The exhibition Hand to Mouth, is a solo exhibition by Ghanaian artist Serge Attukwei Clottey and his US West Coast debut. The exhibition focuses on works created with the surplus of leftover plastic water jugs or “Kufuor gallons” currently causing an environmental catastrophe in the artist’s home country. Reconfiguring the gallon containers as components in paintings and sculptures, Attukwei examines the migration of these objects and how they can serve as both cultural relics and symbols of consumption and waste. Works from Attukwei’s Kufuor Gallons and Common Man series will be on view, in addition to freestanding wood and plastic sculptures from his Uncolonized Portraits series and an ongoing screening of his film The Displaced. This is the first show for Ever Gold [Projects] in its new exhibition space at Minnesota Street Project.
“Kufuor gallon” is a term used to describe the kind of gallon-sized water jugs that were used during Ghana’s major drought in 2002-2005 while John Kufuor was president. These brightly colored plastic water jugs have littered the landscape ever since, with each household said to be left with more than 100 jugs. During the drought, people traveled miles from their settlements to wait in long lines to collect water. The gallons served as cultural identification devices, bearing handmade markings indicating the carrier’s language, family background, and religious beliefs.
At one time you would see hundreds of gallons in the queue . . . Looking at the queue, you could tell the language and language barriers. It creates a story about people and about religion . . . A color may be used like a red splash, which represents danger, or blue, which represents happiness . . . You might see a Christian name or an Islamic name on the gallon, for example. It is also a political statement. Within the queue for water, you can tell the whole story of where these people are coming from. The water shortage created a very vibrant, colorful community. – Serge Attukwei Clottey
Applying traditional Ghanaian folk aesthetics to his compositions with the collected gallons, Attukwei “makes paintings without paint.” Cutting the gallons into small pieces, the artist shapes the plastic over an open flame—a process similar to the action of bronze sculpting. Binding the multicolored plastic sections together with copper, he combines the ever-present plastic waste with one of the most valuable commodities in the Ghanaian market. His mixed media paintings and sculptural works also incorporate locally sourced textiles, salvaged electronic gadgets, and found wood, bones, and shells.
The exhibition will contain 10 large-scale works from the series Kufuor Gallons. Also on view is a selection of smaller works from Attukwei’s Common Man series, in which Attukwei isolates the tops of the gallon containers, which resemble traditional Afrian masks, against backgrounds of traditional local textiles.
Accompanying the paintings and sculptures in the exhibition is an ongoing screening of The Displaced, an 11 minute film documenting a performance by Attukwei and his performance collective, GoLokal, in which Attukwei embarks on a symbolic journey in remembrance of his ancestral migration from Bukom to Labadi aboard a canoe in the ocean. As an integral part of his practice, Attukwei utilizes solo and group performances as a means to provoke dialogue and promote community development, with some embarking into political protest.
Ever Gold [Projects] Presents: Hand to Mouth by Serge Attukwei Clottey
Ghanaian Artist Addresses Environmental Crisis in Homeland
First exhibition for Ever Gold [Projects] in new location at Minnesota Street Project
Exhibition Dates: March 18 – April 30, 2016
Opening Reception: Friday, March 18, 6 to 9:30 pm
Minnesota Street Project
1275 Minnesota Street
San Francisco, California