With a full range of lifestyle products available for purchase on her website, it seems Uzo Njoku can make just about anything into art. You can find her work on yoga mats, planners, iPhone cases, mugs, scarves, tees and much more.
Regardless of the medium, the Nigerian American artist always stays true to her prevailing theme – striking compositions about Black living with an emphasis on femininity.
In her painting The Neighborhood, she cuts vertically, showing a slice of life in a building filled with black tenants. Here she combines her super-humanly crisp lines with more impressionistic strokes for the bits of green nature that frame the scene. Her colors are bold and stunning – deep blacks against bright, poppy primaries.
The buildings in this painting are real. Uzo grew up in the DMV (short for the combined Washington DC, Maryland, Virginia) area and has witnessed the rapid gentrification of the last ten to twenty years.
In this painting, she asks, “What if black bodies weren’t priced out of their homes? What if the streets bustled with activity and energy like they used to?”
With prices for prints of The Neighborhood starting at only $20 USD, Uzo also asks what if good art was affordable?
Here’s what she told us in our full feature on the artist herself…
Uzo is a bit of a maverick in her field. While that first show was a success, she received backlash from collectors who felt she pandered too much to the commercial side of art. “I do prints to maintain accessibility to my work,” she explains. “I do know my originals are getting more and more expensive, so I try to keep the cost of prints the exact same.” She has indeed kept the prices the same since 2019. Collectors and critics have tried to persuade her to abandon this. “They try to tell me no, I have to stop, people are not going to buy the originals,” she adds. Her iconic painting, Good Times, featuring a black woman in a large bucket hat that hides her face down to her smile, sold out instantly despite prints being widely available. “They didn’t think it would sell… It was the first thing to sell out,” she smiles.