Lynette Yiadom-Boakye (b. 1977)
First Flight, 2015
Suite of ten etchings
Each sheet: 15 ⅜ × 10 ⅝ inches
Printed by Arcane Studios, London
Courtesy the artist, Corvi-Mora, London and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York.
© 2020 Lynette Yiadom-Boakye
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First Flight may at first seem to be a collection of highly individual portraits, yet they have no specific models or sitters; Lynette Yiadom-Boakye’s prints depict fictional characters. A painter who has explored etching in recent years, Yiadom-Boakye makes striking images of invented, predominantly black figures with candid, unreadable expressions. Here, ten men in various profile and three-quarter views are depicted wearing feathered ruffs, a fixture of the artist’s repertoire. Although her work has inspired comparison to various historical masters—and the ruffs evoke the fashion of 16th and 17th century European paintings—First Flight has no direct or singular art historical source material. Instead, it toys loosely with the Western canon’s motifs and methodology. Using complete invention, Yiadom-Boakye’s prints ask: What makes a portrait a portrait? Who is represented? How do we react to the bodies we see in art, and why?
Associate Curator, Department of Drawings and Prints at The Metropolitan Museum of Art
People are tempted to politicize the fact that I paint black figures, and the complexity of this is an essential part of the work. But my starting point is always the language of painting itself and how that relates to the subject matter.
— LYNETTE YIADOM-BOAKYE, in conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist