Tuesday, February 8 from 12 – 5 pm
Cocktail: From 6 – 9 pm
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Akwetey Orraca-Tetteh showcases his most recent series of works, all made between 2019 and 2021 in New York and Mexico City. The title of this exhibition, Western Retreat, plays with the double meaning of the word retreat, referring to a paradisiacal refuge where one can relax, as well as to the act of withdrawing troops from a lost battle. Recent times of crisis have forced us to reconsider whether current economic models are still pertinent, and to contemplate a future in which the North American West might no longer be the hegemonic power. At the same time, during this silent war, the last things some people are willing to give up are the comforts and privileges of the “civilized” world.
Influenced by Orraca-Tetteh’s relocation from New York to Mexico City, this body of work addresses the theme of an artificial paradise: both as a mental state of disassociation and as a perpetual search for well-being, while nevertheless simultaneously offering a critique of reality for its lavish lifestyles—established in these territories by those coming from first-world economies. Made in glaring hues as well as with shadows and lights that add volume to floating forms, these works display entities in recreational activities and fantastical situations, living in a universe of their own with light green and deep violet horizons. On the one hand, characters are seen practicing different kinds of imaginary sports: a squash match against a floating arm by the poolside, a jai alai game on boards floating over tumultuous waters, and swimmers who disintegrate in geometric landscapes. In other paintings we see scantily clad couples in tropical environments, such as in the small format series Belle: where figures appear in a classical serpentine pose, and in which the bodies with blurry identities have reached an idyllic state of pleasure and enjoyment.
Competitive sports are one of the few activities today that incentivize vigorous energy and rivalry, and that, for many, offer the hope of social mobility. However, in these paintings, sports are seen as products of leisure, just another commodification of Western suburban luxury life. The works of Orraca-Tetteh question the idea of global luxury and leisure, which, exacerbated by social media, have homogenized the aspiration of a contemporary way of living while also remaining oblivious to the immediate realities of their surroundings.