Precious Okoyomon: A Visionary Voice in Contemporary Art

Precious Okoyomon, born in 1993 in London, England, is a Nigerian-American artist, poet, and chef whose innovative and thought-provoking work spans various mediums, including installations, sculptures, performances, and poetry. Residing in New York City, Okoyomon’s multifaceted practice investigates themes such as the racialization of the natural world, Christianity, intimacy, and the complex interplay between life, death, and time. Their art is deeply personal, drawing from family history, queerness, and the internet, often incorporating recurring motifs like angels, the sun, and trees.
Precious Okoyomon

Early Life and Education

Growing up, Okoyomon moved from London to Cincinnati, Ohio, at the age of eleven. They later attended Shimer College in Chicago, where they studied pataphysics, or the physics of the imagination. During college, Okoyomon worked at the three-star Michelin restaurant Alinea, where they honed their skills in the culinary arts. Their thesis presentation was a series of experimental dinners featuring dishes like rock soup, served under hanging rope nooses, reflecting their penchant for blending art with provocative themes.

Artistic Exploration and Themes

Okoyomon’s work is known for its exploration of identity and diversity, frequently addressing the intersections of race, queerness, and the natural world. Their installations and sculptures often challenge viewers to reconsider preconceived notions about these themes. For instance, their piece "Making Me Blush" features stuffed animals resembling angels hanging from nooses, a poignant commentary on the historical and ongoing violence against Black bodies. This work suggests that "black life is a mere mobilization of death," highlighting the precariousness and resilience of Black existence.

Major Works and Exhibitions

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Ajebota (2016): Okoyomon’s first book of poetry, "Ajebota," delves into their identity as a Black queer immigrant. The book uses internet shorthand and text abbreviation to engage with the challenges of writing and reading poetry in the digital age. Influenced by poets such as Dana Ward and Juliana Huxtable, "Ajebota" is a complex exploration of identity and class.

I Need Help (2018): In collaboration with artist Hannah Black, Okoyomon created a series of dolls made of raw wool for an exhibition that also featured shredded books. The show "gestures towards a politics or aesthetics based on the underlying and frankly disgusting processes of rot and collapse."

A Drop of Sun Under the Earth (2019): This institutional solo exhibition at LUMA Westbau in Zurich featured lynching tree sculptures and an installation piece circulating cotton and cottonwood seeds through the space like snow. The show also included Okoyomon’s first video work, "It’s Disassociating Season," which explores racialized understandings of evil through tragic comedy.

Earthseed (2020): Curated by Susanne Pfeffer at the MMK in Frankfurt, "Earthseed" is Okoyomon’s largest exhibition to date. The show features the invasive Japanese vine Kudzu, used as a metaphor for Blackness, and six large-scale sculptures made of raw wool. The exhibition envisions a "theology of mutation, flux, and motion," inspired by Octavia E. Butler’s fictional religion in "Parable of the Sower."

Recognition and Impact

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Okoyomon has gained significant recognition in the art world, with works included in the permanent collections of institutions like the Rubell Museum. In 2019, they were nominated for the Paulo Cunha e Silva Art Prize and featured in Cultured Magazine's "30 under 35" list of notable emerging artists. Their work has been described as "brilliant" and "expanding the boundaries of what art can be."

Collaborative Ventures

In 2018, Okoyomon co-founded Spiral Theory Test Kitchen, a queer cooking collective known for its mind-altering and experimental dishes. The collective’s meals are influenced by BDSM, quantum entanglement, and Okoyomon’s Nigerian heritage, creating a unique blend of culinary art that deconstructs societal norms.

Future Projects and Publications

Okoyomon’s second book, "But Did U Die?" is set to be published by Wonder Press in 2020. Eileen Myles praises the book, describing Okoyomon’s work as "pure manifesto, stopping to laugh, it’s bawdy and pretty, handsome, cataclysmic and righteous."

Influences and Inspirations

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Okoyomon’s practice is influenced by a wide range of artists and thinkers, including Pope L., Adrian Piper, Arthur Jafa, and Anicka Yi. Their collaborations and conversations with other artists, such as Rirkrit Tiravanija, underscore the dynamic and interconnected nature of their work.

Precious Okoyomon is a visionary artist whose work challenges and expands our understanding of identity, race, and the natural world. Through their innovative use of various mediums, Okoyomon creates art that is both deeply personal and universally resonant, making them a significant figure in contemporary art.


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