Archive | October, 2015

NNENNA OKORE in “The Contemporaries” at the Wheatbaker in London

21 Oct


The Nation logo Nigeria

Contemporaries holds at Wheatbaker

Contemporaries holds at Wheatbaker

As the global art world gathers in London next week for Frieze, tagged one of the “blingiest” art fairs in the world, The Contemporaries, an exhibition showcasing works by eleven cutting edge Nigerian contemporary artists, attracted much interest when it opened at the Wheatbaker boutique hotel, penultimate Monday. It will run till November 13 and is supported by Veuve Cliquot.

The exhibition of 21 paintings, sculptures, drawings, and mixed media works is a timely reflection of current trends in Nigeria and makes stirring and sometimes, tongue-in-cheek, comments about a nation expectant of change. The Wheatbaker’s fall exhibition The Contemporaries, showcases leading and emerging artists including Nnenna Okore, Duke Asidere, Uchay Joel Chima, Gerald Chukwuma, Raoul Olawale da Silva, Anthea Epelle,  Taiye Idahor , Chika Idu , Adeyinka Akingbade, Tony Nsofor,  and Onyeama Offoedu-Okeke.

A kaleidoscope of art that offers fresh perspectives on environment and development issues, feminism, unity, identity, history & tradition, and freedom of expression, draw on the artists’ unique heritage and perspectives. The exhibition is a robust exchange of ideas challenging its audience not to merely “think outside the box”, but to literally “stand on the box” and use it as platform to behold new vistas.

Sculptor and environmental activist, Uchay Joel Chima, whose skillfully crafted charcoal and paper relief addresses rampant environmental degradation and security challenges is juxtaposed  against the masterly paintings of children swimming under-water created by Chika Idu, who tried to escape the nightmare of traffic gridlocked streets by relying on water transportation, only to be confronted with the daily struggles of coastal communities affected by dredging, pollution, flooding and all forms of urban pressure.

Artist, historian and architect Onyema Offoedu-Okeke, presents Obstacles to Paradise on the theme of global migration showing the desperate fragmented surge of humanity across geometric paths of color and symbol, while master sculptor Gerald Chukwuma’s ironic multi-media work,CHOP, created out of an intricate pattern of plastic spoons on wooden slats, makes a strong comment on the social cancer of corruption and the growing gap between Africa’s well heeled elite and the increasingly disadvantaged poor; in the artist’s own words, there is “plenty food, plenty spoons and empty plates”.

“Art reflects society within a constantly evolving socio-political reality,” explains exhibition curator Sandra Mbanefo Obiago, who started documenting the impact of contemporary Nigerian art in 2011 in a five part documentary series, Red Hot Nigerian Creativity, she produced and co-directed. “Its exciting to see how the contemporary art scene is making a positive impact on our international identity and confidence as Nigerians, as Lagos fast becomes one of the most-talked-about emerging global art cities.”

The Contemporaries is offering visitors works which exhibit inspirational bold abstract human forms created by painters Raoul Olawale da Silva and Tony Nsofor, alongside the unusual biomorphic sculptures and installations created by internationally celebrated Nnenna Okore, in which twine, burlap,  and discarded newspapers touch on recycling, transformation and regeneration inspired by natural and man-made conditions within semi rural dwellings.

The Washington City Paper reviews Charles Williams’ ‘Swim’

15 Oct

Arts Desk

Charles Williams’ ‘Swim’ at Morton Fine Art, Reviewed

Lost and Found

You can be forgiven if your eye wanders in “Swim,” Charles Williams’ current solo show at Morton Fine Art. Between the clutter of the gallery and the works themselves—closely hung bursts of contrast in black and white—there is a lot to digest. But it’s impossible even for passersby to miss the centerpiece of the exhibition, Lost and Found #1, an immersive six-by-eight-foot canvas depicting frothy waves at night in photorealistic detail. The painting, mostly in black, simultaneously beckons and unnerves. 

Williams’s interest in water as a theme derives from his lifelong fear of swimming. He attributes the phobia both to his experience of nearly drowning at age 11 and to the racial stereotypes surrounding swimming that he faced growing up black in South Carolina. In the handful of fragmented self-portraits on view, Williams, who still doesn’t know how to swim, depicts himself variously in goggles, pool floaties, and wearing a towel draped over his head.

While the towel-as-hoodie is Williams’ most overt reference to the idea of swimming pools as sites of racial tension, race permeates the exhibition in other ways.  In some portraits Williams’ face floats disembodied, fracturing at its edges into individual brushstrokes in black and brown. It’s a literal deconstruction of the artist’s skin color—and the various tones and associations, including fear, that come with it.

The exploration of black is further developed in nearby paintings from theNighttime series, in which Williams has painted waves in a heavy black impasto over backgrounds of the same color. These smaller paintings, as well as the artist’s closely cropped monochrome seascapes on Mylar, deserve a closer look. Unfortunately, the installation gives them little room to breathe. Viewers are better off focusing on the large-scale work; the tide will carry you from there.

“Swim” runs until Oct. 13. 1781 Florida Ave. N.W.

Charles Williams, Lost and Found 1, 72″x 96,” oil on canvas, Courtesy of Morton Fine Art

CHARLES WILLIAMS’ “Swim” reviewed in Washington Post

13 Oct


the washington post logo

In the galleries: No day at the beach

Swim, 30"x30", oil on panel

A self-portrait by Charles Williams in the exhibit “Swim,” at Morton Fine Art. (Courtesy Charles Williams and Morton Fine Art)
By Mark Jenkins October 9 at 11:57 AM
In the self-portraits of “Swim,” Charles Williams presents himself in goggles and other aquatic paraphernalia, his muscles taut and his skin burnished. The South Carolina artist, however, isn’t bragging about his prowess in the water. He actually has a powerful fear of it, in part because of a childhood incident in which he nearly drowned. The three series gathered in this Morton Fine Arts show are quite different, but all address Williams’s fraught relationship with the sea.

The largest works are realistic paintings of yellow sand and frothy surf under night skies. These are based on photos Williams took while wading in the water and experiencing — the show’s catalogue reports — “shallow breaths, a quickened heartbeat and trembling hands.” That anxiety is not conveyed by the pictures, which are calm and precisely rendered, even if the blackness above the water does indicate that this is no day at the beach.

Even darker are the small oils of waves at nighttime, entirely in black. The water’s motion and contours are depicted entirely by line and texture, and visible only when the light hits at a suitable angle. These paintings resemble engravings and bas-relief sculptures.

Although Williams is no impressionist, the self-portraits are a bit looser than his large surf pictures. Most of them are painted on Mylar, which lacks the absorbency of canvas and thus gives a more immediate appearance. Sheer white, apparently representing harsh sunlight, obliterates areas of the image. These ephemeral qualities, however, are countered by the strength of the artist’s features and form. Even when the subject is simply water and air, Williams’s style always feels substantial.

Swim: Charles Williams On view through Oct. 13 at Morton Fine Art, 1781 Florida Ave. NW. 202-628-2787.


Lost and Found 4, 72"x96", oil on mylar

Charles Williams. “Lost and Found 4.” (Courtesy Charles Williams and Morton Fine Art)

Images of CHARLES WILLIAMS opening reception for “Swim”

8 Oct
A solo exhibition of oil paintings by CHARLES WILLIAMS
Friday, September 25th – October 13th, 2015


Morton Fine Art (MFA)
1781 Florida Ave NW (at 18th & U Sts)

Washington, DC 20009


Tuesday – Saturday 11am – 6pm
Sunday 12pm-5pm


In Swim, his debut solo exhibition at Morton Fine Art, North Carolina based painter, CHARLES WILLIAMS explores deeply personal themes of aquaphobia and stereotypes of swimming and African Americans in the South. Swim expands on his solo Swim : An Artist’s Journey recently on view at The Franklin G. Burroughs-Simeon B. Chaplin Art Museum.



Click here for available artwork by CHARLES WILLIAMS.

Morton Fine Art, 1781 Florida Ave NW, Washington, DC 20009

(202) 628-2787,