moniquemeloche is pleased to present Layo Bright: Rockhaven and is the artist’s first solo exhibition at the gallery.
Bright, a Nigerian-born, New York-based sculptor, explores themes of migration, inheritance, legacy, and identity through hybrid portraits and mixed media. Concerned with mining personal archives and collective experiences, she interrogates how materials shape perception, culture, and politics, drawing inspiration from architecture, plant forms, and ancestry. Working with a range of materials such as glass, clay, wood, and textiles, the artist uses novel material intervention to create space for African narratives.
The exhibition presents a series of glass sculptures which honors Bright’s heritage and familial home in Nigeria, Rockhaven, a safe haven where generations of family members have gathered to celebrate, mourn, and share collective experiences. The exhibition’s main feature, a glass water fountain, is a heraldic symbol for legacy and an ode to sanctuary. Water, symbolic in Nigerian culture for bringing life, reclaims the environment with its rejuvenation properties. As it flows endlessly through each level of the black glass, viewers experience a collective renewal and connection to the depths of our own histories. Through the artist’s personal lens, Bright considers the aspirational act of naming a home and the significance of upholding space within the unpredictable terrains of life.
Also on view are a series of glass works that merge visages with foliage, creating hybrid forms inspired by Greek architectural elements called Caryatids – female figures that are embedded into buildings as architectural support. Encircling the gallery, repeating glass faces adorned with leaves mirror portraits of the artist’s great grandmother Solabomi and grandmother Tinuola, a meditation on women who uphold space, the lives they’ve lived, and the stories they carry. Installed above eye level, the matriline overlooks in silence, embodying oracles of sacred knowledge who bear witness to the passage of time as represented through the functioning glass water fountain installed in the center of the gallery. Titled To Have and to Hold, the glass portraits create opportunity for self-reflection – figuratively as the artist contemplates her own family dynamics, and literally as viewers see themselves reflected within the act of looking. Through these varying levels of perception, a duplicity is revealed as we shift through and contend with the different faces we wear. Concerning the history of African masks, Bright connects the physical with the spiritual where glass becomes a medium for the ancestral powers that animate all things.
Taken together, the works on view mirror fragile, yet complex relationships with the personal, natural, and built environment. Bright’s works examine notions of nurture and legacy, inspired by our unique backgrounds, the fragility of life, and the resilience to survive while navigating complex issues that seem to define us.
Layo Bright (b.1991, Lagos, Nigeria) received her LL.B (Hons.) from Babcock University (2014), was called to the Nigerian Bar Association (2015) and received her MFA in Fine Art (Hons.) from the Parsons School of Design (2018). She is currently an artist-in-residence at the Tyler School of Art + Architecture Glass in Philadelphia, PA. Previous residencies include NXTHVN Fellowship, New Haven, CT; Art Cake, Brooklyn, NY; Triangle, Brooklyn, NY; Flux Factory, Queens, NY; The Studios at Mass MoCA, North Adams, MA; Tri-tryagain Studio Residency, Brooklyn, NY; and International Sculpture Center Sculpture Residency at Grounds for Sculpture, Hamilton, NJ. She is the recipient of numerous honors and awards including the UrbanGlass Winter Scholarship Award (2020 & 2021), the International Sculpture Center’s 2018 Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture Award; and the Beyoncé Formation Finalist Scholarship (2017). Layo has exhibited at Sean Kelly Gallery, New York, NY; Bode Projects, Berlin, Germany; Phillips, NY; Welancora Gallery, NY; Meyerhoff Gallery at MICA, MD; Untitled AWCA, Lagos, Nigeria; Mana Contemporary, IL; Smack Mellon, NY; Lubeznik Center for the Arts, Michigan City, IN, among others. Layo’s work will be featured at an upcoming exhibition A Two-Way mirror: Double Consciousness in Contemporary Glass by Black Artists at the Museum of Glass, Tacoma, WA Fall 2023.