Crossed Looks is the first artist monograph featuring the work of Swiss-Guinean artist Namsa Leuba and is published by Damiani on 7 September to accompany her first US solo exhibition (Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art in Charleston, South Carolina, August 27 – December 11 2021). It features works from the photographer’s major projects in Guinea, South Africa, Nigeria, Benin, and the debut of a new series recently made in Tahiti. Essays by Joseph Gergel, Emmanuel Iduma and Mary Trent examine the nuanced themes of identity and representation in Leuba’s multiple bodies of work.
“I have always been characterized as the Other, whether I am too ‘African’ to be European or too ‘European’ to be African. In this unique positioning, I am interested in the politics of the gaze—who is looking, who is being looked at, and the medium of which this looking occurs.” Namsa Leuba
Crossed Looks features works from the photographer’s major projects in Guinea, South Africa, Nigeria, Benin, and the debut of a series recently made in Tahiti. Essays by Joseph Gergel, Emmanuel Iduma and Mary Trent examine the nuanced themes of identity and representation in Leuba’s multiple bodies of work.
As a photographer working across documentary, fashion, and performance, Leuba’s images explore the fluid visual identity of the African diaspora, and draws inspiration from her own experience growing up between two different cultural traditions. Her images are influenced by the Animist traditions of her mother’s family in Guinea Conakry, and the visual codes of statues, masquerades, and religious ceremonies in West Africa. They are also inspired by contemporary fashion and design, resulting in a unique perspective straddling reality and fantasy. She re-stages and constructs narrative scenes in collaboration with her sitters, incorporating bold colours, striking patterns, and intricate clothing and props. Leuba often uses models that she informally meets and who become active collaborators in the portraits.
Leuba continues her focus in challenging the visual representation of the cultural ‘other’ in her newest series, Illusions, created in Tahiti. After living in Tahiti for over two years, Leuba collaborated with a group of transgender youths to re-stage imagery reminiscent of the “Primitivist” paintings of Paul Gauguin and “tropical” images in modern art. The series poses an ideological assault to the symbolism of Gauguin’s paintings in Tahiti, which fetishized the indigenous female body and its myths of exoticism.
Crossed Looks also includes one of Leuba’s earliest series, Black Panther, which was created in Switzerland. In its staged construction, the series was a precursor to her method of photographic practice which seeks to re-examine charged cultural symbols.
Through her photographs, Leuba ultimately searches for a visual sense of belonging, of finding a vocabulary that speaks to the experiences and perspectives of not fitting in one ready-made mould. The title Crossed Looks references this diverse perspective, creating an alternative visual proposition that transcends fixed modes of representation.
Namsa Leuba Crossed Looks
Published by Damiani
Text by Joseph Gergel, Emmanuel Iduma, Mary Trent
Designs by Maximage
210 x 275 cm 176 pages, illustrated throughout,
softcover with flaps
£ 45 €50