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Chicago artist gives his past work a re-up in “Re: Chaos W/ Care”

Chicago-based artist Oscar Joyo has made a career out of blending surrealist style with African influences. Joyo’s portraiture aims to capture the different faces found across not only his Malawian heritage, but the African diaspora at large. His upcoming show at A Very Serious Gallery, “Re: Chaos W/ Care,” opens on March 8 and focuses on the balance between the natural and digital worlds through experimental styles.

Avery Heeringa: A lot of your work features really vibrant and rich colors. What made you gravitate toward that color palette as opposed to a more traditional, realistic color palette?

Oscar Joyo: Being a person of color, being Black, and always hearing the term ‘colored,’ growing up, [I was] really interested in that terminology and learning about how black is the absorption of color. I was just like, ‘You know what? Let me just make this a little bit more literal, and just make Black people literal people of color — vibrant, loud, expressive.’ It comes in various mixes and hues, and I feel like each color has its own personality and story. 

Heeringa: You say your work is a “love letter and heritage, and the hope that it will be a better future for people of color.” How do you see yourself integrating these themes and concepts into your work?

Joyo: Especially coming from Malawi, we’re still very unheard of unless you have people that you know are from over there. But I think what I try to do is make Malawi known and that we exist even though we’re a small, impoverished Third World country. I do my best to show there’s a lot of great creativity in other parts of Africa as well. Everyone’s experience is different, we’re not just a monolith. 

Heeringa: Could you tell me about your upcoming exhibit at A Very Serious Gallery? 

Joyo: A lot of my work is very African-driven, very aspirational, colorful. Though the show still is, it’s a lot glitchier, weirder, dialing in on the surreal angle of my work. I just wanna explore and have fun and have little care in the world and just really just explore. That’s what I wanted to do with this body of work again. Have fun, be weird, use a lot of glitching and explore the balance between natural and digital. That’s something I’m really excited about because I’m like, ‘Wow, I get to be weird again. That’s amazing!’

This interview has been edited for clarity and conciseness.

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