Tag Archives: Contemporary African Art

VICTOR EKPUK Mention in The Herald Sun

13 Jul
JULY 12, 2017 6:00 AM

Long-neglected art of Africa assumes its rightful place of honor at museum

Video: VICTOR EKPUK Installation of Mural at North Carolina Museum of Art!

20 Jun

Washington DC based Nigerian artist VICTOR EKPUK recently completed a mural,  Divinity, for the North Carolina Museum of Art in Raleigh, NC. It was part of their newly opened African art galleries. You can see a time-lapse of him creating the mural above.

To see more available works by VICTOR EKPUK, please visit his page on our website HERE or contact the gallery.

Below, you can find an article written about his installation in the Indy Week:

Victor Ekpuk’s Divine Mural at the North Carolina Museum of Art Heralds New Life for Its African Galleries

Victor Ekpuk's new mural at NCMA was commissioned to augment the museum's expanded African art gallery.

Photo by Ben McKeown

Victor Ekpuk’s new mural at NCMA was commissioned to augment the museum’s expanded African art gallery.

Ekpuk’s work covers a thirty-by-eighteen-foot wall in one of NCMA’s new African art galleries, which have been expanded in the museum’s East Building to include works from across the continent spanning sixteen centuries. Opening to the public by the end of June, the galleries will almost double the number of African works on display, including never-before-seen textiles and works on paper in light-controlled areas.

El Anatsui‘s “Lines that Link Humanity,” a quilt-like sculpture of aluminum and copper wire, hangs on a wall adjacent to Ekpuk’s work. Valises opposite the mural contain objects including a Yoruba divination board and ornately carved totems. Approaching this commission with no preconceived composition, Ekpuk sat in the space for a day considering the neighboring works before he pulled out his iPad to begin sketching.

“It’s more about the aura of the objects that were pulling me as I got closer to some of them,” Ekpuk says. “Some of them I’m familiar with. Some of them not so much. The power and aura of the objects themselves created an atmosphere where I felt a sense of divinity.”

Rendered in white chalk on a black wall, Ekpuk’s composition forms an abstracted figure wrapping long arms around the perimeter. Hundreds of signs and symbols are densely packed within the arms, which are themselves filled with little circles. The large figure has a placid, stylized face at the top, and its distended arms terminate in huge hands that gather the chaos of the symbols together.

The mural has a presence and an intricate density comparable to that of Anatsui’s sculpture. Ekpuk counts Anatsui as an elder, and they’ve shown together in a 1994 group exhibit in Lagos. Ekpuk was one of five up-and-coming Nigerian artists paired with a trio of established African artists.

The Yoruba divination board, however, inspired the mural’s form. Ekpuk talks about how a diviner shakes objects in the tray-like board in order to answer questions or make predictions by interpreting their proximities. Instead of objects, Ekpuk fills his mural with symbols that draw upon nsibidi, a Nigerian system of ideograms. But the symbols are so crowded and intertwined that any attempted reading will be foiled. It’s hard to focus on one sign to see what it might refer to or depict. Instead, one’s vision darts around and takes in the overall density.

“I know it teases your brain to think that you could read it,” Ekpuk laughs, “but it’s not writing that tells you A or B or C. I never try to analyze them or say that they are any one particular thing. I open it up so that people can just see what they see in it.” Echoing this semiotic openness, Ekpuk deflects talk of any overt political message in the work. But neither is it apolitical.

“I walked into the space and, initially, I thought, Let’s not just do another social-political thing. At the same time, I’ve found that art is always politics. Sometimes I don’t think about politics, but once I start making art, this feeling starts coming out in the work. After I made this, I thought, Oh, I’m actually responding to this siege that I feel right now in the political climate in America.'”

Ekpuk describes the composition as a divine embrace, but the arms could be read as a crowded space of containment, like a refugee camp or border wall. The empty zeros might exude the banal homogeneity of power.

Ekpuk won’t say it’s a wrong reading, just that he sees something different. He’s inclined to cede the artist’s intention by making a willfully undetermined work. He’s leaning toward leaving the mural untitled so that a visitor can react to what it is rather than what it means. [Editor’s note: Ekpuk ultimately decided to title the work “Divinity.”]

“It forces you to abandon what you know and have an opportunity to be aware of something else,” he says. “Not everything has to be explained. If you want to bring what you know, then you’re just going to hit the wall. Perhaps it’s sort of a comfort work, rather than an angry work. It’s a reminder that, whether we believe in it or not, there is a divine source of our strength. It’s beyond us.”

This article appeared in print with the headline “Symbol Crash”

VICTOR EKPUK’s solo “These Moments” reviewed in The Washington Post

27 May

Washington Post ~ In the galleries: Powerful messages that require few words

By Mark Jenkins May 25, 2017

 Victor Ekpuk’s “Still I Rise,” acrylic on paper, on view in “These Moments,” through May 31 at Morton Fine Art. Some of the pieces in the D.C. artist’s show were inspired by his recent four-month residency in his homeland of Nigeria. (Victor Ekpuk/Courtesy Morton Fine Art)

Some of the pictures in Victor Ekpuk’s “These Moments,” like his earlier ones, feature ideograms derived from Nsibidi, an ancient African writing system. But the most forceful piece in the Morton Fine Art show contains just one symbol: a crosshairs bull’s eye over a faceless man’s heart. The figure in “Still I Rise” is on his knees with his hands up, one in a gesture of surrender, but the other clenched into a fist. The D.C. artist is thinking not of his native Nigeria, but of places such as Ferguson, Mo. 

Other pieces were inspired by Ekpuk’s recent four-month residency in the land of his birth, where he was struck by local idioms in which “head” refers to a person’s mind or mood. That resulted in several sculptural paintings, all titled “Head” plus a number, on shaped wood panels. Ekpuk has a strong graphic sense, and snipping his images to their essential outlines gives then even more punch.

In the nearly all-red “Head 2,” Nsibidi characters fill the face and neck, suggesting someone stuffed with thoughts. Yet there’s less text in these artworks than in previous groupings, and it’s sometimes pitted against elementary geometry, such as the horizontal stripes of “Head 7.” Executed mostly in black and red, with deep blue as an occasional counterpoint, these drawings and paintings are strikingly direct. “Still I Rise” is the only one that could double as a protest placard, but all are as immediate as street posters.

Victor Ekpuk: These Moments On view through May 31 at Morton Fine Art, 1781 Florida Ave. NW. ­202-628-2787. mortonfineart.com.

VICTOR EKPUK’s solo exhibition “These Memories” at Morton Fine Art

25 May

These Moments : A solo exhibition of mixed media artwork by VICTOR EKPUK

Friday, May 12th – May 31st, 2017

 

EXHIBITION LOCATION

Morton Fine Art (MFA)

1781 Florida Ave NW (at 18th & U Sts)

Washington, DC 20009

HOURS

Tuesday – Saturday 11am – 6pm

Sunday 12pm-5pm

VICTOR EKPUK, Portrait Series #8, 2015, 48″x48″, acrylic on canvas

    VICTOR EKPUK, Head 4, 2015, 45″x48″, acyrlic on panel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

About VICTOR EKPUK & These Moments 

What can one say about an artist like Victor Ekpuk? Graphically stunning, with a carefully crafted use of color, and evincing a commitment to the power of the line, Ekpuk’s work in These Moments applies Ekpuk’s enviable skill, theoretical grounding, and consistent engagement with what it means to be human in a more figurative approach. These Moments highlight thirteen works all grounded by the form, structure, and strength of the bold line’s arc through space. Inspired in part by a four-month residency in Nigeria, the country of his birth, Ekpuk was struck by how central the head was in daily life in Lagos. Ekpuk explains that he was “struck by people carrying things on their heads, metaphorically or otherwise.”Izetta Autumn Mobley, 2017

These Moments marks VICTOR EKPUK’s third solo exhibition at Morton Fine Art.  His artwork is included in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian Institution Nation Museum of African Art, Brooks Museum, Krannert Art Museum, US Department of State, Newark Museum, Arkansas Art Center, Fidelity Investments,  The World Bank, and University of Maryland University College Art Collection.

 

Click HERE to view available artwork by VICTOR EKPUK.

 

VICTOR EKPUK, At the Water’s Edge, 25″x19″, ink, graphite and pastel on paper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VICTOR EKPUK “Drawing Memory : Essence of Memphis” at Brooks Museum

18 May

Drawing Memory: Essence of Memphis

Currently On View

Exhibition Overview

Victor Ekpuk, a Nigerian American artist, painted a mural for a new gallery, Arts of Global Africa, in March 2017. His art is inspired by nsibidi, a sacred means of communication among male secret societies in southeastern Nigeria. Evolving out of the graphic and writing systems of nsibidi, Ekpuk’s art embraces a wider spectrum of meaning to communicate universal themes.

“The subject matter of my work deals with the human condition explained through themes that are both universal and specific: family, gender, politics, culture and identity,” said Ekpuk.

The 58-foot mural is the beginning of the renovation of Arts of Global Africa, which will culminate in fall 2017.

“We are thrilled to be reinstalling the African Gallery with Drawing Memory as the centerpiece. Victor has been an artist in residence at museums across the country and visitors have been inspired and deeply moved by watching him work,” said Chief Curator Marina Pacini.

Ekpuk’s artworks are in such collections as the Smithsonian Institution National Museum of African Art, Newark Museum, The World Bank, Hood Museum, Krannert Art Museum, United States Art in Embassies Art Collection and Fidelity Investment Art Collection.

 


Sponsors

Jimmy Humphreys
Brooks Museum League


 

VICTOR EKPUK in The Memphis Daily News

14 Mar

African Art Begins Transition at Brooks Museum

By Bill Dries

For many visitors to the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, the museum’s African art collection has been a modest display of traditional African art symbolized by a grouping of large masks on a plain wall.

Victor Ekpuk is creating a 58-foot-long mural at the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art over the next two weeks as the centerpiece of a newly configured African arts exhibit area. 

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

That began to change this week with the creation of a 58-foot-long mural by Nigerian-American artist Victor Ekpuk on the once-unadorned wall.

When Ekpuk completes the mural in about two weeks, the rest of the African art area will be on its way to a much different look as well.

“We’re trying to help people understand that art in Africa – while there is this long tradition of it, there are also many contemporary artists who are part of the international art scene,” said Marina Pacini, the Brooks’ chief curator. “They are making work that may reference traditional African art but that has a contemporary life of its own that is not necessarily part of its trajectory.”

Ekpuk worked on the intricate blend of African art imagery and Memphis themes with a pair of headphones on Wednesday morning. As he worked, he was listening to the music of Ali Farka Toure, the late Malian singer and musician known for his work at the intersection of traditional Malian music and North American blues.

Ekpuk is expecting more company Saturday as those coming to the museum’s Chalkfest also will be coming inside the museum to get a look at the work in progress. Ekpuk, too, works in chalk and pastels.

His work is called “Drawing Memory” and is part of a series of works he’s done in different places.

“The whole idea of memory – my notion of memory – is that it’s a very ephemeral condition, a human condition,” said Ekpuk, who uses chalk with the idea that it will all be wiped away at some point. “It continues to change and to be affected by circumstances.”

The mural for the Brooks is somewhere between ephemeral and permanent, with about a five-year life.

“It’s not completely ephemeral,” Ekpuk said with a chuckle against a backdrop of symbols and words on a white surface – some mysterious, some familiar, depending on who is taking in the still-forming piece.

And there is Ekpuk’s perspective.

“I was born in Nigeria; I’m an American citizen,” he said. “My memories of where I was born and where I am now is all in flux. It’s affected by circumstances. I decided to make this work to portray the essence of Memphis as I see it being here and through historical context.”

So amidst the imagery you will see the words “I Am a Man,” but “I Am” is separated from the rest of the slogan from the 1968 sanitation workers strike. And “I Am” is a phrase that appears in Ekpuk’s earlier works with specific glyphs. Dots on the Memphis mural might be cotton, and multicolored waves at the bottom might symbolize a river. There could be the body of a guitar in the center.

Ekpuk doesn’t interpret anything in talking about his work. And he cautions against picking out phrases or symbols. In his works, drawing becomes writing and writing becomes drawing. He refers to his drawing as an “independent genre” as opposed to a support for painting. Ekpuk is also a painter.

“My work is generally inspired by African aesthetics,” he said. “That means that I study some of the objects that will be here and the whole aesthetic of what you will be seeing in the African gallery. I study the form … and I reimagine them my own way in my drawings.”

Those items will not necessarily be the same ones museum patrons have seen in the past.

The museum is working with Christa Clarke, the senior curator of Arts of Africa at the Newark Museum in New Jersey.

“They have a vast collection of superb African objects,” Pacini said of the Newark Museum. “She’s going to assemble a small exhibition for us from their collection using a few objects from our collection.”

Some of Ekpuk’s works are in the Newark Museum as well as the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art and The World Bank.

His Memphis mural will stand as the centerpiece for an effort that has an ambitious goal in limited space and limited items. While Ekpuk is thinking about the items to come as he creates the mural, the items the museum is considering for the space are being selected with his style and imagery in mind.

“How do you in a small space like this convey African art?” Pacini asked. “You can’t. It’s a large continent with many countries and many different styles. He’s going to produce something that asks some meaningful questions about bigger pictures that apply across the continent to give people ways to think about African art.”

Click this link to view available artwork by VICTOR EKPUK:

https://mortonfineart.com/Artists/Victor-EKPUK/1/thumbs-caption

VICTOR EKPUK Featured on Konbini.com!!

7 Feb

Victor Ekpuk Perfectly Blends Writing And Painting Into Vibrant Art

Nigeria-born Washington-based contemporary artist, Victor Ekpuk, creates breathtakingly vibrant pieces which seamlessly merge the art of writing and painting.

His work, which began as an exploration of Nsibidi  – a centuries-old Nigerian system of writing that uses symbols instead of words or sounds – has now evolved into an exploration of the human condition.

ekpuk-big-fat-hen-lagos

Victor Ekpuk (Photo Tom Saarta )

Victor Ekpuk (Photo Mabeye Deme)

The aesthetic philosophy of Nsibidi, where simple signs convey complex ideas, led Ekpuk to further explore the art of drawing as a form of communication. It also led Ekpuk to invent his own hieroglyphic symbols.

Speaking about the themes of his work on his website, Ekpuk said:

“The subject matter of my work deals with the human condition explained through themes that are both universal and specific: family, gender, politics, culture and identity.”

Check out the rest of his work on his website and his Instagram.

ekpuk-dis-is-lagos-lagos-suites

(Photo Victor Ekpuk)

ekpuk-head-6

(Photo Victor Ekpuk)

ekpuk-head-3

(Photo Victor Ekpuk)

ekpuk-head-2

(Photo Victor Ekpuk)

ekpuk-returnee

(Photo Victor Ekpuk)

ekpuk-head-8

(Photo Victor Ekpuk)