The latest artist to join London’s White Cube gallery is the 28-year-old British painter Tunji Adeniyi-Jones, who this September has his first solo show in the UK at Charleston, the Sussex farmhouse home and studio of the Bloomsbury set artists Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant.
Adeniyi-Jones’s show (18 September–13 March), comprised 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. It is the first one-man show of Grant’s work since he died in 1978.
Parallels have been drawn between Grant’s and Adeniyi-Jones’s vivid colour palettes and their dynamic, expressive treatment of the body. As Adeniyi-Jones says in a statement: “The figures in my work are expressions of my identity and there is something very rewarding about using the body as a vehicle for storytelling. This is also something I really admire and appreciate about Duncan Grant's work, his exploration and focus on the physical form.”
However, Adeniyi-Jones’s take on Modernism is a distinctly West African one. His colour palette is influenced by the oranges, yellows, scarlets and fuchsias that appear in Dutch batik designs found in West Africa, while his sinewy figures tackle the perception of the black body within Western painting, particularly its emphasis on physicality.
According to Susan May, White Cube’s global artistic director, staff at the gallery first came across Adeniyi-Jones’s work in 2017, having seen his work in New York. “We have followed the development of his practice ever since,” she says. “The evolution of his painterly vocabulary, with increasingly sophisticated compositions and palette, point to an artist who is intent on expanding 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 US, 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 move to represent Adeniyi-Jones reflects a continued effort by the gallery to diversify its historically white roster of artists. As May says: “We have worked with a global roster for many decades now, but there is always more to be done to represent the broadest spectrum of voices. The defining feature when making decisions around representation is the quality of the practice and its ability to speak to future generations. Art and artists are hugely influential in helping shape positive social attitudes towards diversity, and it’s important for us that we are able reflect those perspectives.”
White Cube will hold its first exhibition of Adeniyi-Jones’s work in Bermondsey in November (19 November-January 2022), which will feature a suite of new paintings and works on paper. Prices are undisclosed.