Critics’ Picks

View of “Christian Nyampeta: École du soir” (The Evening Academy), 2019.

View of “Christian Nyampeta: École du soir” (The Evening Academy), 2019.

New York

Christian Nyampeta

44-19 Purves Street
September 16–December 16, 2019

The Rwandan-born artist Christian Nyampeta has been steadily propagating his scriptoria, or places for writing, across the globe. Furniture, architecture, sculptures, and paintings are incorporated into active environments for the translation of African philosophers’ works. Such acts, in conjunction with the artist’s constructed settings, beg an urgent question: How do we live together? His solidarity-minded projects have earned him greater recognition in Europe, but twenty-five years after the hideous violence of the Rwandan genocide against the Tutsi, amid renewed debates about collectivity in the New York art world, it is high time for Nyampeta’s first solo museum exhibition in the United States, “École du soir (The Evening Academy).

The Senegalese filmmaker Ousmane Sembène believed cinema was a place for after-hours learning, a democratic night school for the dissemination of radical ideas. Nyampeta’s extracurricular institute convenes here to translate texts by theorist Isaïe Nzeyimana, who proposes that conflict occurs only when individuals hold something in common. Nyampeta’s tables and stools—in vivid tones of azure, red, and purple—are the material substrates for subtle systems of activism. And their humbleness of form is similar to the best examples of Enzo Mari’s DIY Marxist furniture. Though comfort is not Nyampeta’s primary goal, his use of painted MDF creates a relatively splinter-free experience. His objects and furniture become signal instances of resourcefulness.

In SculptureCenter’s courtyard, visitors can rest or reflect in a steel “hosting structure,” a polyformic pavilion dotted with shaped panels, replete with diagrams, images, and excerpts of the artist’s own writing. Nyampeta’s art creates a quiet, intellectualized setting for unity, a place that conjures the warmth of floating, momentarily, in a utopia of one’s own construction.