News

The 'Afrosupernatural' Art Of Leonardo Benzant

New York-based curator Dexter Wimberly is bringing the “afrosupernatural” art of Leonardo Benzant to the world.

Leonardo Benzant and Paraphernalia Of The Urban Shaman M:5 (2012 - 2016). Courtesy of the artist.
New York-based curator Dexter Wimberly is bringing the “afrosupernatural” art of Leonardo Benzant to the world.

Born in New York City to Dominican parents, Benzant’s work straddles multiple realms: a Dominican childhood in New York and that of his Afro-Caribbean roots. The underpinnings of his sculptures and paintings are deeply rooted in his spiritual beliefs and ties to his Afro-Caribbean heritage. For Wimberly, Benzant’s work is steeped in the dialogue surrounding what may be considered “African art."


His practice is driven by his connection to the trans African-Atlantic diaspora. Imagining himself as an Urban Shaman, Benzant explores both his familiar visible world as well as the hidden dimensions of other realms.

Though his work has been seen in group shows around the country, an upcoming solo exhibition in Newark, New Jersey will mark the first time Benzant’s sculptures and paintings will be shown in one place.

Afrosupernatural is the culmination of the curator and artist’s collaborative efforts over the years. The title comes from one of Benzant’s paintings. “To say that this is a work that’s fusing African aesthetics and African sensibilities, but also something that’s otherworldly” is a bold statement, Wimberly tells Okayafrica. It’s a suiting title for a show that sees Benzant continue to merge his spiritual beliefs with his academic understanding of contemporary art.

The exhibition pulls from a decade’s worth of work as well as a number of new pieces. A mixed-media body of work titled Kalunga Inbetween Worlds (K7) explores themes, materials and colors related to Kalunga, an ocean deity associated with the Bakongo people of Central Africa. His sculptures from Paraphernalia of the Urban Shaman M:5 are inspired by African power-objects while aesthetically pulling from chromosome patterns.

For Wimberly, Afrosupernatural could be considered his third exhibition of contemporary African art. Last year he and Larry Ossei-Mensah organized No Such Place at Edward Tyler Nahem. Currently, The Ease Of Fiction is showcasing the work of four U.S.-based African artists in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Leonardo Benzant, Afrosupernatural Combat, oilstick and mixed-media on paper, 73 x 60 inches, 2011. Courtesy of the artist.
Leonardo Benzant, Paraphernalia Of The Urban Shaman M:5 (2012 - 2016). Courtesy of the artist.
Leonardo Benzant, To Invoke The Spirits Of The Forest, oilstick and mixed-media on paper, 75 x 60 inches, 2011. Courtesy of the artist.
Leonardo Benzant, Strong Hand That Turns The World, acrylic, ink, embroidery on hand-pieced fabric and unstretched canvas, 108 x 72 inches, 2010. Courtesy of the artist.
‘Leonardo Benzant: Afrosupernatural’, organized by visiting curator Dexter Wimberly, is on view April 2 - April 30 at Aljira, a Center for Contemporary Art in Newark, New Jersey.
Interview

This Compilation Shines a Light On East African Underground Music

We talk to a few of the artists featured on the Music For the Eagles compilation from Uganda's Nyege Nyege.

Nyege Nyege, a label in Kampala, Uganda is channelling the confidence brimming over a whole continent. Africa is no longer the future. For dance music, its time is right now.

Music For the Eagles is a compilation released in conjunction with Soundcloud to showcase the best new acts that East Africa has to offer outside the mainstream. A new wave of artists firmly blasting non-conformist energy for you to spasm to. Music that takes you places. Otim Alpha's high BPM wedding frenzy of incessant rasping vocals accompanied by feverous violin will have you clawing the walls to oblivion. Anti Vairas' dancehall from a battleship with super galactic intentions doesn't even break a sweat as it ruins you. FLO's beautiful sirens call, is a skittish and detuned nursery rhyme that hints at a yearning for love but reveals something far more unnerving. Ecko Bazz's tough spiralling vocal over sub-bass and devil trap energy is an anthem that can only be bewailed. And Kidane Fighter's tune is more trance-like prayer. These are only some of the highlights for you to shake it out to.

We got to chat with a few of the artists featured on the Music For the Eagles compilation as they took a break from the studio below.

Keep reading... Show less

get okayafrica in your inbox

popular.

The 6 Songs You Need to Hear This Week

Featuring Wavy the Creator x WurlD, Epoque, Tems, Silverstone Barz, Kofi Jamar, Olamide x Jaywillz and more