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Luis De Jesus Los Angeles Presents June Edmonds

June Edmonds, River Leaf, 2024.

Luis De Jesus Los Angeles presents June Edmonds: Meditations on African Resilience, the artist’s third solo exhibition with the gallery, on view in Gallery 1 from February 24 through April 13, 2024. An opening reception will be held on Saturday, February 24th, from 4 to 7 p.m., and a FRIEZE Weekend Brunch will be held the following Saturday, March 2nd, from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. The artist will be present at both events.

For over 35 years, June Edmonds has cultivated a practice that synthesizes abstraction, spirituality, and meditation with her ruminations and contemplations on her African American roots, Black history, and experience in America. Her paintings memorialize historic and contemporary figures and events with narratives that embody Black strength, endurance, joy, harmony, power, and resilience. Exploring the depth and breadth of color, Edmonds’ paintings communicate a language uniquely her own, deconstructing symbols through repetitive linework and bands of color, visceral impasto textures, and a psychologically charged lexicon of brilliant color.

Continuing her research-based explorations which previously have drawn from various cultural and art historical references to sacred geometries (such as the vesica piscis and the Adinkra symbols of West Africa) and led to the development of her celebrated Energy Circles series, Edmonds new paintings find inspiration in the emblem of the river leaf (ebe-amẹn) — an ancient and sacred quatrefoil used prominently in the Kingdom of Benin (also known as the Edo Kingdom or the Benin Empire), a pre-colonial kingdom in what is now southwestern Nigeria — to symbolize the power and regality of kings, healers, and deities, and as a spiritual symbol for unity, balance, and protection.

Edmonds was drawn to this symbol during her studies of the 15th and 16th century Benin bronze plaques, where she noted the reccurring motif alongside relief figures illustrating stories of the Oba (king) and his royal court and the achievements of the Benin warriors and dynasties. These plaques served to record important historical events, good or bad, as well as instruct, unify, and establish the magnificence of the Benin Empire. The word for “to remember” (saeyama) in Edo, the language of Benin, translates as “to cast a motif in bronze.”

Edmonds inspiration compelled her to adopt and adapt this symbol as a way to restore and reclaim its power in the present, and use it as a tool for resilience to its contemporary heirs, not just ancient African nobility. Edmonds notes, “I am using this inspired symbol to do the same, but the power and resilience is ours. It belongs to all of us. It always was ours. All we must do is learn and remember the greatness of our history. This body of work can be seen as a constellation that guides us to the freedom that can come from these meditations.”

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