Amoako Boafo The Lemon Bathing Suit, 2019. Estimate: £30,000-50,000.
20th Century & Contemporary Art Evening Sale at Phillips London, 13 February.
Phillips is pleased to present Amoako Boafo’s The Lemon Bathing Suit as lot number 1 of the February Evening Sale. Having recently been the subject of high acclaim in the critical and curatorial spheres, Boafo was chosen in 2019 as the first artist-in-residence of the new Rubell Museum in Miami, where he worked on new paintings that featured at the institution’s inaugural exhibition.
Amoako Boafo The Lemon Bathing Suit, 2019 (detail).
In The Lemon Bathing Suit, an anonymous black woman lounges serenely by the pool, taking over the rippling surface of the composition. Dressed with a lemon-patterned swimsuit, the woman is rendered with brash brushstrokes – her skin mirroring the wavering water surrounding her, and firmly contrasting with the sleek, smooth quality of the pool mattress she is lying on. This painting technique – merging flurries of brown, tan and blue, and fluctuating between straight and wrinkly lines – is emblematic of Amoako Boafo’s mode of figuration, which has called comparisons with the jagged aesthetic of the Austrian painter Egon Schiele, who similarly undertook a gestural approach to portraiture. Yet Boafo’s work eludes psychological torment; instead, he sets friends, acquaintances and celebrities against summery, ethereal backdrops of which the countenance is usually bright and formally polished, departing from the protagonists’ beguilingly roughened silhouettes. "Most of the characters are people that share the same ideas as me. Others are also people that I find strength in – how they celebrate/live their blackness" the artist said (Amoako Boafo, quoted in Victoria L. Valentine, "Amoako Boafo’s First Exhibition at Roberts Projects in Los Angeles Centers Black Subjectivity," Culture Type, 15 February 2019, online).
Most of the characters are people that share the same ideas as me. Others are also people that I find strength in-how they celebrate/live their blackness.
— Amoako Boafo
David Hockney California Copied from 1965 Painting in 1987, acrylic on canvas,
Collection Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). © David Hockney.
Image: courtesy of the artist’s studio.
In addition to inviting a reflection on blackness, Boafo conjures a number of themes that enthralled artists throughout the history of painting. Most prominently, the subjects of the pool and bather that permeate the composition are iconic symbols that inspired artists such as Paul Cézanne, Pierre Bonnard, and David Hockney in their respective oeuvres. With The Lemon Bathing Suit, Boafo infuses the basin with a contemporary twist, adorning the portrayed woman with a swimsuit and sunglasses that both seem to reflect contemporary fashion. In doing so, the artist paints a distinctly 21st-century picture – further heightened by the painting’s large, billboard-like dimensions.
In a stunning display of painterly effect, The Lemon Bathing Suit demonstrates the quality whereby Boafo’s compositions seem to run forever in motion, notwithstanding their two-dimensional form. "Despite their static poses, [Boafo’s characters] seem ever shifting and unfixed," Sharon Mizota writes (Sharon Mizota, "In Amoako Boafo’s portraits, every brushstroke of every black face matters," The Los Angeles Times, 20 February 2019, online). As such, the protagonist within the present work appears to float atop the pool she is set against; moving away with the wind.