Tag Archives: Contemporary Nigerian Art

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’s art included in Chinua Achebe’s THINGS FALL APART 60th edition

19 Apr

THINGS FALL APART 60th Anniversary

It’s a great honor to have VICTOR EKPUK’s art included in Chinua Achebe’s THINGS FALL APART 60th edition.
He also made illustrations for the cover of the sequels NO LONGER AT EASE and ARROW OF GOD. As well as a new classic edition AFRICAN TRILOGY.

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)

VICTOR EKPUK at the Tang Museum at Skidmore College

6 Sep
 

 

 

ekpuk-ephemeral-cuba

Ekpuk creating a wall drawing “Meditations on Memory” at the 2015 Havana biennale, Cuba.

Victor Ekpuk at the Tang Museum

September14th, 2016 – Artist Victor Ekpuk will create a new wall drawing at the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College as part of the exhibition  “Sixfold Symmetry: Pattern in Art and Science.”

LECTURES AND CONVERSATIONS
Victor Ekpuk and Lisa Aronson, “Sixfold Symmetry”: 
4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 17, 2016. A “Dunkerley Dialogue” with artist Victor Ekpuk and Skidmore professor emeritus Lisa Aronson discussing Ekpuk’s large-scale wall drawing.

Venue:
The Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College
815 North Broadway
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866. Phone: 518-580-8080

For more information at https://www.tang.skidmore.edu/

 

Click HERE to view available artwork by VICTOR EKPUK.

OSI AUDU in ArtDaily

19 Jan
Exhibition of recent drawings by Osi Audu opens at Skoto Gallery

Self-Portrait No 1, 2016, graphite and pastel on paper mounted on canvas, 56 x 72 ins. Courtesy Skoto Gallery.

8

NEW YORK, NY.- Skoto Gallery presents New Portraits: Self in the Global Age, an exhibition of recent drawings by Osi Audu. Born in Nigeria, the artist was educated in that country and the United States. For over two decades now, he has maintained a strong professional presence in Korea, Japan, Great Britain, United States, Italy, Germany, Austria and Africa through highly acclaimed exhibitions of his paintings. His work is in several private and public collections including The British Museum; The Horniman Museum, London; Schmidt Bank, Bayreuth, Germany; The Iwalewa House, Germany, The Wellcome Trust Collection, London, The National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC and Newark Museum, Newark, New Jersey. His work was included in the recently concluded 2015 Venice Biennale, in the collateral event exhibition – Frontiers Re-imagined at the Palazzo Grimani Museum in Venice.

This is his third solo exhibition at the gallery. The reception is on Thursday, January 14th, 6-8pm. The artist will be present.

Of Selfies and Shadow play: Osi Audu’s Self-Portrait
Osi Audu has the astute ability to break down complex ideas into simplified, visually appealing compositions. He has developed a unique vocabulary that emphasizes geometry, volume, tactility, and quality of the tromp l’oeil, in a career that spans nearly thirty years. Though on flat surface, his work appears three-dimensional. Solid black forms dominate the center of the picture plane. Some cast reverent shadows that taper to the edges of the paper or canvas. With voluminous architectural shapes composed of different parts but bound seamlessly by slick white lines in the new Self-Portrait series, Audu stretches the boundaries of abstraction, teasing the imagination. There is clarity of form that immediately casts a spell on the viewer. Yet Audu’s work does not give in to pedestrian interpretation. One must first acquaint oneself with the philosophy that informs his creative disposition in order to have a more meaningful encounter with the body of work. Though minimalist abstraction is a principal motivation, it is not abstraction for mere sake nor is the dualism (solids and shadows, black and grey) that is apparent in his oeuvre a mere visual device or creative flair. Both are conceptual armatures that help to advance an artistic position and the culturally-derived epistemology that grounds his work.

Audu’s aesthetics draws specifically upon the Yoruba ontology of dual consciousness centered on the human head. The head (ori) is a bifurcated ensemble that best represents the intertwining of spirit and matter, mind and body. Orí inú (invisible or inner head) is the locus of consciousness, an a priori that gives substance to being. Orí òde (outer or tangible head), the physical manifestation of consciousness, is a vehicle of perception, identity, and interaction with reality. It is this dialogic imagining of beingness, of the human self, that Audu translates on white paper and canvas, using black pastel, graphite, primary colors, wool, among other media. His use of black monochrome holds pertinent symbolic value. It ramifies the cultural vicissitudes of blackness as well as outlines Audu’s position of engagement in an art world that is burdened by a historical legacy of excluding or de-legitimizing black artists who claim the arcane language of abstraction.

In previous solo exhibitions at Skoto Gallery such as Osi Audu: Ile Ori/Ori Ile (House of the Head/Head of the House) in 2006, the head is addressed as a metaphor of collective consciousness. Audu explores the head as a cognitive altar that dictates the cycle of life and human responses to existential conditions. Conversely, the current exhibition titled New Portraits: Self in the Global Age focuses on the autonomous self, shifting emphasis from collective consciousness to the singular being as unit of sensation. It comprises of eighteen works from the ongoing Self-Portrait series. They push Audu’s fastidious formalism, complex forms, and geometric abstraction further albeit in a different direction. Conceptually, one might speak of them as selfies, those totems that feed the narcissist cult of the individual, very symptomatic of our contemporary world.

Yet we are admonished not to think of the works as portraits in a physiognomic sense. Instead, they are reflections on the ways in which the individual negotiates his/her being in the world. Following Maurice Merleau-Ponty, they are the artist’s attempts to distill perception, by relating and piecing together the spectacles of his own world in relation to the world at large. It is the interior-self that forms the basis of rootedness; the source of identity and personhood. As such, Audu casts his gaze inward, to his Orí inú, the seat of consciousness where memories also reside; reconciling it with his Orí òde, the vessel that bears out his past and present experiences, of growing up and studying in Nigeria, living in the United Kingdom, and current domicile in New York. Altogether, the works capture Audu’s attempt to find himself in a teleological world that is mediated by relations. Ultimately, what lies at the core of this new body of work is a phenomenological awareness of being part of a globalized reality, marked by changing conditions, cultural exchanges on a planetary scale, and a network of disjunctive and constitutive references.

Ugochukwu-Smooth C. Nzewi
Artist, Art Historian, and Curator of African Art
Hood Museum of Art
Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire