We talk often of a gaze in art, whether the subject in the painting or the viewer. I’ve often gravitated myself to those works where the figurative gaze is off the side, to some other action or thought meanderings. Over the past year, partly due to an absence of intimacy, I noticed works where the gaze hits you straight in the eyes has become alluring and needed. This comes up a lot in A Friendly Exchange, where Lagos-based painters Adegboyega Adesina and Johnson Eziefula are currently showing new works at Ross-Sutton Gallery in NYC. 

The artists both have their own stylistic approaches, and yet the works seem to be done in harmony with each other. Where Adesina has lush backdrops, Eziefula are more stark. But there is undoubted life and strength in the figures. Their clothes, poses, looks all suggest a wanting to be captured. As the gallery notes, “They are fully committed to interpreting what is happening in Lagos now. The full expression, confidence, beauty, and luxuriating of life are the driving forces here. In no way a contrast to what is happening politically. These works beautifully capture the bravery and confidence of today’s youth.” A beautiful show that brings to the forefront two great new voices in portrait painting. —Evan Pricco