A public garden & cultural center

Ashton Agbomenou

2018 New York Community Trust Van Lier Fellow

African American

Sunroom Project Space | September 8 – October 21, 2018

Pictured Above: Woman in Pink on 125th and Adam Clayton, 2018 (detail), watercolor and collage on watercolor paper, 15 x 20 inches

New York Community Trust Van Lier Fellow Ashton Agbomenou develops an installation of portraits that incorporates urban and natural imagery, drawing inspiration from his time in Wave Hill’s 2018 Winter Workspace. A first-generation African American whose parents are from Benin, West Africa, Agbomenou was raised in New York City and seeks synchronicity in the African diaspora. Through interviews, photography and research, he distills his findings and constructs collage-like watercolors and an oil painting that depict unique narratives and histories about his community in Harlem and Upper Manhattan.

In the Sunroom, four framed works on paper are installed on painted walls with abstracted green, brown, yellow and gold undulating lines. Also, an oil painting and work on aquaboard are placed on sculptural easels that resemble the branches of the baobab tree, which is native to Africa and other countries. Agbomenou’s meticulously composed, vividly colored, mixed-media portraits combine his classical training as a painter, background in film and animation and his interests in graffiti, Expressionist painting, graphic novels and science fiction. To create the final, layered composition of his work, he begins by digitally juxtaposing loose, watercolor gestures with his photographs.

The impetus for this project was the friction that Agbomenou observed among black Americans and Africans in his community, as well as explorations of his ancestors’ heritage. In his unified tableaux, he considers representations of identity, race and ethnicity among these factions, transcending stereotypes. Agbomenou gains insight into human idiosyncrasies through dialogues about his subjects’ lives and the strife they have faced. Agbomenou explains: “My work celebrates black and African identity. These identities are wide-ranging and diverse; through reflecting on historical and current events that relate to black and African culture, I actively work to develop a visual language that speaks to the narrative of the diaspora as both a movement and a collective of individuals.“

African American is Agbomenou’s first formal solo exhibition. He has also exhibited at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), Providence, RI. Agbomenou freelances as a videographer and portrait artist. He taught watercolor classes at NYC Parks Department sites with the Art Students League of New York and was a teaching artist at Groundswell Community Mural Project, Brooklyn, NY. He received his BFA in Film, Animation and Video from RISD and studied classical painting at the Art Students League of New York.

Winter Workspace
Glyndor Gallery | February 12– March 24, 2018

During the Winter Workspace, Agbomenou created a series of watercolor portraits and landscapes that portray the histories of his community in Harlem and Upper Manhattan, serving as a conservation effort to preserve the cultural environments of these communities. The artist pulled from Wave Hill’s natural resources to provide a wide array of shapes and colors to build a catalog of photographs to use in his layered painting, collage process. By conducting interviews, collecting images and doing research at the Schomburg Center, the artist continues to build a bank of information that will help inform his compositions. Agbomenou work seeks to chronicle and strengthen relationships in African communities around the world.

Meet the Artist: Conversation between Ashton Agbomenou and Curator of Visual Arts Eileen Jeng Lynch

Click here to learn more about the artist. A release about the 2018 fall season in the Sunroom Project Space is available here.



The Arts at Wave Hill are supported by the Lily Auchincloss Foundation, Inc.; Michael J. Shannon; Milton and Sally Avery Arts Foundation; the National Endowment for the Arts; New York City Department of Cultural Affairs; New York Community Trust Edward and Sally Van Lier Fund; New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo and the New York State Legislature; The Pollock-Krasner Foundation; The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation; and by the Cathy and Stephen Weinroth Commissioning Fund for the Arts.