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Modupeola Fadugba, Pink Honey, 2018, acrylic, graphite, and ink on burnt paper, 51 × 72".

Modupeola Fadugba

Gallery 1957

Had Modupeola Fadugba’s latest exhibition, “Dreams from the Deep End,” opened in New York (where it drew its inspiration and subject matter), it would have been hard to see it as about anything but the racial politics of water and swimming in America. With a series of gold-leaf-on-burnt-paper paintings hung on ocean-blue gallery walls (all accompanied by a documentary short), Fadugba told the story of the Harlem Honeys and Bears, an age-fifty-and-older synchronized swim team. Many of the team’s members are in their seventies and eighties, and most began to swim for the first time only in their later years. Fadugba was inspired by historian Jeff Wiltse’s 2007 book Contested Waters: A Social History of Swimming Pools in America.

It wasn’t so long ago that public pools in the United States were racially segregated. After laws upholding this divide were reversed, local governments began

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