through the 1980s to explore the rise and fall of Ghanian cinema and leisure culture. He depicts the cycle of cultural memory, from heyday to bygone, in a series of portraits of illustrious and forgotten figures that are on view through June 19, 2022, at the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University.

The paintings include scenes from public and private life. In “Hyped Teen” (2021) and “Bliss” (2020–21), dapper men are depicted on their way to the club, while the theater painting series presents figures that are more solitary. Appah portrays people at various stages of personhood, from their most arresting public selves to their most intimate, private moments. From quiet, domestic scenes to vibrant landscapes and nudes, he aims to blur the lines between the living and the dead through scenes that suggest a cycle of life. His work speaks to a sense of loss — from the death of cinema to the death of democracy itself.

One central work in the exhibition, “ROXY 2” (2021), recalls Ghana’s famous Roxy Cinema, located in the capital city of Accra. By placing figures in a recognizable architectural space, Appah intends to pay homage to the country’s old cinema houses, once at the center of social life, particularly during Ghana’s struggle for independence from colonial rule. Popular Ghanian films also serve as source material for environments and characters in some of his paintings, which the artist uses to demonstrate how cultural appetite evolves and creates memories that define people and cultures.

Forgotten, Nudes, Landscapes is Appah’s first institutional solo exhibition, curated by the ICA’s Curator Amber Esseiva. This exhibition was produced with the support of Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York.

The ICA is free and open to the public. To learn more, visit icavcu.org.

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