1989. C-type prints, 48 × 48 inches. Courtesy of Autograph ABP.
The two works are drawn from the final bodies of work created by the artist in collaboration with his late partner Alex Hirst, entitled ‘Ecstatic AntiBodies’ and ‘Bodies of Experience’. In these large-scale color tableaux, Kayode visualises homoerotic self-expression through symbolic gestures and ritualistic poses appropriated from religious and art historical iconography, in which the black male body serves as a canvas to imaginatively interpret the boundaries between spiritual and erotic fantasy, cultural and sexual difference.
Seminal in 1980s Black British and African contemporary art, Rotimi Fani-Kayode’s body of work constitutes a profoundly personal and political exploration of desire, diaspora, displacement, sexuality and spirituality. His provocative and seductive imagery – produced during a brief career cut short by his untimely passing at the age of 34 – often fuses archetypal motifs from European and African cultures with queer iconography and nude figures, inspired by what Yoruba priests call ‘techniques of ecstasy’. He was a founding member and first chairman of Autograph ABP, London, who still represent his work and preserve his archive.
Rotimi Fani-Kayode (1955-1989) was born in Nigeria in 1955 to a prominent Yoruba family who left Africa as political refugees in 1966. He received a B.A. at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. in 1980, and an M.F.A. at Pratt Institute in New York in 1983, before returning to the United Kingdom where he lived and worked until his death in 1989. Fani-Kayode’s photographs have been exhibited internationally since 1985, and are represented in the permanent collections of the V&A Museum, London; the Walther Foundation, NY/Neu-Ulm; Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art, Helsinki; and numerous other private and public collections. A majority of his work is collected in the posthumous 1996 publication Rotimi Fani-Kayode and Alex Hirst: Photographs.