African Art Beats | Pascal Konan Forging our Collective Destiny

By East City Art Editorial Team on September 19, 2023

Fri, September 22 2023 — Tue, December 12 2023

Liberté je te chéris , (2023), mixed media on denim, 39 x 27 in, image credit: Pascal Konan
Opening Reception: Friday, September 22 from 6-9pm

Born in 1979 in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, Pascal Konan graduated from the Ecole Nationale des Beaux-Arts (School of Fine Arts – INSAAC) in Abidjan, where he is a professor today. He has exhibited in Abuja, Beirut, Johannesburg, Lisbon, Marrakech, Paris, and Washington DC, and is the recipient of several distinctions and awards. In 2014, he was Laureate of the Prix Christian Lattier, and was offered a residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris.

Konan credits a large part of his artistic process to his precarious childhood in a slum of Abidjan. Since kids like him did not receive presents, ride the merry-go-round, or wear new clothes, they gave a second life to what they found around them: they recycled and repurposed, taking apart and assembling broken bits to build their own toys. It was through these early experiences that Konan honed his curiosity, intuition, and fine motor skills – which would become the basis for his art education.

Echoing the words of Paul Gauguin – “Where do we come from, who are we, where are we going?” – Konan’s work embraces this great space-time voyage of ours, and reflects on where our actions, beliefs, and values take us. In the characters and scenes he depicts, he aims not only to touch at our essence and humanity, which takes shape through individual and collective actions, but also to ponder our social and environmental impact. He is particularly concerned with irresponsible urbanization, poor city management, and e-waste pollution, which he experienced firsthand.

Konan’s visual world explodes with energy and contrast. Colors are juxtaposed with muted tones, light with shade, definite contours with blurred ones. His latest series, which draws from his musical practice, has a lyrical power: a central character is caught in a whirlwind or surrounded by a multitude, represented in a realistic style reminiscent of the great masters of the Renaissance. These characters are sprawled across the artwork’s surface as if in space or on a musical score. With their movements borrowed from classical and contemporary dance, they evoke both a ballet and a symphony. For Konan, each one of us dances on a score with its own rhythm and length, but it’s when we come together that we forge our collective destiny.

Konan works with mixed media on canvas as well as with electronic components (e-waste) on plywood. The artworks created for this exhibit are paintings on denim, the dark support allowing the artist to create beautiful and powerful effects with bleach before applying acrylic paint. The bleach and the electronic components symbolize poor environmental management.

You may read more about the artist and his work at

About African Art Beats: African Art Beats is a gallery of contemporary art whose mission is to introduce audiences to contemporary African art, to showcase the dynamism, imagination, resourcefulness, and talent of the emerging and established artists it represents, and to share the universal messages conveyed through their work – messages that resonate with us, regardless of our background or walk of life.

The exhibit runs September 22 through November 12, 2023.

Opening is Friday, September 22, 6 to 9 pm, as well as Saturday, September 23, and Sunday, September 24, 2 to 6 pm. The artist will be present.

The exhibit will be on view thereafter by appointment.

Opening hours are flexible, weekends included. To schedule a visit, call or text 202 766 2608 or send an email to

African Art Beats is located at 3501 Lowell St. NW. / Instagram