Yikui (Coy) Gu & Eustace Mamba
For the final exhibition of the gallery year, Commonweal has the privilege of featuring mixed media works by Yikui (Coy) Gu and Eustace Mamba. In a world that, over the past century, has developed into a truly global society, approximately 272 million people (1 in 30) live outside their country of birth or citizenship as of 2020. In America, as of 2019, 18.2 million children (1 in 4) had at least one immigrant parent. Both Gu and Mamba are recipients of these legacies as first-generation Americans born to Chinese and Antiguan parents, respectively. Growing up between two worlds - one that situates itself in the private space of family and expatriate community and one in the public sphere - has resulted for them both in a hyper-sensitivity to cultural nuance which they engage within their works to interrogate the politics surrounding the construction (or deconstruction) of identity.
Yikui (Coy) Gu (b. 1983) will be presenting works from his mixed-media autobiographical series Classic Yellow, which uses his wife and himself as subject matter. In probing the specificity, both lived and imagined, of their immigrant Chinese-German marriage, universal truths and absurdities are revealed. The spaces between order and chaos, sincerity and irony, or design and chance are explored using visual elements from the internet, pop culture, and art history. The combination of painting, drawing, and collage, alongside materials ranging from chopsticks to bodily fluids juxtapose against each other, echoing their relationship and serving as a metaphor for it. Through this combination of political, cultural, and domestic imagery, Gu hopes to affirm and subvert the contemporary human condition through a Yellow lens.
Gu has exhibited in solo shows at The Delaware Contemporary, the Chinese American Arts Council (NYC), Capital One Headquarters (Wilmington, DE), the College of Southern Maryland, and Fontbonne University (MO). He has participated in group shows at G.A.S.-Station (Berlin), Central Booking (NYC), The Siena Art Institute, the Center for Contemporary Art (NJ), and the Boston Center for the Arts. His work has been written about in Hyperallergic, the Washington Post, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Art Speil, Yale Daily News, and the New Haven Independent. In June of 2021, Gu’s exhibition at The Delaware Contemporary was reviewed by noted poet and scholar, John Yau, for Hyperallergic. He is currently included in a group exhibit at Washington University in St. Louis alongside Kara Walker, Kehinde Wiley, Sonya Clark, and other nationally recognized artists.
Eustace Mamba (b. 1992) strives in his work to create a world less intimidating and more accessible to - and reflective of - people who historically have been intimidated by, and not positively represented, in the fine arts. Imbued with autobiographical associations to his experience as a first born and first generation child of Antiguan immigrants, his works are a physical extension of his need to record complex contemporary issues through simple expressions. Mamba aims to engage images, stories, and information pertinent to building stronger communities through his works as an active approach to resisting colonial ideals and expectations of fine art.
Mamba is a recent graduate (MFA) of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art. His work has been featured in numerous shows at the latter, as well as at Works on Paper Gallery (Philadelphia) and he was given the opportunity to create an institution at the Philadelphia International Airport from 2021-22. During his time at the Academy he was the recipient of numerous awards and honors including the 2020 Faculty Award, the 2020 Philadelphia Mayor’s Award as well as The Judith McGregor Caldwell Purchase Prize for the Museum at Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. Mamba’s works reside in prominent local, national and international collections.