Awuku Darko Samuel
Born in Suhum, Ghana
Resides in Suhum, Ghana
Born in Pompton Plains, New Jersey
Resides in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Art acts as a guide, a lens, and an alternate point of view from which to better understand the world. Following the artist’s direction, the audience can come to a new conclusion about a familiar idea or be introduced to a new concept that is completely foreign. Bringing us into a personal realm, one that resides within their vision, their daily life, and their sense of the world, the artist allows us to share in a moment or thought as if we are a passenger watching the world through their eyes. Carole Loeffler and Awuku Darko Samuel work in separate but overlapping realms. Pairing their work in an exhibition presents a series of challenging connections. Each presents a voice that is active, emotional, and direct. They both ask us to reevaluate the common and find beauty in the every day. Loeffler’s practice often centers around exhibiting outside of the traditional art sphere, leaving her works made from found objects to the whims of the world. They are witnessed in their entirety only by the artist’s camera and the first observers in Philadelphia where she lives and works. Samuel is a photographer who creates posed portraits that rely on props, staging, and the gleaming atmosphere of his native Ghana. They tread the line between personal and portfolio as high fashion leaks into almost diaristic documentation. Open Doing brings these two artists together in an uneasy truce. Loeffler’s statements echo Samuel’s titles in their forthright nature. Straightforward phrases and sharp photographs are tempered with the softness of used materials and the tenderness of human subjects.
Carole Loeffler’s textile works live in the public sphere. They are stapled on telephone poles throughout Philadelphia like ads for handymen, babysitters, or local concerts. But rather than an advertisement, each work in her Granny Grafitti series radiates a positive affirmation to those who chance to stumble upon them. Loeffler constructs them as touchstones for women creatives who came before her. Using found doilies with red felt appliques, she creates unassuming but extraordinary diversions in the day-to-day of the passerby. Pieces like You are loved (2018) are simple in their construction but provide direct statements to the viewer. Existing outside of the gallery walls, these works may last for a long time or a short time, depending on the city works projects and how eager they are to clean the telephone poles or walls that Loeffler uses as her backdrops. Outside of this series, Loeffler’s practice centers around the idea of time instilled in objects. Looking at a well-loved blanket or massive knitting project, one can imagine the hours and hours incorporated into its creation. Too often there is a disconnect between the work hours involved in something and its perceived worth.
Awuku Darko Samuel is a photographer whose work makes use of found objects and the people around him to create striking figural compositions that hover somewhere between narrative and editorial. Finding a way to both accent and highlight his everyday through vivid color and well-defined posing, Samuel infuses his subjects with an otherworldly, rarified air. Pieces like Scope of life (2021) or The metals we won (2021) use cast-off objects like plastic bottles and bike helmets as props to amplify or accentuate the subject. Colors pop and light glints off of the digitally captured skin of his subjects, creating an effect that is more fashion magazine than snapshot but still exhibits a keen attention to the personality of his sitters and their interaction with the objects. Turning his lens on the vibrant energy of the world around him, Samuel shows the viewer an insider’s perspective. Offering intimate moments built up in the glossy tropes and colors of commercial photography (instead of deadpan journalistic shooting), Samuel is able to highlight each subject’s identity and to entice the viewer to spend time getting to know them.
By inviting open discussion about meaning, place, personality, time, and use, both artists craft a larger narrative through seemingly straightforward means. Often the simplest entry point is the best for an audience to more fully immerse themselves in the artist’s world. Happening across one of Loeffler’s doilies on a telephone pole that would otherwise go unnoticed, or becoming transfixed by a gleam in the eye of one of Samuel’s sitters, the casual observer become an invested participant. By challenging the audience’s point of view, both artists provoke a new understanding of the world around them.