MALICK SIDIBÉ at SHERRICK & PAUL, OPENING THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 5th, 6-8PM
Sherrick and Paul Gallery is pleased to present a selection of 40 black and white photographic prints by West African photographer Malick Sidibé, opening November 5th and running through January 9th, 2016.
With his hallmark aesthetic, a blend of documentary and staged portraiture, Sidibé became known globally for capturing the cultural shift in Bamako, Mali, as the nation transitioned from a French colony to an independent nation in 1960. In the late 50s and throughout the following two decades, as the juxtaposition of colonial rule and liberation was at its flash point, Sidibé’s studio became, literally and figuratively, the backdrop for a generation of Africans still heavily influenced by French style but increasingly looking toward the west for social and aesthetic inspiration.
As Sidibé told The Guardian in a 2010 interview, Studio Malick functioned as more than a space for photography; it attracted people who wanted to define themselves in front of the camera and then stayed, giving the studio the feel of a club by and for locals: “Often it was like a party. People would drop by, stay, eat.... They’d pose on their Vespas, show off their new hats and trousers and jewels and sunglasses. Looking beautiful was everything.”
Sidibé’s formal education and apprenticeship under classic portrait photographers left him with a strong appreciation for pose and composition, yet the resulting images are more apt to convey a moment captured in time, a spontaneity of gesture and expression belied by intentional arrangement. The subjects are also the authors of their images, standing, often for the first time, in front of a lens in which they could and did define themselves in their own terms rather than as subjects of a colonial eye with a foreigner’s tendency toward framing them within the context of exotic otherness. Malians’ own views of themselves were profoundly different, an utterly unique amalgam of African traditional and international pop culture that drew from the music of James Brown as often as from West African textiles and Italian motorbikes.
Sidibé’s images, already world renowned by the 70’s, remain just as magnetic today, the gazes of his subjects as varied and immediate decades later–perhaps even intensified by the uncanny way each direct, eye-to-eye glance seems to vanish the space in between.