New Evanston Art Center exhibition inspired by cosmos, Black experience


Jack Austin/Daily Senior Staffer

A close-up of “Enterception of an Eyedea.” The painting by Yaoundé Olu is on display as part of her exhibit at Evanston Art Center, “Black Field / White Field.”

Jack Austin, Senior Staffer

Yaoundé Olu started creating art at the age of two.

The pioneering multi-disciplinary artist and musician considers herself a storyteller and retro-futurist and said she wants to show different perspectives through her art. She said something within her propels her to create.

“Black Field / White Field” is an exhibition of Olu’s art on display at Evanston Art Center through March 20. It was curated by Evanston artist Fran Joy.

Joy said the exhibit is part of an initiative at the art center to feature more BIPOC artists. During the year, she said the center plans to display the work of three Black women and one Indigenous woman near the entrance of the gallery.

“Her work, to me it looks futuristic and retro, but she incorporates the past, the present and the future,” Joy said. “You see the African roots to it, but it has an outer space vibe to it.”

Olu said her work predates the modern popularity of the term “Afrofuturism.” Art and art history Prof. Rebecca Zorach said she thinks Olu envisions her work as alternate realities of past and present, rather than strictly future science fiction.

Zorach said Olu offers unique perspectives on pressing issues. One painting in “Black Field / White Field” titled “Portal of Hope” features a woman with laser eye beams under the Edmund Pettus Bridge, a historic marching ground for civil rights.

“It’s about offering ways of thinking that break the frame or allow us to see alternative realities, different ways of thinking,” Zorach said. “She engages with contemporary issues, but at an interesting angle.”

Envisioning new possibilities and positive portrayals for Black people remains a focus of Olu’s work.

“I like to put Black people in a space context. Usually we don’t think of that,” Olu said. “In other words, we’re not just limited to being oppressed in the here and now.”

The exhibition title refers to separate artistic processes. Black fields are colorful images with a black background, while white fields are paint sharpies on canvas.

Using changed perspectives in an effort to eliminate barriers to unity is another goal of Olu’s art, she said.

“I strive… to provide people with an alternative worldview, so we can see ourselves from another standpoint… and see how ridiculous some of the isms that separate and divide us (are),” Olu said. “The images I create highlight there are many different ways to exist.”

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the position of Rebecca Zorach. The Daily regrets the error.

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