Romuald Hazoumé in Ierland

Romuald Hazoumé
Royal Hospital, Military Road, Kilmainham
February 9–May 15

Romuald Hazoumé, The Last Moines, 2003, plastic, metal, feather, 16 × 6 × 6”.
In the post-Duchampian theater of the readymade, the technically ordinary is elevated by its transposition, through the agency of the artist, into something that not only is valuable but also resides in otherness. In the works of Romuald Hazoumé, interventions also add the element of surprise. Oilcans become faces, masks, and, in the case of Made in Porto-Novo (MIP), 2009, a jazz quartet of instruments, including a trumpet and double bass. A play on the tribal masks that influenced Picasso and Braque, Hazoumé repatriates the motif, both into the African milieu and into the aesthetics of the contemporary art world.

Born and based in Benin, Hazoumé pursues a practice that concerns the realities of life in that African country. Yet even in a Western-oriented art world, his work does not read as an essay on the exotic; instead, his paintings, photographs, and video works have a more universal humanity. The material and subject matter are everyday scenes, though these include the hot red earth of Benin, as well as bicycles and motor scooters laden with massive cargoes of oilcans. These represent the vehicles and fruits of a smuggling trade from the nearby Nigerian oil pipelines. In Hazoumé’s world, lethal accidents are an omnipresent possibility. Even as a voyeur into this universe, one may find a frisson of danger within spectatorship, but there’s beauty too, as well as a technical mastery of composition. These are works of humanity and of art.