Aicon art presents Black-word, a solo show by Mequitta Ahuja.
Black-word is the second major U.S. solo exhibition of the American born artist with the gallery. The thematic heart of the show is genealogy—Ahuja’s research, a collaboration of sorts between herself and her deceased grandmother who, in the 1950’s, began to research and write the family story. While Ahuja is best known for her large-scale self-portraits, In Ahuja’s 2020 exhibition with the gallery Ma, the artist expanded her representation to include the image of her mother. In this new body of work, Ahuja goes further, centralizing images of her 19th century Black ancestors as she imagines them from documentary evidence including photographs of their descendants (the artist inherited nearly one-thousand photographs from her grandmother), letters and written descriptions in government documents. By setting her own image to the side while centralizing images and words of or about her ancestors, Ahuja’s new work simultaneously marks a radical departure from her oeuvre and its logical extension. In Black-word, Ahuja retains her signature themes: identity, autobiography, the creative imagination and history—both personal and painterly. She references the classical marriage portrait, paintings of the Christian holy family including the breastfeeding Madonna, and, using a strategy of medieval and renaissance art—scrolling ribbons of text “banderoles” that further animate and relate the stories depicted, Ahuja tells the story of her maternal lineage, claiming both her family story and the story of the Western figurative tradition as hers.