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 Yusuf Adebayo Cameron Grillo  (1934 - )

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Lived/Active: Nigeria      Known for: paintings

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from Auction House Records.
African Woman with Gele
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
Biography from Bonhams Bond Street:
Please note: Artists not classified as American in our database may have limited biographical data compared to the extensive information about American artists.

Born in 1934 in the Brazilian Quarter of Lagos, Yusuf Grillo went on to become one of the most influential figures in Nigerian art.  After studying extensively in Nigeria and the United Kingdom, Grillo became the Head of Art and Printing at Yaba College of Technology, a post he retained for over twenty-five years.  During this period he has received a number of public commissions; his mosaics and stained glass can be seen in churches, universities, government buildings across Lagos, and most recently at the Murtala Mohammed International airport.

Grillo was a member of the Zaria School, a society founded in 1958, a year before Nigeria's independence.  The movement was motivated by a desire to create a 'national style', an aesthetic that was not wholly grounded in Western artistic traditions.   The Nigerian landscape and Yoruba people are thus frequent subjects of Grillo's work. His painting The Flight depicts a young family in native Yoruba dress, seated on a bicycle.  The artist began the work during the Civil War. The sight of civilians abandoning their homes to escape the soldiers reminded Grillo of the flight of the Holy Family from Israel to Egypt.  Indeed, the young family in the painting carry a saw along with their baggage, a symbol of Joseph's profession as a carpenter.  The elongated and geometric figures are stylized almost to the point of abstraction, yet they never lose their humanity.  The generous folds and drapery of the couple's dress, balance the angular geometry of their bodies.  This rejection of photographic realism allows Grillo to present these Yoruba as "the contemporary ideal of beauty", all elegance and grace.

Bibliography: P. Dike & P. Oyelola, The Zaria Art Society, (Lagos, 1998), pp.87-96.

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