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Futurist Dreams and Artful Realities

31 Mar

Artfully Learning

A common foundation behind many great works of architecture is that they combine aesthetically compelling forms to create functioning structures that elevate the way humans live, work and relax. Creating such structures requires a strong visual and conceptual mindset and process, and the flexibility to try many different outcomes before arriving at a finished project. It also necessitates an astute understanding and feel for working with a range of materials and three-dimensional manipulatives, many of which are actually derived from the educational play materials for young children.

The most notable types of these learning toys are called Fröbel’s Gifts, and were designed by Friedrich Fröbel in the mid-eighteenth century to coincide with his opening of the first kindergarten in Blankenburg, Germany, in 1837. Another prominent and widespread example are Caroline Pratt’s Do-With Toys, which were released around 1911. While Fröbel’s Gifts contain abstract forms intended to be used to develop…

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KATHERINE HATTAM | Strange Country, Strange Times | Art Plugged

15 Nov

Katherine Hattam: Strange Country, Strange Times


Katherine Hattam The Great American Novel, 2022

Katherine Hattam
November 16 – December 20, 2022
Morton Fine Art’s
52 O St NW #302
Washington, DC 20001

Strange Country, Strange Times, a solo exhibition of paintings and prints by the artist Katherine Hattam. Incorporating literary and art-historical elements into her work, Hattam’s interiors offer materialist explorations of ultimately psychic space. The artist’s first solo exhibition in the U.S., Strange Country, Strange Times will be on view from November 16 – December 20, 2022 at Morton Fine Art’s Washington, D.C. space.

Katherine Hattam
The Great American Novel, 2022
Katherine Hattam
The Great American Novel, 2022 12 x 17 in.
Mixed media on linen
Courtesy Morton Fine Art and the artist

Brightly shaded walls and windows, collaged book spines and iconographic depictions of native Australian fauna and flora make up much of Hattam’s painterly practice, a lifelong investigation with the domestic interior as its focus. Acknowledging a centuries-long preoccupation with domestic space as both the imaginative site and societal bounds of female artistic production, Hattam’s totemic kitchen tables and charged dining-room chairs recur as motifs throughout her artistic practice, doubly imbued as locations of domestic labor and sites of imaginative longing. Often, windows look out onto fantastic landscapes – a rueful rumination on experiences proffered but withheld.

Katherine Hattam - My Blue Pantheon, 2022
Katherine Hattam My Blue Pantheon, 2022
30 x 23 in.  Oil on linen
Courtesy Morton Fine Art and the artist

In Strange Country, Strange Times, the vibrancy of Hattam’s window-views infiltrates into the domestic interior, reflecting the seeping isolation of the recent pandemic years, when means of travel and discovery were often confined to the mind. Hattam was well-equipped for such conditions: her domestic spaces have always been inveterately imaginative, expanded by (and often literally constructed from) the pages and covers of the books she’s been reading. Her frank pastiche of passing literary and artistic influences onto these interior landscapes discloses the extent to which Hattam views the perception of space as an inherently psychological construction, with internal influences and personal histories governing the way we make sense of even the most familiar room.

Katherine Hattam The Pinch, 2022
Katherine Hattam The Pinch, 2022 30 x 22 in.
Jigsaw woodblock print on paper
Edition 14/15
Courtesy Morton Fine Art and the artist

In 2019, Hattam received a fellowship grant to study at the Australian Print Workshop under master printer Martin King, where she began learning the method of jigsaw woodcut printing, a technique of classical Japanese art that was later adopted by Edvard Munch and Paul Gauguin. Several works in this exhibition were first made at that workshop in the months immediately preceding the pandemic. One of this show’s title works, Strange Country, sets Australian animal life in a landscape originally taken from Giotto.

Reflecting on these portentous prints, Hattam notes that the pandemic allowed her to recognize the isolation implicit to living in Australia, a condition of being which she has often imposed into her art. Hokusai’s Great Wave off Kanagawa (1831), another woodblock print, is insterted regularly throughout Hattam’s work here, alternately as window views or paintings-within-paintings, and represents for the artists a mentality of time – waves of feminism, waves of coronavirus – that embraces natural rhythms based on a sense of tidal flow.

Learn more about Katherine Hattam

©2022 Katherine Hattam

Art plugged

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Introducing Japanese Artist HIROMITSU KUROO | Morton Fine Art

19 Jul


(Japan & New York, b. Japan)

Hiromitsu Kuroo is a collage painter working in the tradition of origami. In his work, the canvas serves as the paper, and the gentle manipulation of its surface conveys intricate textural landscapes. The multiple layers of colors in his folded canvases are revealed by sanding the canvas surface. Interested in the juxtaposition and vitality of collaged pieces of canvas, he uses them to accentuate other emerging shapes in his compositions.

Rejecting the rigid and competitive world of my youth, I embraced the artistic world, where creativity, individuality and self-expression are held in high esteem. Being a Japanese expatriate in New York, I dually struggle with my cultural identity and my current New York existence. Through my work, I attempt to bridge these two quite different worlds.

My childhood in Kaminagaya exposed me to the scarf dyeing factories on the Ooka River, and the beauty and joy of color–you can find clear nods to my youth in the repeating patterns within my works. The recurrent shapes and colors in my works are sourced from everyday life–natural landscapes, the scenery of the city, conversation with strangers, good books and music all help me materialize my pieces.

I’ve recently begun working on a new series called “Bleach Painting”–the concept is that the works can easily be made anywhere. I make the works primarily with bleach, using as little paint as possible. The ability to create beauty out of limited expression is a characteristic of Japanese culture expressed through many artforms, and as a painter working in the manner of the Origami tradition of paper folding, I wanted to carry that feature into my practice. The canvas serves like paper where the gentle manipulation of its surface conveys intricate textural landscapes. I was inspired to work simply, with bleach, during my travels to Utah and Colorado, where I encountered incredible Native American murals. I enjoy approaching my practice originally, and conceiving of different ways of producing art. – HIROMITSU KUROO, 2022

Hiromitsu Kuroo earned both a BFA and MFA from Tohoku University of Art & Design and has had solo exhibitions at the New York based Tenri Cultural Institute, Gloria Kennedy Gallery, MIKIMOTO NY, Makari and Bronx Community College, as well as the Tokyo-based Gallery Yamaguchi and G-Art Gallery. He was awarded Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grants in 2010 and 2019, Adolph & Esther Gottlieb Foundation Grant in 2022, and the artist residency program for The Golden Foundation in 2019. In 2020, he was interviewed for Forbes Magazine. He has been represented by Morton Fine Art since 2022.

Available Artwork by HIROMITSU KUROO

Morton Fine Art | 52 O St Studios in Washingtonian Magazine

26 Feb


Inside Five DC-Area Working Art Studios

Great spots to connect with the local scene and find one-of-a-kind pieces.




52 O Street Studios. Photograph by Jarrett Hendrix.

Though it’s not always obvious where to find them, Washington is full of working art studios. Here are a few spots where many artists create under one roof. Some have public hours; others are by appointment only. All are excellent places to support the local scene and procure one-of-a-kind pieces.

1. 52 O Street Studios

52 O St., NW

This enclave of artists in Truxton Circle has been around since the 1970s. The brick-faced former factory houses about 50 creatives, including painters, photographers, and fashion designers. The best way to get a sense of the work being made there is on Instagram—follow @52ostreetstudios. Pre-pandemic, the studios would occasionally open up for events. These days, you can make an appointment with individual artists. The building is also home to two galleries: Homme, which features local work by independent and emerging artists, including from the studios upstairs, and Morton Fine Art, a gallery that shows pieces by 25 artists around the world, including contemporary art from Africa and the African diaspora.

Pyramid Atlantic Art Center. Photograph by Stereo Vision Photography.

2. Pyramid Atlantic Art Center

4318 Gallatin St., Hyattsville

A huge concentration of artists can be found along the Route 1 corridor stretching from Mount Rainier to Hyattsville. While there are hundreds of studios and artist collectives in the aptly named Gateway Arts District, few are as publicly accessible as Pyramid Atlantic, which is open five days a week and specializes in printmaking and papermaking. Among its offerings: 17 private art studios, a gallery (where most of the art is under $1,000), community studios that can be rented by the hour, and a shop selling work by the resident artists (visits to their studios are by appointment). More info here.

Torpedo Factory. Photograph by Ja’Mon Jackson/City of Alexandria.

3. Torpedo Factory Art Center

105 N. Union St., Alexandria

The nation’s largest community of open artist studios under one roof isn’t in Brooklyn or Oakland. It’s in Old Town. More than 165 artists work in the former munitions factory on the waterfront. Before Covid, their spaces were accessible to the public much of the week. While the building is still open five days, the hours of individual artists are now understandably spottier. So if there’s particular work you want to see, best to schedule in advance. Profiles of the artists—who run the gamut of styles and mediums—are on their website.

Stable Arts. Photograph courtesy of Stable Arts.

4. Stable

336 Randolph Pl., NE

In 2019, right before the pandemic, 25 working studios plus a gallery opened in this repurposed horse stable in Eckington. Though the unfortunate timing means Stable has flown mostly under the radar, a peek inside would reveal dozens of resident artists producing collage, paintings, sculpture, and photography. The studios are closed to the public right now, but executive director Maleke Glee is planning programming in the spring and summer. He says there will be art and crafts for kids so parents can peruse artwork and chat with the artists. Join Stable’s mailing list and learn about its residents here.

5. Arlington Arts Center 

3550 Wilson Blvd., Arlington

In addition to a wide selection of classes for kids and adults, the nonprofit hosts a dozen resident artists, who work in onsite studios. The current cohort includes painters, photographers, sculptors, and mixed-media artists. You can learn about them and find their contact information on their website. They show work publicly in the facility’s Wyatt Residence Artist Gallery and, a few times a year (Covid permitting), during exhibition events. Appointments are required to visit individual studios. The center is also home to eight other galleries that show work from all over.

This article appears in the February 2022 issue of Washingtonian.

OSI AUDU’s solo exhibition “A Sense of Self” reviewed in The Washington Post

11 Jan
Osi Audu’s “Self-Portrait with a Yoruba Hairstyle” in the exhibit “A Sense of Self.” (Osi Audu/Morton Fine Art)

Osi Audu

By Mark Jenkins

January 7, 2022 at 6:00 a.m. EST

Especially when rendered with gleaming graphite, Osi Audu’s hard-edge geometric abstractions evoke high-tech machines. But “A Sense of Self,” the title of the Nigeria-born New Yorker’s show at Morton Fine Art, suggests he has something else in mind. Nearly all the pictures are designated as self-portraits, and often streamline the shapes of West African masks. Audu’s inspiration is the Yoruba idea of “outer and inner head,” according to the gallery’s statement.

The show is divided primarily between monochromatic drawings, executed in gray graphite and black pastel, and brightly colorful paintings, mostly in two contrasting acrylic pigments. Audu distills the forms of masks, headdresses and hairstyles to planes, angles and curves, and positions them on white backdrops that emphasize the images’ seeming three-dimensionality. It would make sense for the artist to translate such pictures into sculpture, and in fact this show is set to include two painted-steel pieces that seem to be closely related to the paintings. (The sculptures didn’t arrive in time to be seen for this review.)

The colors and shapes are usually presented as stark dualities, but not always. “Self-Portrait After Dogon Bird Mask” features four hues rather than two, and the graphite areas in the black-and-gray drawings are made of free, densely overlapping strokes. While inner and outer are elsewhere tidily juxtaposed, the graphite’s intricate textures are intriguingly in-between.

Osi Audu: A Sense of Self Through Jan. 15 at Morton Fine Art, 52 O St. NW, No. 302. Open by appointment.

Available artwork by OSI AUDU

MICHAEL ANDREW BOOKER | Art in Embassies | 3 Questions Video

10 Jan

For over five decades, Art in Embassies (AIE) has played a leading role in U.S. public diplomacy through a focused mission of vital cross-cultural dialogue and understanding through the visual arts and dynamic artist exchange. The Museum of Modern Art first envisioned this global visual arts program in 1953, and President John F. Kennedy formalized it at the U.S. Department of State in 1963. Today, Art in Embassies is an official visual arts office within the U.S. Department of State, engaging over 20,000 participants globally, including artists, museums, galleries, universities, and private collectors. It encompasses over 200 venues in 189 countries. Professional curators and registrars create and ship about 60 exhibitions per year, and since 2000, over 70 permanent collections have been installed in the Department’s diplomatic facilities throughout the world.

Art in Embassies fosters U.S. relations within local communities world-wide – in the last decade, more than 100 artists have traveled to countries participating in AIE’s exchange programs and collaborated with local artists to produce works now on display in embassies and consulates. Going forward, AIE will continue to engage, educate, and inspire global audiences, showing how art can transcend national borders and build connections among peoples.

Available artwork by MICHAEL ANDREW BOOKER.

WAYNE THIEBAUD x VONN SUMNER | Artist to Artist | The Last Interview | Cultbytes

29 Dec


Wayne Thiebaud. The Last Interview

Anna Mikaela Ekstrand

December 28, 2021

Vonn Cummings Sumner, Krazy Mirror, 2021. Oil on panel. 10 x 8 inches. Photo credit: Robert Wedemeyer. Courtesy the artist and Morton Fine Art.

The passing of celebrated California painter Wayne Thiebaud was confirmed by his gallery Aqcuavella on Sunday. “Even at 101 years old, he still spent most days in the studio, driven by, as he described with his characteristic humility, ‘this almost neurotic fixation of trying to learn to paint’,” the statement said.

Thiebaud’s now legendary practice expanded the Pop Art movement, being particularly known for his unique focus on paintings of everyday subject matter – cakes, pies, gumball machines, and highways – inflected with pastel hues and a sense of Americana. These works were staples at major auction house sales; Four Pinball Machines (1920) sold at Christie’s for a staggering $19,1 million in July 2020 and Sotheby’s holds the record for his cakes when Encased Cakes netted $8,46 million in 2019.

Though highly celebrated for his mastery over the painted medium, this last interview reveals the lesser-known influences of cartooning on both his oeuvre and that of peers such as Willem de Kooning and Philip Guston. Particularly loved by his cohort was Krazy Kat—the mid-20th century icon created by George Herriman—in 1990 Thiebaud collaborated with choreographer Brenda Way on a ballet based on the strip in San Francisco.

Krazy Kat reappeared as the titular character of Thiebaud’s former student Vonn Cummings Sumner’s solo show Krazy Times at Morton Fine Art in Washington, D.C. this past November. “I have been so incredibly fortunate to have Wayne as a kind of confidant, a co-conspirator,” says the painter, for whom studio visits with Thiebaud continued throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. On the occasion of Cummings exhibition, he and Thiebaud conducted an interview. Emphasizing the significance of artistic exchange across time, space, and generations and reflective of their decades-long friendship, this conversation dives deep into the trajectories of both artists’ practices, highlighting Thiebaud’s illustrious career and the influence of his mentorship on Sumner, his former student, and their shared interest in Krazy Kat.

Wayne Thiebaud
Portrait of Wayne Thiebaud in Vonn Cummings Sumner’s studio, featuring Sumner’s Krazy Kat paintings in the background. Image courtesy of Vonn Cummings Sumner.

Wayne Thiebaud: How did we get into this Krazy business in the first place?

Vonn Sumner: Well, you introduced Krazy Kat to me, when I was in your Theory & Criticism class. But, I wondered if you remember where and when you first saw Krazy Kat?

WT: When I was in the Army Air Force doing a little strip of my own, about a nondescript, dogface, Army Corporal, who was getting into all kinds of trouble a fellow by the name of Bob Crosby introduced me to the cartoonist George Herriman, the creator of the Krazy Kat strip. Bob tthought my strip was repetitive, full of cliches, and that I should shape up and become acquainted with Krazy Kat. To me it looked like a bunch of nonsense. I had just been to war and was, I guess, 20, 21 years old it was 1942 or 3.

VS: When I was a child, my introduction to any kind of pictures, really, were through children’s book illustrations and then comic books.

WT: For most American painters, that was their experience. They all talked about it, even, of course, Philip Guston. A lot of the people around the New York group were early cartoonists, and fed on American cartoonists and illustrations.

VS: Do you think it was a particularly American phenomenon to grow up looking at those things?

WT: I’ve heard that Picasso and some of the Surrealists were interested in Krazy Kat, but I have no documents to back this claim. They were certainly following Tin Tin, the Belgian cartoon. Regardless of which character we are talking about, the idea of humanity is central. How we can get them somehow to touch on that aspect? Not so much comic, and pratfalls, and actions, but just the aspect of when they are most human. For instance, I never found Nancy [a comic strip character that the artist Joe Brainard used in his artwork] very humane. But humanity runs all the way through Krazy Kat: his vulnerability and his wiseness in the face of naiveté. Such loving characteristics. So, you’ve done some, I think, quite remarkable paintings bringing him into little vignettes, and, mostly him with—and I haven’t seen all of them—but usually he’s somewhat alone, with some action, or with an elephant, or with something. I think they’re very, very well done, and very humane.

VS: When I showed you those first two little Krazy Kat paintings that I did, you spoke about the idea of “painting for the millions.” You quoted someone saying you shouldn’t pick up a pen to start writing without considering the millions, or the masses – the audience.

WT: I think that was Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the German.

Vonn Cummings Sumner
Vonn Cummings Sumner, The Sky is On Fire, 2021. Oil on panel. 18 x 18 inches. Photo credit: Robert Wedemeyer. Courtesy the artist and Morton Fine Art.

VS: Why is does Krazy Kat lend itself to such popularity?

WT: Well, because it’s hard to understand Krazy Kat. What is going on? What is his/her gender? Why is the Southwest such a powerful environment for him? The wide open spaces? The wonderful, unpredictable-ness of the landscape, in terms of particularly American history. So why is that, rather than a more ‘normal’ environment, for Krazy Kat? I think it’s because of the unending possibilities that something like that open space can achieve.

VS: I don’t know if you remember this, Wayne, but you once sent me a postcard, or a little reproduction card from a Morandi show that Paul [Thiebaud] did in San Francisco. You put a Krazy Kat cartoon folded up inside of it and then you made a little note on the envelope, you said: “Krazy Kat and Morandi, an ideal dialectic!” I thought it was exciting as an idea. What if you set up those two as a dialectic, what comes out of that space in between them?

To point it in another direction: I wonder what it is about cartoon characters that allows people to identify with them? In your teaching, you emphasize the role of empathy, in both making paintings and also in looking at them, perceiving them. How do you see the role of empathy relating specifically to Krazy Kat, or why do you think we feel so attached to that little character?

WT: Well at center, it seems to me, is vulnerability. Not ‘sob story’ vulnerability, not too obvious, because he is determined, usually, never to be vulnerable. He resists vulnerability, it seems to me, which is quite a curious characteristic. You hit him on the head with a brick—could not care less! It is as much a ‘love-tap’ as a pain in the head!

VS: Part of what has been the challenge and the goal of doing these Krazy Kat paintings, for me, is to fully leave all of those photographic reference kind of crutches behind, and just work from drawings or memory or invention.

WT: I think that is where the gold lies.

VS: Why? What does memory painting allow for?

WT: It is not fixed. If you think about what you are getting from your memory, and as you begin to use it, all kinds of other things come into it, suddenly; mistakes, aberrations; ‘Gee, I didn’t know that little bump was so effective.’ You start out with one sense, one memory, and it becomes almost a kaleidoscope. There are suddenly all these variants of that one memory. That is the way I think of memory. And, I do not think it depends on just getting something fixed, but almost the opposite. Getting something which allows you to expand, to contract, to change, to color, to enlarge, all of the possibilities of that instance.

VS: So that you can discover something that you did not set out to know, or so that you can surprise yourself?

WT: Exactly. You can know, generally, in advance; but you cannot know, or deal with the surprises, the accidents that inform the work differently than you thought. Some of that can come into Krazy Kat. I do not think he has to be grand and clear. You are doing that, I think, with some effect.

Vonn Cummings Sumner
Vonn Cummings Sumner, Ghosts, 2021. Oil on paper on panel. 12 x 12 inches. Photo credit: Robert Wedemeyer. Courtesy the artist and Morton Fine Art.

VS: I am interested in the idea of this singular character or figure that is both something that we know, something that we can agree on while being built into the world that Herriman was creating that is always changing. This process of becoming or unbecoming and unraveling lends itself well to uncertainty and open-endedness.

WT: Yes.

VS: Returning to incorporating humanity in painting. Ironically, it is through painting this strange cat that is not a cat, actually somehow you are trying to get at our own human vulnerability and hopes and dreams and whimsies and daydreams and nostalgia. All of the things that this amazing character can embody, right?

WT: It is not a simple problem; it is fascinating, challenging, and wonderful to see what happens. So, it is a treat to think of just ‘what is this painting going to look like?’ And, I am trying to make it look as interesting as possible. So that form– the formal order– is sustained, celebrated, and used ruthlessly, to make those paintings special, whatever the direction, whatever the intent. That is more likely than anything to get them into the canon, and the celebration.

Wayne Thiebaud
Wayne Thiebaud, Boston Cremes, 1962. Image courtesy of Crocker Art Museum.

VS: I have decided that I like the question that kind of lurks next to the Krazy Kat paintings– can you even paint this? Or is it really ridiculous and not even worthwhile at all!

WT: [Laughter] That is the confrontation. That is exactly the way I felt trying to paint those damn pies. I could not believe anyone would be interested, on the other hand, I was just like, wow this is fun.


Editor-in-Chief and Principal PR/Digital & Curatorial Services, Cultbytes Building on her experience as an art critic and digital strategist, Anna Mikaela founded Cultbytes to promote interdisciplinary and non-hierarchical cultural criticism. By attracting the leading emerging museum professionals, artists, and art-critics to cover topics close to their heart her aim is to inspire cultural consumption in the public. As the Principal of PR/Digital & Curatorial Services, Anna Mikaela leverages her knowledge, network, and team to find new ways to innovate communications and curatorial practices to benefit her clients. She has held curatorial positions at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Bard Graduate Center, Solomon R. Guggenheim, and the Museum of Arts and Design. She holds dual MA degrees, in Design History, Material Culture, and Decorative Arts from Bard Graduate Center and in Art History from Stockholm University. She undertook her undergraduate studies at Stockholm University, Paris-Sorbonne IV, and London School of Economics and Political Science. 

Available Artwork by VONN CUMMINGS SUMNER

Short Video / Artist Talk by OSI AUDU on his solo exhibition “A Sense of Self” at Morton Fine Art

18 Dec

“A Sense of Self” A solo exhibition of new drawings, paintings and sculpture by OSI AUDU

December 8th, 2021 – January 15th, 2022

Contact the gallery for viewing by appointment, price list, additional information and acquisition.

Complimentary catalogs available upon request.

(202) 628-2787 (call or text)

About “A Sense of Self”

Morton Fine Art is proud to present A Sense of Self, a solo exhibition of new works by Nigerian multimedia artist Osi Audu; on view from December 8, 2021 – January 15, 2022.

Working across drawing, painting and sculpture, Audu considers notions of internal and external dualities, most distinctively, the Yoruba sense of “outer and inner head.” The works–geometric abstractions made alive with vibrant shades of blue, red, green, yellow and black, reflect Audu’s celebration of color as a manifestation of interior human essence. Each of the pieces in A Sense of Self are presented as self-portraits, which Audu articulates to be “the portraits of the intangible self.”

In conversation with classical African aesthetics, Audu’s works examine the human head as an axis of material and subliminal consciousness. In this sense, the artist captures what exists prior to and beyond embodiment, the self outside of matter. Though many of his pieces are rich in color, at their core, each one is a rumination on blackness—that which is imperceivable by the human eye. In works reminiscent of scientific illustrations, Audu gives image to internal expressions of the self, investigating the mechanisms and shapes of the human spirit.

As studies of visceral perception, Audu’s portraits ask questions such as, what might the intangible self look like after donning a Dogon bird mask; or after wearing an Efik headdress? His answer to the former is: four sharp rectangular shapes, with a free-form waved appendage; to the latter: a gently coiled form, with two flat surfaces. To Audu, these questions are neither anomalous nor incidental. Instead, they are essential vehicles for investigating what is nestled between the layers of the mind, body and personal identity that we each understand ourselves to have. A Sense of Self provides a deeply personal visual language for examining the complex structures of being. At once dynamic and uncomplicated, these works leave the audience with questions about themselves.

OSI AUDU received a B.A. in Fine Art with First Class Honors from the University of Ife, Ile-Ife, Nigeria, and an M.F.A. in Painting and Drawing from the University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA. He has been exhibited at, and collected by, public Institutions including the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C., The Newark Museum in Newark, New Jersey, USA, The British Museum and the Horniman Museum, both in London, and the Wellcome Trust Gallery in London. Audu’s work has also been exhibited at the Tobu Museum and Setagaya Museum, both in Japan, the Liverpool Museum in England, the Science Museum in London; and acquired for corporate collections including Microsoft Art Collection, Sony Classical New York and the Schmidt Bank in Germany. Audu has been represented by Morton Fine Art in Washington, D.C. since 2012.

Available artwork by OSI AUDU

AMBER ROBLES-GORDON’s solo “Successions” reviewed in artblog

17 Dec

Amber Robles-Gordon’s anti-colonial quilts and personal histories at American University Museum at the Katzen Center

By Andrea Kirsh

December 17, 2021

An artist’s visit to her mother’s birth place in Puerto Rico awakens her to the complexities of immigration and family – and to the dubious socio-political actions and inactions, by the U.S. government in its far-flung territories. Our reviewer Andrea Kirsh is moved by the powerful collage works and double-sided quilts of Amber Robles-Gordon. The show closed Dec. 12.

Collage landscape with lush green foliage and trees, people with brown skin singing and dancing, and a tall Puetro Rican flag flying high into the star-filled sky.
“y mi bandera vuela mas alto que la tuya,” 2020. Mixed media collage on canvas, 18 x 24 in. Courtesy of the artist.

Amber Robles-Gordon‘s first grade classmates in Arlington, VA bullied her for speaking Spanish, so she learned to speak to her mother in English. It wouldn’t be until middle age that the artist finally visited her mother’s birthplace in Puerto Rico. Successions: Traversing U.S. Colonialism, her solo exhibition at the the American University Museum at the Katzen Center (August 28 – Dec. 12, 2021) in Washington, D.C. was the product of that initial trip and a her return for a six-week residence on the island in 2020.

The exhibition presented two bodies of work. The first, “Place of Breath and Birth” is a series of ten vibrant collages on canvas, all 18 x 24 inches; two, represented by full-scale pigment prints. The collages are constructed from masses of tiny images cut from paper; even the bands of color that form their backgrounds are assembled from minute, colored fragments. And there is a very personal rhythm – like distinctive brushwork – in the way Robles-Gordon arranges the fragments.

Another personal language of Robles-Gordon’s appearing in the fragments is inspired by multiple, non-Western cultural traditions and imagery taken from magazines and photographs. These fragments are used as structuring and framing elements, incorporating the artist’s drawings of detailed and decorative, spiky, geometric patterns. An occasional small trinket or charm adds surface texture, as does the profusion of tiny, sparkly beads which outline the central, circular forms on each collage. The beads and high-keyed colors capture the intense sunlight of the Caribbean and lend a festival-like quality to the series.

Robles-Gordon culls her imagery from photographs she took in Puerto Rico or found elsewhere that evoke its lush, intensely-polychromed environment – both natural and human. While on the island, she was fascinated by the rubber trees and palms, the coconuts and mangos, street murals and public art. The titles of individual collages suggest the range of topics that were prompted by her visits: “Observation of Influencers: Taino culture and heritage, the climate and machismo,” “For bioluminescent bays and turtles.”

Her long-time interest in spirituality and syncretic, New World religious practices inspire aspects of the collages’ format, which the artist likens to personal altars. The imagery of fruit and floral offerings, flickering candles and the crystalline forms of her drawing run throughout the series and reinforce their spiritual associations. She includes photos of herself – both earlier and contemporary images – in several collages, and there is no question that the series itself is a diary of self-discovery.

Abstract collage artwork with a Venn Diagram in the center, which contains a woman with brown skin and black curly hair posing in front of a painting of Jesus Christ in one circle, and the same portrait of Jesus Christ in the other, but in this version, Jesus's face is covered by a star; surrounding the Venn Diagram are strips of color with religious imagery in them.
“Reflexiones sobre el yo, la virgen maría y el colonialismo,” 2020. Mixed media, collage on canvas, 18 x 24 in. Courtesy of the artist.

Quilts of pointed anti-colonial critique

If the collages capture Robles-Gordon’s connection to her ancestral culture in the form of personal, spiritual reflection, the second part of the exhibition responded to her developing political understanding of Puerto Rico’s position as a U.S. Territory. The works are a public forum in which to teach, to encourage discussion, to heal, and to begin building a congregation of territorial residents. Six, large, double sided, appliqued quilts hung throughout the high-ceilinged gallery. The installation, which gave its name to the exhibition, was titled “Successions; Traversing U.S. Colonialism.” The quilts include dense references to histories that have yet to be acknowledged and the dark underside of U.S. power. Their format entangles the conventionalized emblems of history and patriotism with the domestic craft of quilting, the masculine pursuit of territory and power with a feminine tradition of healing.

On one side of each quilt Robles-Gordon addresses political history, with references to each of the U.S. Territory’s flag or seal, as well as to the exploitation of its indigenous people for medical experimentation, military support and economic interests; on the other side she constructs an altar dedicated to healing the damage of historical exploitation and the racism which underpins it. Both sides bear central medallions; they are greatly enlarged versions of the circles in the collages, and make references to the circle as a foundational religious image and form of celebration – to healing circles and ceremonial dancing. The healing altars are constructed with the same spiky, geometric patterning that Robles-Gordon used in the collages, and all have hieratic, symmetrical designs. Here they suggest abstracted figures of deities, and their patterning makes reference to a variety of Afro-diasporic and non-Western decorative histories seen in painting, textiles and ceramics. Although painted, they appear to be drawings in chalk on black backgrounds, which suggests religious images in various cultures which are intended to be temporary.

The timing of Robles-Gordon’s residency in Puerto Rico reinforced her understanding of the disparity between U.S. government support to the island after the overwhelming damage from Hurricanes Maria and Irma in 2017, and the level of disaster relief Americans have come to expect on the mainland. This understanding, in turn, led to her interest in the U.S. Territories as a group; areas under United States dominion with the highest percentage of poverty, where the government has exploited resources and sited strategic military bases, with little concern for the inhabitants – all people of color, who are largely, only nominally U.S. Citizens. The territories function, rather, as U.S. colonies.

Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the Virgin Islands, and the Northern Mariana Islands are unfamiliar to many on the mainland United States. Few Americans know that their residents are U.S. Citizens with the right to vote – although they lack full representation in Congress. Robles-Gordon included Washington, D.C., her current home, among the territories because it’s residents, too, fall under U.S. jurisdiction but have no fully-empowered Congressional representative.

Robles-Gordon used her childhood bullying as a spur to understanding her own cultural traditions, and it is characteristic of her long-developed career of teaching and producing art that she didn’t respond to the history of territorial exploitation with rage, but with honesty, offering understanding, teaching and healing as a foundation on which to advocate for social justice in the outlying regions of the United States and in powerless communities internationally. The sense of spirituality and turning towards a better future pervades her work as much as her personally-developed language of forms and patterns, use of repurposed materials, passionate polychrome, and fusion of visual traditions.

Amber Robles-Gordon, “Successions: Traversing U.S. Colonialism” is now closed. It was on view at the American University Museum at the Katzen Center in Washington, D.C., August 28–December 12, 2021.

Collage abstract artwork that uses symmetry and intricate linework, giving the feel of a blueprint, but one that is energetic and full of life and plant imagery.
“The eternal altar for the women forsaken and souls relinquished. Yet the choice must always remain hers/ El altar eterno de las mujeres abandonadas y las almas renunciadas. Sin embargo, la elección siempre debe ser de ella.,” 2020. Mixed media collage on canvas, 18 x 24 in. Courtesy of the artist.




Available artwork by AMBER ROBLES-GORDON

OSI AUDU’s solo exhibition “A Sense of Self”

13 Dec
Osi Audu’s latest exhibition investigates notions of the self beyond  the materiality that defines our existence
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Self Portrait after Dogon Bird Mask, 2017-2021, 54″x72″, pastel and graphite on paper mounted on canvas

A Sense of Self
A solo exhibition of new drawings, paintings and sculpture by OSI AUDU
December 8th, 2021 – January 5th, 2022

Contact the gallery for viewing by appointment, price list, additional information and acquisition. Complimentary catalogs available upon request.

(202) 628-2787 (call or text)

Available Artwork by OSI AUDU
Self-Portrait after Head of Pangwe Figure, 2018, 22″x31″, acrylic on canvas
About A Sense of Self
Morton Fine Art is proud to present A Sense of Self, a solo exhibition of new works by Nigerian multimedia artist Osi Audu; on view from December 8, 2021 – January 5, 2022.
Working across drawing, painting and sculpture, Audu considers notions of internal and external dualities, most distinctively, the Yoruba sense of “outer and inner head.” The works–geometric abstractions made alive with vibrant shades of blue, red, green, yellow and black, reflect Audu’s celebration of color as a manifestation of interior human essence. Each of the pieces in A Sense of Self are presented as self-portraits, which Audu articulates to be “the portraits of the intangible self.”
Self Portrait II, 2021, 22″x31″, pastel and graphite on paper mounted on canvas
In conversation with classical African aesthetics, Audu’s works examine the human head as an axis of material and subliminal consciousness. In this sense, the artist captures what exists prior to and beyond embodiment, the self outside of matter. Though many of his pieces are rich in color, at their core, each one is a rumination on blackness—that which is imperceivable by the human eye. In works reminiscent of scientific illustrations, Audu gives image to internal expressions of the self, investigating the mechanisms and shapes of the human spirit.
Self Portrait after Head of a Benin Queen Mother, 2021, 26″x14″x10.5″, painted steel
As studies of visceral perception, Audu’s portraits ask questions such as, what might the intangible self look like after donning a Dogon bird mask; or after wearing an Efik headdress? His answer to the former is: four sharp rectangular shapes, with a free-form waved appendage; to the latter: a gently coiled form, with two flat surfaces. To Audu, these questions are neither anomalous nor incidental. Instead, they are essential vehicles for investigating what is nestled between the layers of the mind, body and personal identity that we each understand ourselves to have.  A Sense of Self provides a deeply personal visual language for examining the complex structures of being. At once dynamic and uncomplicated, these works leave the audience with questions about themselves.
Self Portrait after an Efik Headdress, 2021, 22″x31″, pastel and graphite on paper mounted on canvas
Self Portrait with Yoruba Hairstyle, 2021, 22″x31″, pastel and graphite on paper mounted on canvas
Available artwork by OSI AUDU
OSI AUDU received a B.A. in Fine Art with First Class Honors from the University of Ife, Ile-Ife, Nigeria, and an M.F.A. in Painting and Drawing from the University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia, USA. He has been exhibited at, and collected by, public Institutions including the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C., The Newark Museum in Newark, New Jersey, USA, The British Museum and the Horniman Museum, both in London, and the Wellcome Trust Gallery in London. Audu’s work has also been exhibited at the Tobu Museum and Setagaya Museum, both in Japan, the Liverpool Museum in England, the Science Museum in London; and acquired for corporate collections including Microsoft Art Collection, Sony Classical New York and the Schmidt Bank in Germany.
Audu has been represented by Morton Fine Art in Washington, D.C. since 2012.
About Morton Fine Art
Founded in 2010 in Washington, DC by curator Amy Morton, Morton Fine Art (MFA) is a fine art gallery and curatorial group that collaborates with art collectors and visual artists to inspire fresh ways of acquiring contemporary art. Firmly committed to the belief that art collecting can be cultivated through an educational stance, MFA’s mission is to provide accessibility to museum-quality contemporary art through a combination of substantive exhibitions and a welcoming platform for dialogue and exchange of original voice. Morton Fine Art specializes in a stellar roster of nationally and internationally renowned artists as well as has an additional focus on artwork of the African Diaspora.
Morton Fine Art founded the trademark *a pop-up project in 2010. *a pop-up project is MFA’s mobile gallery component which hosts temporary curated exhibitions nationally.
Gallery hours: By appointment only. Mask required.

Morton Fine Art
52 O St NW #302
Washington, DC 20001
(202) 628-2787