Yinka Shonibare MBE’s has some new works up at James Cohen Gallery in Chelsea through March 24th, although what you see in the photos above are rather like the sides to the main dish hidden in the back. In the interior room, the video Addio del Passato is screened on the wall and the great soundtrack to it drifts back into the outer rooms.
The video features a black woman in African-print but traditional European-style clothes in some Roccoco European palace singing the opera Traviata. The storyline is that the character of Frances Nisbet, Lord Nelson’s estranged wife, sings an aria from the last act of Verdi’s Traviata, which dovetails into some of Shonibare’s previous work in London about Lord Nelson. What Shinobare is interested in is the distance and irony between imperial Britain’s history and the present as well as emotions like longing and passion. Honestly there is a lot going on in the video and his work in general, and I had do some more research. The short video below is some great background from Art 21.
Also on view in the gallery are his suicide portraits, reworkings of famous death portraits with the subjects wearing the African print cloth and the sex/fetish objects, with their historically accurate attributes also somewhat reworked by the artist. Shinobare uses the same fabric in all of these work because although we think of it as African, it is actually a Dutch reworking of Indonesian batiks.