Tag Archives: Contemporary African Art

MALIZA KIASUWA featured in Nation and allAfrica

28 Jun

Kenya: Artist Takes Pride in Her Ancestry

By Margaretta Wa Gacheru

Having transformed a hay-filled barn into a giant home studio, Malisa Kiasuwa has been working throughout the Covid-19 lockdown preparing for two exhibitions currently underway overseas. One is in Washington, DC, while the other is in London.

Both sharing the theme, The Pride of Origins, the Naivasha-based Malisa has previously exhibited in Nairobi at Circle Art Gallery and at Alliance Francaise. But Amy Morton of the Morton Fine Art Gallery in Washington found Malisa on Instagram, the social medium currently accommodating many local fine artists.

Nonetheless, while visiting Kenya in 2019, Morton found her way to Circle Art where she got an even better impression of Malisa’s organically-based artistry.

“Amy was and still is interested in featuring contemporary African art at her gallery, which is how she got to know me,” says the Belgian-Congolese artist whose 21 collages and wall hangings featured in her first solo show in DC from June 2to 22.

Soulful spotlight

Meanwhile, another 16 of Malisa’s collages are featuring now at the Sulger-Buel Gallery in London, where the artist has set her soulful spotlight on not just the Pride of Origins but specifically on the notion of ancestry.

Malisa works with an array of mixed media, including organic materials like raffia grass, sisal rope, handmade papers, scraps of fabric, and threads made out of cotton and silk, silver and gold. She blends them with found objects that she collects during her frequent walks around the lake and Naivasha town.

The upcycling of found objects appeal to the artist’s concern for conservation. Her use of organic materials reflects her desire to stay close to the purity of nature. But during the lockdown, Malisa reflected upon all the many clashing contradictions festering in the world, including the ‘virus of racism’ and the coronavirus, the Black Lives Matter movement and the rise of white supremacy.

An example of reconciliation

She desires to see the reconciliation of these extremes, a coming together of disparate elements in the name of peace.

“I see myself as an example of reconciliation since my background is both European and African,” says Malisa.

In a sense, both exhibitions are about Identity, reconciliation, and ‘the pride of origins’. These themes are symbolised most visibly in her London show where she includes collages that combine engraved portraits of 18th-century European aristocrats upon whose faces Malisa has affixed wooden West African masks (the kind that enthralled Western artists like Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse).

“I found the engravings of my [Swiss] husband’s ancestors in an attic of his family’s home,” says Malisa who saw the etchings had been forgotten, so she brought them back to Kenya where she and her family have been living since 2013.

Treating them like the other ‘found objects’ that she uses to upcycle into her art, the masks superimposed on the faces of these bourgeois white men are meant to symbolize what reconciliation might look like. Yet the juxtaposition of the two-dimensional etchings and the three-dimensional masks could also be interpreted in other ways, either to amuse or to annoy.

There’s an irony of her embellishing the men’s portraits with African masks which had once been used in sacred rituals and infused with mystical powers. At the same time, Western aristocrats are not the only ‘nobility’ in the London show.

Malisa herself comes from West African nobility. “My father’s ‘tribe’ is Ndongo, the same one as Queen Zinga [or Nzinga] of Congo,” she recalls. Noting that Zinga was renowned for her military and diplomatic leadership which is credited for fending off Portuguese colonialism and slave trade for over 30 years.

Zinga is often identified as coming from Angola, but Malisa explains the Ndongo kingdom, before the colonial carving up of Africa in the 19th century, traversed northern Angola as well as southern Congo.

“Our people had lived on the border of what is now Congo,” says Malisa, adding that she wants her children to take pride in their shared ancestry.

In both exhibitions, there is at least one explicitly autobiographic collage featuring a mug shot of the artist wearing a crown, either made of hand-made paper or animal skin. As if enthroned in her exhibition just as Queen Zinga headed her vast kingdom, the letter ‘Z’ is emblazoned on each crown, standing at once for Zinga and for Zaire, which was the name of her country at the time that she was born.

Read the original article on Nation.

Available artwork by MALIZA KIASUWA

Morton Fine Art, 52 O St NW #302, Washington, DC 20001 USA

http://www.mortonfineart.com

info@mortonfineart.com

+001 (202) 628-2787 (call or text)

3 Questions Digital Series with Victor Ekpuk – U.S. Department of State, Art in Embassies

19 Mar

Victor Ekpuk is a Nigerian-born contemporary artist based in Washington, DC. His art, which began as an exploration of nsibidi “traditional” graphics and writing systems in Nigeria, has evolved to embrace a wider spectrum of meaning that is rooted in African and global contemporary art discourses. 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.”

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.

https://art.state.gov/

Available artwork by VICTOR EKPUK at Morton Fine Art

Wallpaper Magazine, Victor Ekpuk and Prizm Art Fair 2020

4 Dec

ART | 1 DAY AGO | BY HARRIET LLOYD-SMITH

Prizm Art Fair gives a platform to African Diasporic perspectives

Coinciding with Miami Art Week, Prizm Art Fair is championing and examining the intersections of African cinema traditions and visual art

Sthenjwa Luthuli, Reaching For Stars (2020)

In spite of widespread coronavirus-related hurdles, 2020 has offered glimmers of hope for the art world, particularly in the steps taken to highlight, and rectify the lack of diversity across the industry.

One art fair, Prizm, has been spotlighting diverse voices in contemporary visual art since 2013, with a core mission to widen the scope of international contemporary art from Africa and the African Diaspora.

By carving out a space for cross-cultural exchange in Miami and beyond, the fair seeks to address socio-political and cultural issues pertinent to people of African descent, while educating and nurturing the city’s inhabitants.

Victor Ekpuk, Mother Series #1 (2019) as seen at Prizm Art Fair. Image courtesy of Morton Fine Art

‘African Diasporic communities have attempted repeatedly to blanket themselves from a host of incessant obstacles – systemic injustice, racism, economic disparity, gender inequality – while the goal post of progress stretched farther away with each giant leap made towards it,’ says Mikhaile Solomon, founder and director of Prizm.

For its eighth edition, coinciding with an unsurprisingly scaled-down Miami Art Week, the fair’s online programme will feature 47 artists in ‘Noir, Noir: Meditations on African Cinema and its Influence on Visual Art’, an exhibition curated and organised by Solomon and interdisciplinary artist William Cordova. Noir, Noir references the African avant-garde film tradition and encourages a deeper understanding of global African identities through the intersection of cinema and contemporary visual art. Elsewhere, highlights include a programme of film screenings and talks led by leaders in Diasporic Visual arts.

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John Baloyi, Lititha 4 (2020). Courtesy of Dyman Gallery

Participating galleries hail from eleven countries including the United States, Caribbean and the African continent including Barbados, Ethiopia, Haiti, Jamaica, Martinique, Saint Maarten, South Africa and Trinidad. Featured artists include Victor Ekpuk, Yanira Collado, Sthenjwa Luthuli, Alicia Piller, Justice Mukheli, Versia Harris and Milena Carranza Valcárcel. Prizm will also spotlight emerging Miami-based artists who engage in socio-political issues pertinent to people of African descent, and in the city’s growth as a cultural hub. 

 

Prizm Art Fair will be accessible online until 21 December 2020. prizmartfair.com

Link to Wallpaper* Article

Available Artwork by VICTOR EKPUK

VICTOR EKPUK- featured solo in Morton Fine Art’s booth at Prizm Art Fair 2020

5 Nov

NOIR, NOIR:
MEDITATIONS ON AFRICAN
CINEMA AND ITS INFLUENCE
ON VISUAL ART
PRIZM 2020 – dedicated to exhibiting international artists from the African Diaspora – returns with its eighth edition, taking place from December 1 to 21, 2020. A VIP preview week will take place from November 24 to 30, 2020. PRIZM Art Fair 2020 will be available for online viewing through the PRIZM website and Artsy.net. Film screenings and PRIZM’s panel talks program will be available through the fair’s website.For its eighth edition, PRIZM will present a curated exhibition entitled Noir, Noir: Meditations on African Cinema and Its Influence On Visual Art curated and organized by William Cordova, and Mikhaile Solomon. The special section will include 45 artists from various global locales including, Congo, Haiti, Jamaica, Barbados, Nigeria, Trinidad and Tobago, Saint Maarten, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, and the United States. 

Noir Noir…” revisits and contemplates the layered rendering of complex communal histories through the lens of African/Diasporic filmmakers past and present, seeking a deeper understanding of global African identity through an evaluation of its intersections with contemporary visual art. Noir, Noir will examine how these films have functioned as harbingers of global African/Diasporic liberation movements and expound on the intersections between contemporary art practice and the spectrum of African/Diasporic film traditions. Noir, Noir references the African avant-garde film tradition as well as contemporary African/Diasporic filmmakers to explore how visual artists have created bodies of work inspired by narratives, aesthetics, cultural notes, and social commentaries poetically rendered in the various cinematic modalities.

Register HERE

 

Victor Ekpuk is a Nigerian-American artist based in Washington, DC. 

His art, which began as an exploration of nsibidi “traditional” graphics and writing systems in Nigeria, has evolved to embrace a wider spectrum of meaning that is rooted in African and global contemporary art discourses. 

Guided by the aesthetic philosophy nsibidi, where sign systems are used to convey ideas, Ekpuk re-imagines graphic symbols from diverse cultures to form a personal style of mark making that results in the interplay of art and writing. 

Ekpuk’s art reflects his experiences as a global artist – “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”.

Mr. EKPUK’s artwork can be found the permanent collection of the following museums and institutions:

Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture, Washington, DC

Smithsonian Museum of African Art, Washington DC, USA

Krannert Art Museum, USA

Hood Museum, USA

Brooks Museum, USA

Arkansas Art Center, USA

Newark Museum, New Jersey, USA

The World Bank, Washington DC, USA

University of Maryland University College Art Collection, USA 

The U.S. Department of State

He has been represented by Morton Fine Art in Washington, DC since 2012.

CLICK HERE TO VIEW AVAILABLE ARTWORK BY VICTOR EKPUK

Morton Fine Art, 52 O St NW #302, Washington, DC 20001

(202) 628-2787, info@mortonfineart.com, http://www.mortonfineart.com

 

MERON ENGIDA’s solo exhibition “Solidarity” reviewed in Washington Post

17 Oct

Meron Engida

By Mark Jenkins Oct. 16, 2020 at 7:00 a.m. EDT

Color, pattern and family are what Ethiopia-bred D.C. painter Meron Engida remembers about her homeland. Or at least that’s what the neo-expressionist emphasizes in “Solidarity” at Morton Fine Art, her first U.S. solo show. Most of Engida’s canvases are crowded with women in domestic scenes, their faces rendered in simple black lines, except for the bright red oblongs that often represent lips. Children appear in many of the vignettes, and one of the few pictures that depicts just two people shows a mother and infant. It’s a self-portrait, but then that’s essentially what all these paintings are.AD

The circles, florals and zigzags that decorate their clothing also appear around and atop the figures, either painted or incised into the pigment, merging subject and embellishment. That unity suggests the influence of fabric design, as does the flatness of Engida’s style. Bright reds and blues punctuate the compositions, but the dominant tones are earthy. The tans and browns express a range of skin tones in ethnically diverse Ethiopia. In Engida’s stylized vision of that country, the landscape is primarily human.

Meron Engida: Solidarity Through Oct. 28 at Morton Fine Art, 52 O St. NW, No. 302. Open by appointment.

Available Artwork by MERON ENGIDA

Ethiopian artist MERON ENGIDA’s debut U.S. solo exhibition “Solidarity” at Morton Fine Art in DC

30 Sep

 

 

Virtual tour and artist talk of MERON ENGIDA’s debut U.S. solo exhibition, Solidarity.
Launching on Morton Fine Art’s YouTube channel.  Contact the gallery for private viewing appointments, price list and acquisition.
MERON ENGIDA's debut U.S. solo exhibition "Solidarity" with artist talk at Morton Fine Art, DC
MERON ENGIDA’s solo exhibition Solidarity and artist talk at Morton Fine Art, Washington, DC.
Video credit: Jarrett Hendriix
Solidarity
A solo exhibition of paintings by MERON ENGIDA
September 22nd – October 28th, 2020
VIRTUAL TOUR and ARTIST TALK
On Morton Fine Art’s YouTube Channel TODAY
Contact the gallery for private viewing appointment, price list, additional information and acquisition.
(202) 628-2787 (call or text)
MERON ENGIDA, Solidarity 3, 2020, 33″x35.5″, acrylic on canvas
About Solidarity
My art has been my language to express myself and my voice. My work explores personal experiences and my Ethiopian cultural heritage. Oftentimes my subject matter reflects my life as a mother in a multiracial family. My figures are diverse and often huddled together, with wide eyes. Children and lambs are the visual vocabulary I use to express innocence and forgiveness. I intend to create dialogue about diversity and women – for example, a face with open mouth represents women freely exploring and expressing themselves. Women also hold in more pain than they let out and hold each other demonstrating resilience. My most recent series addresses challenges of race and identity. One painting depicts figures from all of the Ethiopian tribes together, celebrating each other’s uniqueness. My inner feelings and values call for the love, embrace and celebration of humanity, transcending past and present, despite our differences. – MERON ENGIDA, 2020
MERON ENGIDA, See the Love, 2020 36″x36″, acrylic on canvas
MERON ENGIDA, Solidarity 11, 2020, 36″x36″, acrylic on canvas
About MERON ENGIDA
Born in Ethiopia, MERON ENGIDA received her degree from Addis Ababa University School of Fine Arts and Design in 2007.
She has exhibited her paintings extensively in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia including at the National Art Gallery. Solidarity marks her inaugural U.S. solo exhibition at Morton Fine Art in Washington, DC. She notes, “When I start a painting, there are no rules. Sometimes I work from pictures but most of the time I create from imagination. Sometimes I start with a drawing and other times with acrylic paint on canvas which I layer with tones, symbols, and a motif. The figures emerge with expressive features, emotions, and texture. I work on the paintings with trusting mark-making, not knowing where I’m going. My creative process continues until I am surprised and content and then I revisit later to see if it is indeed finished.”
She is represented by Morton Fine Art in Washington, DC.
MERON ENGIDA, Solidarity 5, 2020, 30.5″x76.5″, acrylic on canvas
MERON ENGIDA, Solidarity 9, 2020, 33.5″x32″, acrylic on canvas
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
52 O St NW #302
Washington, DC 20001
COVID-19 protocol: By appointment. Mask required. Contact the gallery for supplementary artwork documentation such as detail images and short videos. Safe, no contact door to door delivery available. Shipping nationally and internationally.

Studio visit with Ethiopian artist MERON ENGIDA

5 Aug

 

 

Ethiopian artist MERON ENGIDA shares her studio, art practice and inspiration. Contact Morton Fine Art for additional information and acquisition of her incredible paintings.

Morton Fine Art

52 O St NW #302

Washington, DC 20001

(202) 628-2787 (call or text)

mortonfineart@gmail.com

http://www.mortonfineart.com

The Nation features VICTOR EKPUK’s work on Achebe’s book covers at Smithsonian

7 Mar

Ekpuk exhibits Achebe’s book covers at Smithsonian

 

As part of global celebration of the 60th anniversary of Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, Nigerian-American artist based in Washington, DC, Victor Ekpuk, will hold an exhibition featuring artworks used as book cover books, including TFA, in the United States.

The exhibition will hold at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art on March 15, 2018. The event will also feature a panel discussion featuring Prof Nwando Achebe – Jack and Margaret Sweet Endowed Professor of History at Michigan State University – Ekpuk and others.

Ekpuk’s art reflects his experiences as a global artist.  “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” says Ekpuk on his works.

His art, which began as an exploration of nsibidi “traditional” graphics and writing systems in Nigeria, has evolved to embrace a wider spectrum of meaning that is rooted in African and global contemporary art discourses.

Guided by the aesthetic philosophy nsibidi, where sign systems are used to convey ideas, Ekpuk re-imagines graphic symbols from diverse cultures to form a personal style of mark making those results in the interplay of art and writing.

Link to full article.

Click HERE to view available artwork by VICTOR EKPUK.

 

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”