28 October – 23 December 2023
Los Angeles, USA
Born and raised in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, Olujimi works conceptually across mediums including painting, sculpture, photography, and video among others. This exhibition is Olujimi’s first solo show with the gallery and in Los Angeles.
Culminating the multidisciplinary artist’s decade long project of mining the history of dance marathons in the United States of the ‘20s and ‘30s, Olujimi’s latest series of watercolor paintings reinterpret the phenomenon of these endurance challenges and extrapolate on the poetic qualities of pushing the physical limits of the body. Olujimi’s works depict intimate moments between dancing couples, meditating on the impact of touch, embrace, and leaning on another as sources of strength and willpower to overcome obstacles and as acts of resilience.
The spectacle of dance marathons, popularized in the 20s as a form of entertainment, continued through the Great Depression, taking on a different meaning as an act of survival. Contestants traveled far and wide to compete in several month-long contests of endurance, seeking shelter, food and monetary rewards. The voyeuristic spectacle of the marathons became both fascinating and morbid in the wake of economic depression and social upheaval. For Olujimi, this phenomenon represents a form that is deeply American–watching peoples’ struggles as entertainment. In the watercolors, Olujimi creates a mythic space, ruminating on the complexities of this phenomenon’s history and transmuting the blurred lines between theater and reality into dreamlike spaces where couples meld into each other and float in space.
In embracing each other, Olujimi’s figures lean with their full weight onto the other, underscoring the balance between the bodies as necessity; needing each other to continue, relying on each other to survive. The physicality of the figures reflects the essential quality of companionship and interdependence–in the dance marathons the contestants relied on one another in order to sleep while continuing to dance.
The dance marathons were vehemently segregated. As such these acts of resilience carry profound symbolic meaning beyond their supposed function. Olujimi’s figures come to symbolize the will of the human spirit to defy and live beyond the constraints of societal oppression – while this particularly grotesque and wondrous history speaks both to the construction and the cruelty of the mythic landscape America.