Brooklyn-Based Artist Olalekan Jeyifous Imagines a New York Transformed by Climate Change

Camille Okhio
·2 min read

Imagine a New York where the climate crisis has intensified so much so that the government has limited human mobility in order to curtail emissions—where Black coders have in turn taken over the MTA, commandeering its subways and trains for the disenfranchised. This is the poignant, dystopian reality conjured by the Brooklyn-based artist Olalekan Jeyifous for the Museum of Modern Art’s upcoming show “Reconstructions: Architecture and Blackness in America,” opening February 20.

Jeyifous, one of 10 artists who completed newly commissioned work for the exhibition, opening February 20.
Jeyifous, one of 10 artists who completed newly commissioned work for the exhibition, opening February 20.

Blending analog and digital collage, Jeyifous has created Frankencityscapes, often piled high beyond comprehension, twisting what we know into what could be. “Digital media are very quick, but analog and collage add dimensionality to the work,” he explains. “It comes back to the hand and the eye, which evoke a labor of love and craft.” For the exhibition, Jeyifous explored what he calls the “vanishing urban ephemera and architecture of Brooklyn,” spaces like storefront churches, bodegas, and community centers that are being culturally anesthetized or erased by gentrification. But fantasy holds just as much importance as fact: Sci-fi narratives that have long colored the recesses of the artist’s mind (namely Octavia E. Butler’s Xenogenesis trilogy and the writings of China Miéville) enter the work alongside themes of sacrifice, washing grim visions of the future with hope and wonder.

Space, land, the ways each are apportioned and navigated—these are the central concerns of “Reconstructions,” which includes multidisciplinary work by 10 Black talents, among them artist Amanda Williams and AD100 landscape architect Walter Hood, as well as photography created by David Hartt in response. “Architecture is at the heart of the show,” says MoMA associate curator Sean Anderson. “It is architecture that is not specifically about buildings, but about how the architecture of certain spaces is emblematic of anti-Black racism.” Representations range from drawings to text to computer animations. “Anything,” Anderson notes, “from a spice rack to a spaceship.” moma.org —Camille Okhio

Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest