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Wexler Gallery

Barry Yusufu

  • Deborah and Her Last Card, 2020
    Charcoal, oil, and acrylic on canvas
    50 × 50 in

A self-taught artist from north-central Nigeria, Barry Yusufu often creates paintings that meld charcoal and acrylic to create a variety of tones and textures that are uniquely his own. Yusufu describes his art as Kolo art, meaning “madness in a sane way,” and he leads a movement of Nigerian artists called The Kolony. His portraits are characterized by boldly colored, expressive backgrounds that contrast with more subtle figures who are rendered in achromatic charcoal with deep shadows and fine gradations. Though his style is entirely his own, this type of boldly contrasting portraiture recalls painters like Amy Sherald, Barkley L. Hendricks, and Kehinde Wiley, as well as modern European schools of painting like the Expressionists and the Symbolists. Yusufu paints those around him, drawing his inspiration from his community. “My people are my inspiration, I paint the stories of my people,” he told Visionary Art Collective. “As an African from Nigeria I tell the story of my race as well. I see there has been hardly any documentation of my people in the past, and I’m trying to do my part.”