SHOWFIELDS x LARRY OSSEI-MENSAH
Larry Ossei-Mensah uses contemporary art as a vehicle to redefine how we see ourselves and the world around us. The Ghanaian-American curator and cultural critics has organized exhibitions and programs at commercial and nonprofit spaces around the globe featuring artists such as Firelei Baez, Allison Janae Hamilton, Brendan Fernandes, Ebony G. Patterson, Glenn Kaino, and Stanley Whitney to name a few.
Larry has collaborated with SHOWFIELDS on this special project, highlighting a group of artists whose work has been personally inspiring to him during these sensitive times. Moreover, this project will provide a platform for sharing of space and dialogue about our current moment.
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your practice:
My name is Larry Ossei-Mensah and I’m a self-taught curator. I’ve been working as a curator for over a decade and have actively focused on using contemporary art as a platform to redefine how we see ourselves and the world around us. I’ve particularly made it a point to help make access to contemporary art something that all can enjoy regardless of background, interest level, and economic status.
My practice has been informed by my personal interest and curiosity within a specific moment. This approach has enabled me to have a heightened level of responsiveness to the world around me in a tangible way. Moreover, I have actively worked to center the voices of artists that have traditionally been relegated to the periphery because of their race, creed, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, psychographics, etc. I have found that these voices have the most to offer and teach us as a society.
What are your parameters for artist selection?
The parameters for me were quite simple.
I wanted to engage with artists that I have a relationship with and have been developing an ongoing dialogue with via their practice. Some of the artists that are being featured I have their work in my personal art collection and others I’m continuing to learn by participating in a rich ongoing conversation that informs my understanding of their practice and mine as a curator.
What kind of artwork is relevant to our generation and the times we are living?
That is hard to say. At the end of the day with all the uncertainty in our world, I think it is important to engage with artwork that you enjoy and find comfort in. As long as the work is saying something that is meaningful, interesting, and challenging how we see the world, you can’t go wrong.
Tell us about this curation for SHOWFIELDS: conceptually, aesthetically, etc.?
For me, I was interested in celebrating and collaborating with emerging artists who I’m excited about. With the precarity of this moment, I believe this group of artists all make work that is affirming, interesting, and will bring joy to the lucky collectors who will welcome these works into their home. The selection is mostly figurative, but it really was about artists whose work brings a smile to my face. I wanted to do me part to offer a little levity during what has been a challenging time for all of us.
What is your advice for art lovers and appreciators looking to start their own art collections?
Firstly, as cliche as it may sound, buy what you love. There is artwork for all price budgets and tastes, so don’t be bashful but make sure that you are financially realistic about what you can afford.
Secondly, look at A LOT of art! I would suggest training your eye and doing some in-depth research in order to gain an understanding of what kind of work you like. Tools like Instagram, the various viewing rooms online, Showfields, etc are all great resources to educate yourself and discover some amazing work.
Thirdly, HAVE FUN! The visual arts is one of the most enriching creative gifts one can engage with. Furthermore, during this time it is imperative that we support all artists the best way we can because they are the lifeblood of our society.