Gbèto/Human: Didier Viodé at 1-54 New York

19 - 22 May 2022

Gbèto/Human is Didier Viodé’s first solo show in New York, after his recent successful group show at Marianne Boesky Gallery curated by Amoako Boafo and Larry Ossei-Mensah, followed by a Paris solo show and a forthcoming participation at the 2022 Dakar Biennale.

In the Fongbé and Pedah languages of Benin, the word Gbèto means human being, the one “endowed with the power of life” or the “possessor of the world”. Human beings are at the center of Didier Viodè’s work, be it painting, photography or cartoons.

Gbèto/Human is the new series of paintings in Viodé’s on-going exploration of contemporary life in a world defined by global anxiety around the pandemic, widening social inequalities and Black Lives Matter. These phenomena have prompted Viodé to return to introspection during lockdown which resulted in his seminal Auto-Portrait d’Un Confiné (2020), as well as a continued focus on those he calls the anonymes: the ordinary women and men we see every day without really knowing them. In Viodé’s work, the unknown and the forgotten of our societies – and for that matter of art history and portraiture - are celebrated. 

In these new Gbèto studies, the figures are staged in a bold blue visual universe inspired by the winter light and skies. The storytelling is kept to a bare minimum, simple fashion accessories - sunglasses, baseball caps - which anchor the subjects in a stripped back and elemental urban setting which could be anywhere in the world. Everyone in those portraits seems somehow familiar. Ordinaire icons of today.