Mint Museum of Craft + Design

Mint Museum of Art

Mint Museum of Craft + Design

Charlotte, NC



New Frontiers: Kojo Griffin

August 21 - November 14, 1999


The work of Atlanta artist Kojo Griffin ranges from psychological portraits to painted parables. Griffin is the second artist featured in the New Frontiers series, dedicated to providing critical attention to emerging regional artists through solo museum exhibitions. New Frontiers: Kojo Griffin opens August 21st and runs through November 14th, 1999 at Charlotte's Mint Museum of Art.

Griffin's playful, whimsical figures, often in the guise of animals, initially attract the viewer's attention and create a sense of ease. The figures are situated on abstract ground further layered by geometric patterns in the form of cutouts or block prints. The repetitive symbols visually balance and support the fantastic cast of characters. Woven above and below these figures is a network of machinery parts, connecting the often-disparate elements.

The ease and comfort of the viewer's cursory first glance shifts with the realization of a tension between initial perception and evolving reality.

Griffin's multi-layered work is a visual translation of the anxiety, depression and alienation present in the human condition. Having majored in child psychology at Morehouse University, Griffin continues to explore the interconnections of events and feelings on canvas. Many of his works deal with incidents that inflict deep psychological scars - physical and sexual abuse, rejection and neglect. Some of his painted scenarios come from his own life experience. In an untitled recent work, a solo figure with an elephant head sits hunched and gloomy, alone on a bench, in contrast to a couple walking arm in arm in the distance. The elephant boy is the overweight and lonely young Griffin growing up in Boston. The elephant figure represents the story of Ganesha who shared the light and beauty of Krishna beneath his ugly exterior. Griffin's parable encourages the viewer to look beyond the surface to find the awards of divinity.

The titles of Kojo Griffin's recent paintings originate from passages in I Ching. The system of divination in I Ching takes its primary concern from the polarities that structure the universe - the yin (feminine, passive, gentle) and the yang (masculine, active, powerful). The need to consider the interconnectedness of worldly and divine actions and relationships dominates I Ching whose teachings are meant to offer direction. In adapting I Ching references in his titles, Griffin also offers guidance.

The protagonists in the artist's painted dramas are aggregate beings. Their physical representations are bits and pieces, as if a quilt. The figures give no implication of race or social status. They are representative of universal human behavior or behavior that all humans are capable of. In peeling away the symbolic layers in Griffin's work, parables emerge. Even the ominous figures engaged in suggestive or repugnant behavior suggests a depth worth exploring further.

Images from top to bottom: #48, The Well; Untitled (Man + Boy); She Brushed My Hair Before Church, 1999

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