BARTHÉLÉMY TOGUO: Coexistence on the Earth

Wooson gallery presents the first solo exhibition in Korea of the prominent Cameroon-born, Paris based artist Barthélémy Toguo from September 27 through November 16.
Despite his significant international reputation, Toguo who studied in Germany and is currently living and working between Paris and Cameroon, has not yet received commensurate attention in Korea.
This exhibition will be a chance to experience Toguo’s multi-disciplinary and prolific body of work as it spans across different artistic vocabularies and mediums, tracing their own unique styles.

The “Africa Remix” exhibition held at Centre Georges Pompidou in 2005 (subsequently traveling to the Mori Art Museum, Japan, in 2006) featured more than eighty contemporary artists from Africa. Amongthose, Barthélémy Toguo was introduced as a contemporary African artist of major stature based in France. Additionally, Toguo’s inclusion in the “Notre Histoire” exhibition at Palais de Tokyo in 2006, significantly introduced him as a one of leading figures of the contemporary art world in France.
Born 1967 in Cameroon, Barthélémy Toguo studied at École nationale supérieure des beaux-arts in Abidjan (Côte d’Ivoire), then at l’Ecole Supérieure d'Art de Grenoble (France), and Kunstakademie of Düsseldorf (Germany). He currently lives and works between Cameroon, New York, and Paris. His nomadic life – often moving between the places he lives – allows him not only to gain experiences that enrich the disciplines he works in, but also reflects his performance as an artist who affirms his free will by endlessly creating new values and lives that do not fit pre-existing systems in the flows of our globalized age. For Toguo, questioning his own identity amongst today’s conflicts of race, ethnicity, religion and culture, becomes a way to mark social and cultural difference as a fundamental operation in his work. Moreover, difference becomes the construction of his identity as an artist. There is an undeniable fact that Barthélémy Toguo, who is part of the art world, is an outsider from the ‘third world’ and targeted as a ‘black-male.’ Here he is potentially an ‘object of fear.’ The nail-studded body or the figure of ladder, which represents socio-economic class in his drawings, are often interpreted as critiques of unequal social/cultural customs as experienced by an African artist from a post-colonial perspective. Toguo’s work however, is never based on the concept of ethnography which provides a simplified account of race - he refuses being categorized as an immigrant. Rather he positions himself as an artist in the global age and uses art to reveal the specificity of given situations and as subversive challenge to existing inequalities and prejudices of the social system. As an artist Toguo shows ethical and social responsibility through his artworks. A true artist is a social outsider, but it is precisely this ‘outside’ perspective of the world that allows him to have a view ‘inside.’ Moreover, Toguo’s ability to objectively crystallize himself ‘as a black male from a third world country,’ is the self reflexivity that an artist requires.
While dealing with serious subjects by exposing and criticizing the absurdity of society, Toguo’s works still keep visionary humor. For example, in his work blood vessels take the shape of leaves and stems or a human head on the ground connects to roots under a tree. Another image that frequently appears in his drawings are lines that emanate from the mouth of a man, sometimes linking to petals or just back to mouths of other men. Ultimately Toguo’s images dissolve the boundaries of human, plants and nature. The work expresses human not as rulers but as taking part of the world in symbiotic relationships that include plants - right down to the roots of the earth and water.
Lorand Hegyi says, “the first impression of his drawings, paintings, and murals, is strange and exotic, but at the same time, it is somehow familiar that you’ve seen them somewhere else as if they are derived from our lives.” Toguo’s specific narratives based on his experience as a black male artist have the ability to communicate larger emotions such as sadness and fear. His unique ways of depicting a weak and fragile human mind or the wandering figure evoke existential feelings such as fear, weakness, and isolation that are common and ultimately connect us all as individuals.
Since having been introduced to group exhibitions at Daejeon Museum of Art in 2009 and Pusan Museum of Art in 2012, Wooson gallery will present Barthélémy Toguo, in the artist’s first solo exhibition in Korea. Wooson gallery will provide the opportunity for audiences to experience the overall body of Toguo’s work across different artistic vocabularies and mediums. Toguo has had recent solo exhibitions at major institutions including Musée d'art moderne de Saint-Étienne Métropole (FR), Design Museum in London (UK), Palais de Tokyo (FR), Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (FR), Milwaukee's Institute of Visual (US). His work is part of major international art collections including Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (FR), The Museum of Modern Art New York, MOMA (US), The Museum of Contemporary Art of Miami (US), Kunstsammlungen der Stadt, Düsseldorf (GER) and many other institutions and museums.