Water Kid (Girl), 2020 is one in the second series of elemental figures Shonibare began in 2010, which consisted of a group of works each titled ‘Earth’, ‘Fire’, ‘Water’ and ‘Air’ - the four classical elements believed by the Ancient Greeks to illustrate the complexity of the natural world. A decade after the first series was produced, Shonibare has re-imagined the concept in response to the Climate Change movement and the young activists leading the charge. Water Kid (Girl) depicts a female child figure holding a Victorian water jug aloft as she pours out the last drops of water. A single resin water droplet condenses at the rim of the jug. The references throughout these works to the Victorian era connect to the time period when the British Empire was at its apotheosis. Fittingly, in this period of industrial expansion, when European nations were looking for new markets, cheap labor, and natural resources, Shonibare finds the seeds of the climate crisis we are experiencing today. African nations grew poorer as they were exploited by wealthy Western Empires. Water Kid (Girl) is a way to speak to the resulting urgent issue of global water scarcity.
This work is on view at James Cohan's Lower East Side gallery from December 4th through January 2021.