A MAKER PODCAST exclusive interview with Afro-French Fine Artist, Alexis Peskine
"I am privileged in that I can express my anger and frustration through my art... a lot of people don't have that."
Alexis Peskine is tall, really tall, basketball player tall. At 6.5 ft, he left his native Paris at seventeen to play college basketball in the United States on a NIKE scholarship.
Today, he holds three art degrees. He is also very soft-spoken, kind, and generous. I had the privilege of spending an hour with Alexis at the AKAA (Also Known As Africa) art fair in Paris in November 2017.
Strolling through the fair with Alexis, he seemed to know and have a congenial relationship with every artist and spectator we encountered.
This is a man who listens calmly and blends various forms of information together with intense finesse and artistic flair.
Standing in front of his works, one can feel the power of Alexis’ intent emanating from the wood.
He seems to be channeling the wisdom of his ancestors into his work.
Alexis was exposed to the fractious ideas of identity and race from an early age. His grandfathers, Boris, a Jewish engineer who survived a concentration camp, and Antonio, an Afro-Brazilian carpenter, raised his family in the inner city of Salvador, Bahia.
Sometimes, as with his Power Figures Series, he approaches these topics with a hammer and a nail in a form of art called, ”Accu-painting.*”
The Accu-painting technique involves hammering nails into a surface at different heights or lengths then applying gold leaf to represent skin tone and staining with coffee.
His work explores various aspects of the Black Experience and the African Diaspora in the contemporary world. Via his art, he addresses the formidable topics of deportation, immigration, institutionalized racism, identity and race.
“Power Figures are not specific subjects, they represent millions of people, millions of stories, different stories, beauty, resistance, ingenuity, creativity, anger, frustration, power, protection, and ancestry, the ancestors that protect me and protect us.
They also represent history and struggle in our world, friction, and aspirations for something better, but also tiredness, being tired of the world’s current state of affairs. It is a departure; it is like an escape and at the same time an affirmation.”
-Alexis Peskine as told to Raquel Villar-Pérez of Africanah.org
His powerful portraits literally nailed into wooden planks pay tribute to the many individuals undertaking the dangerous boat journeys from Africa to Europe.
Using several sizes of nails, he uses the nail as brushstroke. He drives in the nails at different depths to create a sense of relief and to introduce a third dimension.
The nail for Alexis represents transcendence. It expresses pain, as well as the force of resistance.
Alexis holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Howard University, Washington, DC and a Master of Arts in Digital Arts and a Master of Fine Arts from M.I.C.A., Baltimore, Maryland, USA. He has won a number of prizes including the prestigious Fulbright Scholarship.
His works have been exhibited in the USA (New York, Washington, Baltimore, Detroit, Chicago, Hartford, Minneapolis), Europe (Paris, Luxembourg), Africa (Dakar, Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town, Casablanca, Addis Ababa), South America (Salvador, Bahia, Brazil) and the Caribbean (Kingston).
He has participated in many renowned international exhibits including the 3rd Black Arts World Festival in Dakar, Addis Foto Fest, Frieze, New York, Pulse New York, AKAA (Also Known As Africa), Afriques Capitales, La Villette, Paris, France, and 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair, London, U.K. Casablanca and Dakar’s Biennales and Miami Art Basel’s Prize exhibit.
Alexis has been featured in many publications from books, to prestigious newspapers such as the New York Times, Le Monde, O Correio da Bahia or Libération.
(Biographical information courtesy of October Gallery)
Alexis Peskine is represented by October Gallery, London.
MAKER would like to thank:
Fraser Brough and Jack of October Gallery for their kindness and generosity in sharing Alexis’ work and biographical details with us.
Learn more about October Gallery here : http://www.octobergallery.co.uk/
To learn more about Alexis Peskine’s technique of painting with nails, please see his interview with Raquel Villar-Pérez for http://africanah.org/alexis-peskine-power-figures/